Are there some readers who have experience with Water Ballast boats? If so, what kind of boat(s)? Please tell us about it - pros and cons.
The MacGregor 26 is the only one that I know of. I have heard that it is not a great sailboat. It is, perhaps, a better power boat. What other boats in the 20' - 30' range use Water Ballast? How well do they sail?
There are 4 water ballast boats in MacGregor's history. They have always pretty much made one model boat at a time due to the space at their facilities.
The first water ballast is the D from about 85-89 and is a daggerboard boat, thus the D. It is a pretty fast boat with a PHRF of about 210. The boat is not a power boat, but has a displacement hull with a top speed of about 7 knots, under sail or power.
Next is the S and and is the next generation and almost a clone of the D except it has a swing centerboard, thus the S. It is slightly slower than the D due to the centerboard trunk with a PHRF of about 220. This boat is also not a power boat and also has a top speed of about 7 knots. This is the boat Ruth and I own. We bought the S over the D because we wanted to trailer all over the place to unknown waters and the swing centerboard can hit bottom with no damage. The rudder on both of these can also kick up and these boats can be ....
...beached and run in water of 18 inches or less.
The S and D both have pop-tops...
....that you use at anchorage (some sail with them up, but you shouldn't) and give you standing headroom when up. Down you have about 5 feet which really isn't a big deal as there is no place to walk around in these boats anyway. If it is cold, 40 or below, we leave the top down for more warmth.
The S and D are very good sailing boats. Yes with the water ballast they are tender to about 12-15 degrees and then stiffen up. Some of the guys that have them sail hard and have tried to knock them down and haven't been very successful. They are not a blue water boat, but one guy did sail one from Calif. to Panama all off-shore. I wouldn't but we did take ours 400+ miles down the west side of Florida and across Florida Bay to the keys and north up to south of Miami.
The S model ran from about 1990 to '95 when the X came about. The first of the two models that some of the guys love to hate. It is also water ballast and does have more freeboard due to the standup headroom which many love in a boat this size that you can trailer.
Now we are at the water ballast boats that have 60-90 HP outboard on them. These are niche boats, but ones that have kept MacGregor in business when a lot of others that build 'real sailboats' went out of business. They along with the S and D's have huge rear berths...
....larger than most boats under 30 feet and a lot of people love that. For us that area is storage and is what makes month long cruises without re-supply possible.
Regardless of what people think of the X and the M next these boats are extremely popular with their owners for the most part and I'd suggest that you go to the Mac site for these boats and hear what the owners say if the X or the M is the boat you are considering (I'd post a link here to the site but don't know if that is ok. PM me if you would like a link).
The current model being made is the M that has a little more headroom than the X and a different interior layout and the M has a daggerboard vs. the swing centerboard of the X.
Water ballast is really widely misunderstood. It has its good points, the major being that you don't need a diesel pickup to tow these boats (our S has a dry weight of 1800 lbs. without ballast) the con is that they are a little more tender than similar sized boats with a fixed keel or a swing (weighted) keel. For us the trade-off has been well worth it.
If you are interested in what you can do with a boat like ours read a couple of our trip reports...
Macgregor Trips-1 Index
We bought a fixed keel larger boat, the Endeavour, but it is 2200 miles from us and we will probably only have her for a few years as we are around 70. If we lived on the water someplace we would probably have a fixed keel boat there, but we don't. We live in the desert more or less so will keep the Mac and enjoy using her all over the U.S..
Are there better put together boats than a Mac, sure, like the Hunter, but if buying new they are many thousands of dollars more than the Mac. We have never felt that our boat was going to let us down or was unsafe and we just don't day sail her. BTW even if the bottom was holed you would not loose the water ballast as it is below the water line. You would not want to keep sailing without fixing it but you could sail or motor home. Here is a good article that really explains how water ballast can and does work...
Mistress of Grand Traverse
Our 37 Endeavour --- Our 26 MacGregor --- Trips With Both