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Old 10-07-2001
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?

The Macgregor 26 IS NOT a good boat on which to learn how to sail. Ask any instructor. It''s a very inexpensive MOTORsailer, and that''s about it. Although it might be a good boat to learn how not to sail, which on some level might be useful.

I suppose many are bought on impulse, without any research about what options are available. I just bought my first sailboat after six months of pouring over a lot of boats. I thought it would only take a couple of weeks. WRONG! You can''t shop for a boat until you know what you''re shopping for!

Good Luck


P.S-I wouldn''t buy any craft with a sail on it without taking formal sailing lessons first.
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Old 10-08-2001
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?

This comes down to your definition of a good sailing boat and learning to sail. Even these simple terms are not agreed upon.

To some learning to sail means learning enought to get a boat out and back with some sailing time in between. To others (like myself) Learning to sail means learning proper sail trim, boat handling and seamanship skills.

If your definition of learning to sail is the first definition then you might get by with a Macgregor 26sx. If you really want to sail beyond the basics the Macgregor is a major mistake.

This gets to the basic definition of a good sailing boat. At some level, the threshold level for a good sailing is a boat that will sail reasonably reliably on a reasonable range of points of sail in some range of windspeeds. Under that definition, a Magregor again is at the bottom threshold of a reasonable sailing boat. BUT, that definition ignores boatspeed, ease of handling, the ability to sail in high winds and light air, comfort of motion, and very critical for a beginner, responsiveness. By that definiition, the Macgregor is a total failure and a boat that should be avoided a all costs.

The Mac is the antithesis of the boats normally chosen by sailing schools or designed for beginner sailors. In the past 40 years these boats have been typically been tiller steered fin keel, spade rudder sloops. Hull designs have tended toward easily driven hulls. The boats have been chosen for linear and consictent behavor and forgiving of bone head moves. They are generally ruggedly engineered.

Over the years, I have looked at Mac 26sx''s at boat shows in storage yards, and out sailing an a lot of occasions. In watching they Mac''s in heavy air, I consider them a very poor choice for areas with higher wind ranges or frequent summer thunder storms (we have had oen capsize here on the Bay). They are useless in light air. On the Chesapeake, where I live you rarely see them under sail. Looking at several year old boats these are not robust boats and they really do not seem to stand up very well, especially to the kind of abuse normally associated with learning by a new sailor.

So while the Mac 26sx may have their fans, and may suit somebody''s definition of good first boat, it is the antithesis of a boat that I would recommend.


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Old 10-09-2001
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?

I have a 2001 26X and love it. I mostly day sail with occasional overnights. Fits my needs perfectly. I am not a racer and neither is the 26X, but it is very easy to sail or motor single handed. With my 50HP and 4 adults, my top speed is 18 to 19 MPH. Not bad when you want to get to your sailing destination or trying to outrun a storm. You can see pictures and modifications to my 26X at
Hope this helps and good luck.
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Old 10-14-2001
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?

Thank you all for your input so far.

I still haven''t decided if I am going to go with the MacGregor or not. I can see that there are huge differences between the MacGregor and other sailboats and many people are adamant about what they like or don''t like about that boat.

I am still going to do alot of research as well as soul-searching about what I am looking for in a boat. I am also planning on test driving as many different sailboats as I can before making a decision.

My current question is this:

What are the major differences between years for the MacGregor? It sounds like around 1999 is when they implemented alot of design changes based on prior customer complaints.
For example, what sort of things should I be concerned about in buying a 1997 vs. a 1999 or 2000? (There is a 1997 near where I live for sale for $19,000 that seems to be fully loaded.)

Oh and one more question. What is it that affects the stability of the boat more, the keel or the ballast, or both? I notice that the water ballast on the MacGregor is located at the bottom of the boat (obviously). On other sailboats that have a standard keel, is the center of mass of the ballast located lower inside the keel thereby creating more stability? Does this difference in ballast location affect the performance alot or a little?



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Old 10-15-2001
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?

There are three ways that boats develop stability; form (also called initial stability), ballast, and dynamic. Of the three, dynamic has the least relevance to displacement boats as they rarely have enough speed to create a useful amount of dynamic stability but with the large outboards on the Mac 26sx they depend heavily on Dynamic stability when at speed.

As the name implies form stability derives from the shape of the hull of the boat. A shallower and wider hull generates more stability than a deeper narrower hull. Visualize a piece of wood lying in the water. On the flat it has a lot of form stability. On edge it has next to none. This is because stability in any boat comes from the distance (lever arm)between the center of gravity (the balance point for all of the weight in the boat including those things that are part of the boat and those things that can be moved around) and the center of bouyancy (the single point that is the center of all of the volumes under water). In a wider, shallower boat the center of bouyancy moves more quickly toward the low side for small increases in heel angle and so the lever arm grows quickly.

Form stability has several problems. First of all at large angles of heel, approaching 90 degrees form stability drops off dramatically. This is the point where it can be needed most. Second form stability tends to give the boat a quicker motion. This is less comfortable for the crew in rough conditions and can be more tiring. Lastly, in the extreme conditions of a blue water passage, a boat that depends on large amounts of form stability also tends to be more stable in an inverted position.

Another performance related disadvantage to form stability is that boats with lots of form stability tend to also have a lot of wetted surface which quickly translates to lots of drag. This means that it takes more force to drive the boat through the water and makes it harder to beat to weather.

Ballast stability has mostly positives associated with it. All other things being equal, the deeper and heavier the ballast the more stability a boat will have. Ballast that is heavier and deeper also gives the boat a slower, more comfortable motion. Of course like most things in yacht design, there are some tradeoffs in this area as well. If the ballast occurs at the end of a deep keel, the boat cannot get into as shallow water. As you start to shorten the keel length you substantially give up performance for the same stability because you either end up with a low aspect ratio foil or you end up with a big bulb or wings also increasing drag. No matter what the ads say, nothing performs like a deep fin keel. Of course deep fins have their own compromises but that is not the point of this.

Then there is the issue of low density ballast. By definition, the higher the density of the ballast the smaller a volume is needed to get a certain weight. This means that for a given keel volume a higher density ballast will have a lower center of gravity, or for a given stability the keel can have a smaller volume. In either case the boat with the higher density ballast will have the better performance. That is why performance oriented and serious cruising boats usually have cast lead ballast. Other building techniques (cast iron, or encasolated metal ingots or scrap metal have far less stability and performance)

Then there is this whole water ballast business. There are two types of water ballast; movable and what I will call fixed position water ballast. Moveable water ballast is the type of water ballast used by the Volvo round the world ocean racers and consists of tanks located on either side of the boat so that water is shifted from side to side every time the boat is tacked or jibed. This form of water ballast is typically used in conjunction with a fully ballasted boat. I personally would love to see this is the type of ballasting system improved and incorporated in production boats.

The second type has a tank (or tanks) in the bilge and uses water in conjunction with some small amount of higher density ballast. The issue with this type of water ballast is the same as with all forms of low-density ballast. If you compare water to lead, water is approximately one tenth the density of lead. That means you need ten times more volume of water to equal the weight of lead. This means that you will end up with some combination of either:
- The water being higher in the boat resulting in a higher center of gravity and less stability than the lead,
- More water ballast to overcome the higher center of gravity meaning a heavier boat (Remember weight, in and of itself, does nothing positive for a boat and does have a lot of negatives.),
- Appendages that are shaped to hold water rather than to be efficient as sailing foils,
- More dependence on form stability which means a less comfortable motion and a poorer ultimate stability,
- Less interior storage or no sump for bilge water to sit in,

The bottom line a well-designed fixed position water ballasted boat will always be an inferior sailer when compared to a properly designed fin keelboat. As in all things in sailing there are trade-offs. In my book, even if water ballast reduces towing weight (which is questionable since the retractable bulb keel boats do not have to weigh that much more than a dry water ballast boat), I really think its too much of a compromise in performance and safety for my taste. There are people who are perfectly comfortable with water ballast, but having been aboard a wide variety of boats from 20 to 41 feet that have been knocked down to an angle close to 90 degrees,I see water ballast as too much of a risk for my taste.


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Old 10-15-2001
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?

I sail a keel boat while my brother sails a MacGregor 26. He is not unhappy with the boat as his primary sailing area is quite shallow and the Mac lets him sail to the beach. I do note however that he has added steel ballast to improve stability and is working on an arrangement to add more weights on some sort of moveable track. I also note that the 26Xs that I encounter rarely have their main sail up when the wind gets much beyond 10 knots.
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Old 10-15-2001
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?


I''d be interested in reading your book. My email is if you could be so kind as to send me the info. Thanks for your help.

I have alot of research ahead of me and I don''t want to make the MacGregor into something it is not.

One thing I probably should research is under what conditions I will be sailing this boat in. If the MacGregor is so unstable at 10 knots wind (which doesn''t seem very fast to me) that people fear they are going to tip over AND that is generally what I am going to find in the Puget Sound, then the MacGregor probably is not going to work for me.

Lots of research ahead......
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Old 11-07-2001
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?

Have owned Mac 26X (2000) for almost 2 years.
We sail mostly coastal Atlantic and ICW.
If you plan on this type of sailing then there is not a lot wrong with the Mac26X.
As far as 10 knots of wind,that is not true. We have sailed with the main and partially furled 150 Genoa in up to 20 knots.
My friend also has one and we were :"racing" in the ICW at up to 7 knots.
As far as the ballast,if you keep the tank full as dealer advises,the 1200 lbs will keep you from capsizing. Suggest you get the video on the Mac26X from MacGregor ($10.).
The top of the mast is pulled down to the water and when released the boat immediately springs back upright. The only capsizes I ever heard of was if ballast tank was improperly used.
Feel free to contact me with any further questions as to this boats performance.
I use a 25 HP Honda 4 stroke as I am in to sailing rather than motoring. Pete
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Old 11-07-2001
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MacGregor 26 vs. ?

New vs. used ...

Sailboats age very well and new ones are not as well equiped as used one until you spend lots of extra money.

If you want a MacGregor why not look for a used one? Tons available.
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Old 11-09-2001
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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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