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Returning from a successful cruise in the Apostle Islands
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 for us.

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 -
Once a Dream

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 sailing.

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 mast.

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