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Old 11-09-2001
TStockwell TStockwell is offline
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?

Isn''t this the sailboat for the rest of us?

I get really tired of hearing people slam the MacGregor 26 X. It''s a fantastic buy for the money, and there are very few owners of Mac 26Xs that regret their purchase. (And besides, if they did regret them, they can usually sell their boats so quickly that it doesn''t matter. There''s a waiting list to buy them.)

The Mac 26 X motor sailor is not for everyone. Personally, I prefer a more traditional trailerable sailboat, and so I own an older MacGregor 26 (1987). However, I''ve sailed the Mac 26 X motor sailor many times and it''s an impressive day sailer/overniter. Take it for a couple of weeks, no problem, to your favorite spot. No, it is not a fast sailer, but on the downwind it will hold its own! No, it doesn''t handle like a keel boat, but it will take you places that no keel boat would dare! No, it will not take you across the ocean, but it will bring the joys of sailing into your life here at home! No berthing fees, no haul outs, no big tow vehicle, no sweat!

This boat is so unique, those who slam it really have their heads stuck up their lazerettes.

The Mac 26X is designed for people who want to trailer and sail, but who also want to be able to "get up and go" when necessary. It''s responsive as a sail boat, handles well in tight places, and with a shoal draft can go places where no one else would fear to tread.

Here''s an example of its versatility:

About a month ago I was on board a Mac 26 X with a skipper who was taking us up along the N. California coast outside of San Francisco. He took us to Balinas, a coastal town with a little cove that empties right out into the ocean. We motored up, starting from inside SF Bay, at about 25 knots, got there at noon, just as the tide was turning. (First of all, try doing that leg in a sailboat, and you''ll be spending all day just trying to get there.)

He wanted to go into the cove at Balinas, but the tide had already turned and breakers were luring surfers out into the waves. Already, the tide was too low for most sailboats. Nonetheless, this skipper circled twice, then came in on his shoal draft on top of the waves, right alongside the surf boarders, who stood there with their mouths slack open. Since the boat only draws about 15 inches of water, it was no problem, and with the 50 HP motor, we surfed through into the cove.

Don''t try to do this in your Hunter! Or your Catalina! You''d be out of your mind!

I was aghast! (I''d quietly slipped in the hatch board because I was certain the waves would break over the stern. No need! We were well in front of them all the way in.) Maybe this skipper was out of his mind too, but then he''s always out there testing the limits of his boat. (The boat did fine. The rest of the crew, however, were a little bit awestruck.)

I would never had attempted that manuever with even my shoal draft Mac 26 D. I would have been swamped by the following waves.

Anyway, we ate our lunch in the cove, then broke out over the sandbar again into the ocean. Then we shut down the motor and sailed leisurely back downwind to SF. When we got to the Golden Gate, the tide was really rushing through, but again, by starting the 50 HP we made it easily back to the dock by 4:00.

All told, we had a great day, saw a lot of territory, did some nice sailing, and quietly and casually loaded the boat and drove it 60 miles north into the Napa Valley, where it is parked next to a vineyard.

There''s not another boat on the market today that could have done all of those things in a single voyage. (Well, maybe a MacGregor 19, but then that''s another story.)

Okay, now the things I don''t like about the Mac 26X.

1. I prefer a traditional sailboat, in which the motor is something that gets turned on maybe twice during a voyage. (launching and docking.) What I notice about the 26X is that that 50 HP motor is so tempting, it gets used a lot! Skippers get impatient, and instead of trimming the sails, they crank up the iron horse. I find it really annoying.

2. Pointing into the wind is not this boat''s strong suit. The bow gets blown about.

3. I prefer a tiller to a wheel, and with the wheel, the Mac 26X cockpit seems awkward to me.

4. The boat needs lots of finishing touches to single handed sail. In fact, the basic boat is very "basic". The quality seems very good, but it''s mostly a clorox bottle for looks.

5. The water ballast system makes the boat seem top heavy when there''s no water in. The boat is very tender without the ballast at the dock. It just makes me nervous. Yet, when the boat is in "power mode" it planes just fine. The temptation of some skippers is to sail without the ballast, and that is a really frightening prospect. There have been several reports of the boat capsizing when the sails were up, but no ballast was in the tanks.

Other than that, the Mac 26 X is just an exceptional boat -- a great first boat, or a great last boat -- for the individual who really wants it all: sailing, trailing, powering, low maintenance, high capacity, few cares.

IMHO, I think anybody who is slamming this boat is either plain jealous, or a snob. Anybody who says you can get a better boat for the same price must be on drugs.

Would I buy one after sailing 60 times in them? Not yet! Why? Because I want to learn as much about sailing as I can, and the Mac 26X makes it too easy to skip to the head of the class.

Stop looking for the perfect boat, and get a boat that makes perfect sense to you.
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