Saturday, August 29, 2015

MacGregor 26

When the MacGregor 26 came out in, I think the 1980's, I and other sailing purists were horrified. The MacGregor 26, the sailboat that was a motorboat, or vice-versa, had the effrontery to strap a big outboard on the back and become a very quick motorboat, one that could easily pull a water-skier. My thought at the time, "why not just go out and buy a nice little outboard skiff rather than this sailing/motor bastardization?" I'm sure, this was the same thought many other sailors shared. It seemed the the #1 marketing point of the Mac 26 was its motorized performance as shown in this video (this is not what a sailboat is about! What about the ambience, the wind and the waves?).

I recently had a conversation with Jim, a retired boat dealer, 35 years in the industry, and he couldn't say enough good things about the MacGregor 26, enough praise to make me feel that my first knee-jerk reaction may have been unwarranted. Eleven thousand of the 26's were built, seven thousand in the U.S and four thousand distributed world wide. Those numbers alone make the MacGregor 26 one of the most successful small cruising sailboats ever built. Jim told me this real life story of one of his customers to demonstrate the capabilities of the MacGregor 26.

Two fathers with their sons trailer launched their MacGregor 26 out of West River one Friday night and motored the mile or so over to Rhode River to spend the night off of one of the small islands. Saturday morning, early, they blasted over the flat calm waters of Chesapeake Bay to where the fish were biting. They fished all morning, grabbed a lunch in the spacious cabin, and, with the breeze up, filled the ballast tanks for a pleasant sail back to the take out ramp at West River.

Jim, who sold and also owned the 26, ticked off several selling points of the MacGregor 26:
  • A great family boat because the kids got to do the things they enjoyed; water skiing, tubing and not so much the things they found boring, such as drifting in light air. Plus you could get to the anchorages quick enough to enjoy swimming and hanging out with other kids.
  • A very roomy interior. With the MacGregor 26, designer Roger MacGregor anticipated the latest "French" styling of Beneteau and Jenneau with the high freeboard and swoopy coach-roof, all in the name of interior space.
  • Decent sailing performance. Jim is an accomplished sailor and took the MacGregor 26 over to the Bahamas and did a circumnavigation of the Outer Banks.
  • Trailerable, so you could get to a place to sail to the Bahamas or the Outer Banks. Or you could just pull in to a beach.
I must admit, I've never been on a MacGregor 26 (overall though, I haven't been on many different cruising sailboats so that isn't much of a surprise). After my conversation with Jim, I will give Roger MacGregor credit. It appears he was a design genius to successfully combine all these capabilities in one boat (my sailing snobbishness aside).

Here is  a drawing of the MacGregor 26M, which I think was the last model of the 26 (the 26X was the first). Thanks to where I got the image.

Plenty of MacGregor 26 cruising videos up on YouTube. Here is one of them.


Andre Cloutier said...

Great post! I have always been intrigued by this boat, yet i dont know why. Its mostly an answer to a question that has never been asked i suppose..

Tillerman said...

Isn't that the beauty of boating? There are so many different ways in which people can enjoy being on the water. It's not surprising that there are market niches for people who want to combine two ways in one boat. Some times we get too hung up in our own narrow niche and forget all the possible variations out there. I would never want to own a McGregor 26 but it obviously does give a lot of people what they are looking for.

Alden Smith said...

An interesting boat that meets a particular market. A multi - use boat that logic tells me would make a great choice - Pity it doesn't look like a classic Sparkman and Stephens design, a Crosby Wianno Senior or a Concordia Yawl !!! LOL

Tweezerman said...


With me, I've mellowed with age, become more accepting of different approaches as well. There is also a certain genius in this design that I've overlooked before, that maybe we could consisder Roger MacGregor as forward thinking as an Uffa Fox or a Nat Herreshoff.


LOL is right. I can't quite picture a 40' S&S design with, say, a 150 hp outboard hanging off the counter stern. Now that would get the purists in a tizzy!

Bursledon Blogger said...

You hit the nail on the head with this post, I've long been thinking the McG is the ideal boat for weekend fun - small enough that costs are reasonable (especially here where marina costs are astronomical), fast to get there quick when you want to and more than spacious enough for weekend camping.

If only I could get over the looks - defeated by by own boat snobbery -

I know it makes sense but it just doesn't look right to me