MacGregor 26M

Cruising Boat Spotlight: The MacGregor 26M

Generally speaking sailors are an opinionated bunch but, as a baseline, are okay with any boat you choose because at the end of the day, you’re still sailing and that’s a good thing. Oh, except for one boat – the MacGregor 26M. That boat can start a fight. What do you mean? It’s just a little day sailor with twin rudders, retractable keel for easy tailoring and a relatively spacious cuddy cabin, perfect for overnighting – how on earth could that annoy anyone? We’ll get into it, it does.

None of this makes immediate sense, but the mention of a MacGregor 26M makes eyes roll… in slow motion… all the way around. There are cases of sailors going to the emergency room from rolling there eyes too hard when someone mentioned the MacGregor 26M – that’s how severe all this is. Oh, and to make things a bit more confounding, it’s the best selling cruising sailboat there is – the company (that has now closed it’s doors when owner Roger MacGregor retired) sold over 38,000 boats. So, let’s get down to it. What is the issue?

That outboard!

The MacGregor was designed and marketed to non-sailors or would-be (sort of) sailors. It seems the company gave deep consideration towards something of a fictional demographic – a group of people who didn’t have any great knowledge of sailing but who like the idea of it. They assumed these people would probably not embrace the low speeds associated with traditional sailing – might be a deal breaker, so they slapped a big fat outboard on the transom and that problem was solved! Some MacGregors have engines as large as 70-HPs and can top 20-knots. MacGregor critics have said many times: “If you try and make something that’s both a powerboat and a sailboat, you’ll end up with the worst of both.” This may be true, but it’s safe to say most MacGregor owners don’t care. They just dropped the main and took off to beat the rain and get home for dinner. To this critique many M26 sailors will say, “enjoy that squall while I enjoy my medium rare Porterhouse!

High freeboard

Another characteristic that bothers traditional sailors about the MacGregor 26 M is the design or “lines.” There are none. It’s really more of a powerboat blueprint but the boat does have some innovative elements like, for instance, a water ballast system that compensates for the lack of a keel, a rigging system that helps get the boat rigged in around 15-minutes, a rotating mast and a sliding galley that provides for accommodating more passengers. The high freeboard design isn’t sexy, but it does allow for a surprising amount of room down below. The little boat sports two large double berths/two singles, a dinette, galley, six-feet of headroom and a fully enclosed head.

Cheap or inexpensive?

This is another area where new MacGregor boat owners rejoice and critics scoff. A new boat, loaded, was around $35,000 in 2013 when they stopped producing them, but now used M 26M’s can be found for $20K or less. The scoffers believe there is no price point that will ever tempt them into stepping foot on a MacGregor 26. The boat, for some, represents a cheapening of the sport – a stripping away of the elegance and dignity that sailing withholds, leaving us with a mutant powerboat that wants to call itself a sailboat when the mood strikes. Not a pill purists will swallow.

Like them or not, one thing that is indisputable about the MacGregor 26 M is they have brought many non-sailors into the sailing universe. More than a few owners have gotten the sailing bug because they could afford it and then moved towards boats that were designed expressly for sailing.

Conclusion

We say live and let live. If you want to buy tarps and a dowel at Home Depot and fasten them to a canoe, that’s cool with us – as long as it’s safe. Although we’ll admit, when it comes to the MacGregor 26M, we’d much rather see you raise the sail and feel that heel than see you fire up that 70 h.p. and pull the waterskier around the lake. Besides, it’s cheaper to sail!

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10 Comments on "Cruising Boat Spotlight: The MacGregor 26M"

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Steven
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I am one of those 26 owners mentioned in the article and I appreciate the open minded view of the writer. To me the versatility of the Mac 26 overrode the need to conform to norm. I like that I can relocate to any body of water I wish to explore without the usual expenses removing, transporting and relaunching a traditional Keel Boat. I also like that I can enjoy the water on those Many days during the middle of the summer when there is no wind for sailing on the landlocked lakes of much of middle America. Another big… Read more »
Jim
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I believe the boat has been reborn by the daughter and son in law. And manufactured in Stuart Florida under a new name…

Mark
Guest

They are called Tattoo Yachts now. I have the precursor to the 26M. The 26X, has a better cabin layout, and is very comfortable. I have sailed on conventional sailboats, and when you raise the sails, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of difference. These are great boats, and have proven to be safe, and tough. They have been sailed to the Bahamas, the Sea of Cortez, and many other places. The purists who look down on them, have never spent any time on one!

Member

Nice article but why does the author think owners are new to sailing? Has the author considered the safety factor of 50 hp plus outboards? Did the author read reviews of the early model, the 26X? Are owners older than most new sailors? Did they own other boats prior to purchasing? These boats are respected and for charter all over the world. There is something about them that gives a person hope. Hopefully ASA can put something together, like a rally, that welcomes these boats that can coastal cruise with the Outbound 46s. – A 26x owner.

Mike OBrien
Guest
Im the immediate past Commodore of a yacht club, I own a Mac 26X, so hardly new to sailing, the Mac gives me what the others couldnt at a price point that is real value for money, standing headroom, private head for the ladies and she is very sea kindly. The eye rollers have no idea, she sails well, sure no race boat but do they say nasty things about long keelers or tall ships not being “Real Sailboats” because they dont have great pointing ability?? Hardly, most of them drool at tall ships and long keelers, but they are… Read more »
Bill
Guest

Let’s just call it a motor-sailer…..

It obviously filled a need,or they wouldn’t have sold so many of them….

trumpet nelson
Guest
Just finished an 8 night, 9 day sail in my 2001 Macgregor 26X. I told the other boats (8 others) in the fleet going to Catalina that I had a 50 hp and a tow rope if they needed help. Helped the confidence of some of the newbies during the 6 hour crossing. Kept the motor just above idle when the fleet needed to motor for a spell. Then I trailered her home to San Antonio. Oh, and 6 weeks ago I joined in on the 5 day Pensacola BEER cruise. My 26X is a great camper, sometimes sails like… Read more »
Mike OBrien
Guest

Too much sail area to be a motor sailor, normally motor sailors have much less sail area than others of equivalent size and displacement, motor sailors are also generally governed by hull speed, all this being given its a sailboat that can motor fast. Very clever design

Lee
Guest
I joined a sailing club that you could use different sail boats. My first sail boat was a Choy Lee clipper 42. I traveled around the US a lot and the boat stayed in Seattle. With my McGregor 27M it has been in WA. CA. ID. CO. NM MT. Canada Maryland. Now it is in FL. Could not have done that with any other. It has a real head not a porta pottie, Inside heater and special seating railing. It has a 70 HP. Make it back to the club and wait, wait, wait for the standard sailing boats. I… Read more »
Garland L Hughes
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I am a former licensed coast guard captain and master seaman to 100 tons and have owned a number of boats, power and sail. Most of the critical sailors never leave the marina if there is to much or to little wind or it might rain and if they do they will not get out of sight of the marina. they are what I call sailor want to be’s. They wear the clothes and know the jargon but they are about as close to being true boaters as I am to being a judge This much is sure about the… Read more »
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