Returning from a successful cruise in the
It started as a dream
My father had dreamed about sailing for years.
However, it had always seemed to
him that sailing was something "Other People" did - not something he ever thought
he would end up doing himself. You know the stereotypes and misconceptions that
non-sailors can have of sailors. He just never thought it was a possibility
In 1994 my father saw a big red thing leaning against somebody's shed. It turned
out to be a 15 foot Chrysler Mutineer that they were trying to sell. On a whim, he bought
it and brought it home together with a big box of ropes,
sails, rigging, and all kinds of stuff that niether my father nor the seller had any
idea how to assemble. I'm told it was quite a sight as the neighbors came over to
see what was going on in our driveway and everybody pitched in to help figure out how
all the parts fit together.
Fast forward to 1996 where my father and I attended the Minneapolis Boat Show
and first saw the MacGregor 26X. It was the first year for the new X design
and it was a big hit at the show. We looked at all kind of
different sailboats that day and by far we liked the MacGregor the best. We
brought home the video and brochures and studied them carefully. Convinced that
the Mac was the boat for us, the brochure got posted on my father's "goal board"
with the words "Spring 1997" under it. The following year the goal was met and
we drove home the new Mac.
I took a few days off of work and started going through the MacGregor manual and
assembly instructions. After a couple of days we were ready to take it on the
water for the first time. This first trip involved motoring only - we were nervous
enough about that, let alone trying to sail. Everything went well - we didn't sink
or crash or anything, and we brought it back onto the trailer for another couple of
days of rigging and readying.
On the fourth of July, 1996 the whole family went out for the first time. It was a
beautiful, sunny day and we enjoyed motoring around and exploring Lake Mille Lacs.
We anchored and had lunch and just lounged around for a while. Finally I said what
my father was nervously waiting to hear - "I guess we better try sailing this thing!".
I already knew all the steps - theoretically at least - and we had taken a test sail
the year before, but it was still with some trepidation that we first raised the
sails and cut the engine. And then ...... we were sailing - and it was wonderful!
Years ago, before he had ever conceived of owning a MacGregor, my father had considered
sailing as just a dream - something that other people did. Now, amazingly, we had
become sailors. The one remaining step was to find an appropriate name for our Mac and
we finally found a name that was a perfect fit for us. Reflecting how far we had come
in just a few years, we christened the boat -
Most of our sailing so far with the MacGregor has been on Lake Mille Lacs
in central Minnesota. My father and I spent a week sailing in the
Apostle Islands and
my wife Kristin and I have spent two weeks sailing there.
We really like the MacGregor for many reasons. It is very easy to
transport because it doesn't have a fixed keel. Two people can very
easily load and unload the boat from the trailer.
Since Lake Mille Lacs is quite shallow in places, having a
center board and water ballast is nice compared to the fixed keel of a
more "conventional" sailboat.
Lake Mille Lacs is approximately 26 miles across in one
direction, 14 miles across in the other direction, and more-or-less circular.
This means that rather large
waves can develop when the wind is blowing steadily from one direction.
Since the lake is
very shallow, the waves are typically closely spaced, steep, and choppy. I have
sailed in some very rough weather with the main sail reefed or down entirely
and the jib only partially unfurled. The boat was tossed around quite a bit because
of the choppy waves, but it was still very controllable and stable.
We have a 40 h.p. outboard engine on it. A large engine like this is
nice because we have an electric starter, throttle, and tilt control
mounted on the left of the steering pedestal.
We custom-built a connector so that both the
motor and the rudders are always connected to the steering wheel, and the
engine has an electric tilt so that we can lift it out of the water when
At low speeds, having both the rudders and motor move with the steering
wheel gives excellent control to the boat and it's easy enough to navigate
in cramped marinas. In rough weather, it is nice to have a powerful
engine for safety reasons. Especially on Mille Lacs where storms can pop
up unexpectedly, it's nice to be able to get off the lake quickly and to be
able to maintain boat control when the wind and
waves are rough. When motoring at higher speeds, we pull the rudders out of
the water and steer using only the motor.
While we do not have experience sailing other similar types of
boats to compare the performance, we have found the MacGregor very easy
to control and sail. With a roller-furling jib, it is easy to sail
single-handedly. The balance is excellent, and it sails well with only a
light touch on the wheel. Quite often we sail with just the Genoa and
leave the mainsail unraised. We haven't used the smaller jib sail since we
bought a genoa. The jib just seems so small!
Another feature that we found to be very convenient is the mast raising
system, especially if you have a jib or genoa furler installed. In these cases,
the additional weight of the furling hardware makes it more difficult to raise
the mast by hand. With the mast raising system, however, one person can
completely rig the whole boat. While working alone of the boat, I enjoy being
able to easily lower and raise the mast to make adjustments to the rigging or
to install things like the light and wind direction indicator on the top of the