Macgregor Owner Reviews

Serving sailors online since 1997

Review of the Macgregor 26D by Allen Penticoff

Year built 1989  
Location of boat Northern Illinois  
The boat is sailed on Lakes  
How the boat is used Weekends and longer  
Normal wind strength 10-15 knots  
Average size of crew 2-4  
Liveaboard? No  
Owner bought the boat in 1989  
If the clock could be turned back, would owner buy again? YES - still have since new! Despite being dissed, most MacGregor owners love their boats and wish for nothing else bigger or smaller. I've had YACHT owners envy our simple little boat many times.  
Gear that's been added VHF, AM/FM Cassette, power outlets, compass, spinakker, genoa, 2nd reef & cunningham in main, 1 reef in working jib, jiffy reefing for both reefs in main, halyards led to cockpit with clutch stoppers fwd of stbd winch, Harken main sheet blocks with swivel cleat holder, topping lift, boom vang, galvanized tandem axle roller trailer, pulley above daggerboard (also have marked daggerboard line with feet of depth below bottom of boat), Harken cam cleats, anchor light, screens for hatches, clear lexan panel for companionway hatch, swim ladder (DO NOT sail without a transom mounted swim ladder!!!), mast crutch roller, cockpit shade umbrella, carry HUGE fenders onboard (get cloth covers to get rid of the "squeak"), color coded lines  
Structural or complex improvements Opened up area under vee berth - made two hinged doors under berth that open up whole area - two batteries reside there as well as two anchors and a ton of other stuff - we use as anchor locker down through hatch - typically have one door down, one up - creating shelf for more stuff. Also cut open under settee across from head and under stbd settee - discarded "icebox" and hinged lid all other new access has hinged lids as well - creates a lot of space. Replaced forestay with one without the gin pole plate - we push mast up by hand - use a "dinghy shroud tensioner" lever lock to attach forestay. Saves a ton of time. No roller furling, no plans to. Have propane stove and 8# tank. Keep outboard gas in lower lazarette - vented area. Split port settee cushions and increased thickness also increase thickness of stbd side settee MUCH better, springs to hold fore hatch and lazarette hatches open, improved rudder gudgeon bearings(derlin)and rudder pivot (bronze bushing), jib sheet cleats angled on on aft edge of pop top so that both sheets can be handled while sitting in companion way or more easily handled from high side by crew/helmsperson The two batteries are no longer under the vee berth, but have been moved aft under the sink. Access to service is a bit of a pain, but the weight distribution is much better. Moved the hard to get at lightweight junk under the sink to the former (cedar) battery box. Also moved the steel Danforth from under the vee berth - to the aft lazarette where it is much more useable in those many situations where we put out a stern anchor as well. A Delta plow and 20' of chain live up front. We've also found a throwable mushroom anchor handy for stern anchor uses...and some really long lines for tying to shoreside trees. I constantly think about designs to improve the rudder raising/tiedown, but have not committed to doing it yet. It's an area long overdue for improvement. I think a gas strut to hold it down with a rope to pull up would work. Should get a larger rudder while I'm at it. Still enjoying our Mac - recently did an extensive exploration of Lake Barkley.  
The boat's best features Size and portability. Few boats can offer the accomodation, fine sailing and true trailerability that the older M26s have. Dirt simple, virtually no maintenance, no ongoing costs, cheap insurance, flexibility in cruising destinations - even land camping. Rugged enough if common sense used - we have thousands of miles of water under the boat and no significant failures. Love the super shoal draft, don't need a dinghy - anchor away from the crowd - launch at any ramp. Love beating more expensive boats in light to moderate air! Dinghy like handling is fun, but still the comforts of home.  
Problem areas in terms of design, materials, maintenance, etc. Often M26s are dissed for construction quality, mostly by people who spent too much for their boat. I've never had a serious structural problem that I didn't cause. I've wrecked two daggerboards but the damage never transfered to the hull and MacGregor sells the boards with shipping for about $230. Broke the rudder pull down pulley when running in shallow water once - drilled and bolted back on while in the water. Watch for spreader wear at mast - plug with hard wood and redrill. We sealed our pop top so it does not leak - and NEVER put it up. Sleeps six - HA, where would you put their stuff - nice for a couple for any duration - a third or fourth person in a pinch. Under aft berth storage useless as is "table" - we use a large cooler for our table. Wish the rudder was larger or had two (the latter has mounting problems - bigger rudders are a frequent mod I have not done). Cockpit does not drain last bit of water well, deck slants wrong direction slightly.  
Sailing characterisitcs The M26 is a giant dinghy - treat it as such. It is what makes it fun where other boats are boring. It is fast in light air. Reef early to avoid weather helm - go faster, with less effort, ignore crap about moving the mast or building a bow sprit, just make reefing easy. It is not a boat to be used in large choppy waves(2'+), it does not have the mass to plow through without losing all its speed. Can be a bad wallower downwind in big waves. Drop main and use jib/genoa only when it begins to blow - balances nicely, main only is for other boats. Don't buy one if your spouse does not like boats "tipping." It is tender, and at times you have to play the main sheet ala dinghy to keep her on her feet and going well - but we find it fun. Use "bio-ballast" to best advantage. That said, we've never, even in the worst moments, have come anywhere near taking on water over the side, you would have to be rolled inverted to do so - heck you can hardly get the rub rail to touch the water much less the chainplates or windows. Don't hold me to it, someone will manage.  
Motoring characterisitcs Sails faster than it motors - with a 6 horse Johnson. My "longshaft" isn't long enough and the exhaust comes out of the water and makes quite a racket if heeled to stbd or someone goes forward - and that is with a notch in the mount. Don't use or like the mounts that extend off the back, also have not gone 4 stroke as they weigh a lot. We motor a lot at times, but feel the noisy thing forces us to sail more. We often motor from one patch of air to another and pull the motor up once we get there. Tracks well. Using the motor with rudder at dock is mandatory. M26 is like a canoe with only paddling from stern when docking in wind, particularly if the board is up. I let crew off bow at dock then angle motor toward dock in reverse to bring to stop and pull stern toward dock.  
Liveability Some of this written above. M26 lives like a giant fiberglass pup tent. Add some cabin lights and increase thickness of seat cushions. Porta Potti is a pain, but better than nothing. "Sink" holds wastebasket - sink is useless otherwise. We've "lived" on ours for up to two weeks at a time - get really tired of moving stuff around every morning and night - then get tired of crawling around everywhere - but the boat's many advantages make up for this. Plenty of room for a nap inside or in the cockpit. We've improved storage capacity a lot (see above)few boats in its class have anywhere near this much storage capacity. We've not opened up under the cockpit seats from inside, though I've seen the mod done several times by others...even more room. We've trailered and sailed on every Great Lake, many many lakes and the Mississippi River, Quebec City Canada and Key West. Many wonderful adventures. We've used Thebote as a motel in major cities by staying in downtown marinas and we've been to remote areas of the North Channel, each has its own advantage. I also have written long stories about these adventures for our yacht club newsletter - contact me to get a story.  
The owner's experience in dealing with Hunter (if any) Dealings with MacGregor have been few. Mostly positive - though they are antique in communications. Prices for replacements are reasonable if not cheap. If you'll observe what Roger MacGregor has done, he "improves" his designs by eliminating expensive parts while streamlining construction and getting around a problem - thus making the breed ever simpler, foolproof and economical.  
The owner's experience with the boat dealer or broker, if any Bought new from dealer in 1989. Was in water the first time I saw it. Should have looked it over on land - found many factory gel coat repairs much later on as the patches faded. Wouldn't have changed much but could have fetched a better price perhaps. Dealer is no longer in sailboat business. Brand new was list price under $10K, had $5K of options, and still a bargain.  
Other comments If you made it this far, you can tell I love our MacGregor. I doubt I'll ever sell it. We also own a 42' steel boat that I wish I never bought -too much trouble and expense - we enjoy the MacGregor experience just fine without the big boat problems. I keep the M26 in a large building whenever we are not sailing it, therefore the gelcoat looks like new and many people think it is a new boat. We've always trailered and have never put a bottom paint on it - just wash it when I get home. I feel the time spent setting up each time is equal to or less than the time spent "commissioning" and "decommissioning" a boat in the water each year. Our boat is NEVER covered with fowl poop when we get ready to sail. Typical set up time 45 minutes, take down, 60 - 90 minutes (but I am very anal about tying up lines for the road - we're as ready to go a thousand miles as fifty at any time). Could shave a few minutes off with more set up improvements. Makes a nice place to sleep while on the road too. Camped out in parks a few times as well - nice streamlined trailer! Speaking of trailer. Used the stock trailer for many years and miles. Always trouble getting the boat on it and tended to sway in truck turbulence. The roller trailer is nice but needs careful set up. The tandem axles eliminate all sway but take more power to keep rolling. If you aren't going far, stick with the stock trailer, otherwise invest in the tandem axle - it's not the weight, it's the side winds that's a problem (too much boat aft of axle). Get a M26 and enjoy sailing, not spending money!  

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