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Upgrading a MacGregor for Sailing Big

by Fred Scott

The following are modifications for making this vessel sail big.

  1. Put a floor in the storage below the head washbasin. Use marine plywood or Red cedar ¾" board, make a cardboard template to cut the wood to shape. Lay the floor down inside on top of the hull waste outlet. Drill two holes below the edge of the door then screw 2 SS Rd. Hd. screws to secure the floor. Now it's a handy place for safety flares, bug repellent and toilet paper etc.
  2. Make a secure small shelf by mounting a 3/16 clear acrylic x 6" wide to the indent above and to the right of the wash basin. Good place for storing sun tan lotion, bug lotion, air-horn, plus other things. Fasten the plastic with SS 10/32 screws and locknuts.
  3. Mount a towel rack above the Sani-pottie.
  4. Install a 5.2 US gallon Sani-pottie (West Marine model 541094) which is much higher making easier to sit on instead of down near the sole with your knees in your chin.
  5. On the outside of the head door, I installed a triple swinging coat-hook from (West Marine model 573972) mounted near the top near the hinge side. This makes an excellent place to hang wet gear, sweaters and so on and it gets used.
  6. For a little wash up privacy, I installed a marine cabinet door hook (West Marine 439630) to the bottom, right center of the head door that connects to the starboard side of the passageway step. This arrangement will hold the head door open while you have a birdbath and believe me it works well. Plus I mounted a hardwood 5/8" plate with cross notches to enlarge the top of step a small amount and installed inside the bottom of the step a 2 x 4 to give it strength.
  7. You need storage shelves under the galley for pots & pans. There is nothing strong enough to attach to, except the bare hull unless you do some fibre-glassing in a tight space. What I did was very simple and did the job. Take some lids from Rubbermaid tubs, do some cutting and pop rivet together then rollup the mess, so I could slide it through the door and let unfold forming shelves and it worked. The shelves ran right back to the battery compartment leaving the space behind the door open to put large things in, such as dish pan, coffee pot and kettle. It's not best looking method, but it's out of the way, out of sight under the galley.
  8. Check out the plastic hose waste outlet under the galley sink, you may notice that the hose most likely has collapsed at the bottom so that waste water flow is pinched off. I installed fittings to prevent this, installing a new hose will soon collapse the same way. If you can find the right diameter spring to install over the hose should work well.
  9. There are three storage areas below forward berth & 2 seats. To keep everything in order and off the bottom, I installed 1 Rubbermaid tub in two compartments and 2 tubs below the dinette forward seat. In the compartment below the berth I installed the tub sideways and leaves room for storing spare parts like a spare prop, radar reflector, flags and so on.
  10. An excellent place to store a folded crab trap, which can take up a lot of room, is under the dinette sole. To get there remove the ice chest and chest compartment. Then you will see a space beneath the dinette sole. Also under the chest compartment I found it was a good place for storing stove alcohol in 2-liter gas containers, which are safer then alcohol plastic containers that is easy to get holed.
  11. This space can also be used for your emergency Bilge pump.
  12. I made wooden racks for plates, cups and glasses mounted behind the galley wall, plus a holder for paper rolls.
  13. I found great clear plastic stacking containers with clamped fasten lids for storing food items that we store under the table against the wall. I got these at Costco in fact I use 6 all together, some under the cockpit. When stacked, they will not slide.
  14. Under the cockpit berths, I used plastic laundry baskets for storing clothes, ropes, tarps, fenders extra lifejackets and allot of other things you need. You can reach back and hook on the baskets with your boat hook and pull them out.
  15. On the table I have mounted plastic stacking drawers that are held against the wall for cutlery, bottle openers, can openers and so on. Above that I made a cedar container with coamings for storing pens, pencils, GPS and other gadgets. Beside that I made a cedar magazine rack plus a wire rack for Handi-Wrap, Zip lock bags and other rolls of storage things.
  16. The Macgregor is really only comfortable for two people when making long cruises more then 3 days on the water. To make the sleeping arrangements more comfortable and to sail real big. I fabricated 3/8" marine mahogany plywood with cutouts into the seat storage area. The plywood was fastened with SS bolts & locknuts through the fibre-glass dinette seat and to the Port side berth. The plywood ran across reaching the back cushion on the side seat.
  17. As I had installed a second layer of 3" foam under the forward berth. We stacked both dinette cushions on the forward dinette seat and had another thick cushion made up to match the height. This extended the berth made a good wide bed with plenty of room for your feet and you can lay back and watch the stars above you. If you install the extra foam you can cut it out of one 4 x 8' sheet like they did at the factory. Play with the existing mattress as a template and you will see what I mean.
  18. To keep the bugs out on the forward hatch, I cemented a Velcro strip around the perimeter of the hatch on the underside. Then cemented the other Velcro strip to a plastic screen door screen and back up tape. This worked really well and you can roll it up and stow it. I also made up a 2 x 3" cedar cross bar with notched ends that you can lay across the hatch top for adjusting air flow. The ends have cutouts top and bottom to stop it from sliding sideways. The cutouts or notches fit the hatch cover and the hatch opening. Very simple, as I had already purchased various hatch adjusters and none of them would fit right and still be able to use a bug screen. One very important feature with a deck hatch, you must be able to open the hatch all the way in order to crawl out in case of an emergency.
  19. A very simple way to keep the bugs out of the companion hatch is to take a baby crib net, stretch it across to both winches and let it hang down and fastened by installing a ¼" x 6" plywood to the width of opening pinching the net holding it in place. The net can be stowed in a small ball. Slide the companion cover shut and you are bug free. For the bottom on my boat I used the following bottom section, see item 19.
  20. I found the one piece fiberglass companion way door was troublesome to store amongst other gear. What I did here was make a new door in 3 sections with ¼" clear High Impact Acrylic that will drop into place. The bottom one was acrylic only 7 ¾" wide, the one above had a 3 ¼" x 7/8" wood trim with groves and drip ledge attached with Flat head screws to the top and bottom sealed with 2500. This second section of acrylic was 8" wide. The same with the top one which is 13" wide. The top wood member is 1 ¾" x 7/8". This lets allot of light in and is easy to install and remove. Used the same locking arrangement. You may want to use a dark plastic for privacy (smoked). These sections are easy to stow and prevent water entering. Note. On all wood I put on 6 coats of spar varnish.
  21. My compass is mounted on the bulkhead port side. I had the dealer install a twin halyard rope clutch for jib and main in front of the winch and the winch handle pocket below mounted to the bottom side of cockpit. (West Marine model 173403) I find the port side is the best place as you can hold the halyard in you left hand while winching up with your right hand. Makes a lot of sense, but I had to remount the mast top block to the port side to eliminate the halyard's friction passing down the starboard side of the mast and then crossing over to port side. The bulkhead mounted depth sounder is on the starboard side. A "Wide Eye" at 600 foot depth. As some the places I go out on the coast the depth is usually farther away then the closes shore and maybe a depth sounder of at lease 1000 ft. would be better, then again why worry about anything that far down.
  22. I mounted a large coat-hook inside near where the access cover for compass wire connection is located. I installed a wood backing to strengthen this area and screwed the hook through the fiberglass into the wood.
  23. Fire extinguisher very important! I mounted a 5 lb. B1 extinguisher on the bulkhead or wall opposite the step or the rear of aft dinette seat. A handy place easy to get at, always visible and never in the way. Mount this on a slope to clear the top of seat and bottom indent.
  24. For storing round chart containers, as I have allot of coastal charts. I band-sawed Honduras mahogany making a small arch shape that fitted from the ledge and across to the top of the opposite side located above the port side of aft berth, aft of the battery compartment, way in the back. I made 2 arched shape pieces that were notched to fit the ledge and contained with one screw into the liner. The rack holds 2 - 4" round x 39" long chart containers, fishing rods and a Whisker pole, all out of the way and providing headroom. On the outside of the chart containers you should note what charts are inside or you can loose your cool looking for a chart. My VHF is mounted from the above entrance to this area.
  25. Fuel supply, I have 2 - 25 litre Honda gas tanks for normal cruising. When coastal cruising I carry 2 - 22 litre extra gas tanks. (West Marine model 275722). They have 2 handles top & side which make it easier to transfer gas. These tanks fit nicely under the Helm seat. On newer boats you may not be able to do this due to the location of the steering controls in this area. Northern coast cruising does not have many Fuel Depots and far between, and you should carry enough gas for at least a 100 miles between gas fills. If the wind is right all the better save gas and enjoy the sail. For transferring gas I use an (West Marine Filter Funnel model 406355) A filter funnel is important on the coast, as there is a problem with some gas depots with water in their tanks.
  26. For water we carry 5 gallons for the galley sink and another 5 for the head. Plus drinking water. When coastal cruising we carry another 10 gallons of distilled water.
  27. When motoring the ballast tanks are usually filled and cruise at 3000 RPM for better fuel economy, less wear and tear on the Honda 50HP engine. When you are pushing a heavy load continually you can tell what's happening to your drive system by inspecting the inside forward part of your propeller. I also changed the standard Honda Propeller to a Michigan 12 x 11 Propeller, less pitch will give more RPMs at less HP. Or you can get higher RPMs with the HP that the engine is designed for. That's if you want to get up and go. Changing the propeller size made for easier docking.
  28. Motor Steering! That's one thing I don't like when the boat steers like a houseboat. Putting down the center board 6" does help some, but you get better steering with one sailing rudder down. To make this work well you adjust the steering turnbuckle to make the engine parallel with the downed rudder as when the other one is not down it doesn't matter at what angle it is. The reason I say this is that the factory settings seem to have a toe in the sailing rudders for sailing. If you don't parallel the motor with the downed sailing rudder it will still steer like a houseboat.
  29. My boat hook is mounted crossways aft of the helm seat, very handy when you need it and out of the way when not in use.
  30. For an excellent rowing and towing tender, I built a Nutshell Pram from Wooden Boat's Blueprints. This 7'-7" Nutshell can carry 3 people. There is little resistance when towing in fact when sailing down wind it wants to pass you, it just surges along in the breeze. To prevent any damage to your boat from the tender, I used a 1" diameter clear plastic tube. Drilled holes every foot and enlarged the outer hole to except a crew driver and mounted the plastic right around the perimeter. The hose I used had a blue circular stripe, which adds to the appearance.
  31. When fishing, no skipper wants his sailboat to smell like a herring boat so I take along a Rubbermaid tub. Once you land the fish it goes straight into the tub, you clean it in the tub and rinse it out and overboard. After many fish and over 4 weeks of fishing you could not smell that we had a fish onboard, ever.
  32. A handheld GPS Garman 48 works well, easy on batteries.

My 1996 sailboat has the same standard sails that came with it a 100% jib and main and that's all I need. I have a furling system but never installed it, I like it that way it keep it "Simple" and that's what I want. I keep my jib in a blue headsail bag attached to the forestay. West Marine Model, medium-114159. It looked big when I got it but works well and I use it all the time and keeps the sail off the deck, expensive but handy.

The Marina I sail from is Lake Wabamun about an hours drive west of Edmonton Alberta. There are over 250 sailboats, up to 30 ft. that sail here. There is 3 sailing clubs on the lake. Lake Wabamun has 10 Macgregor26X sailboats, plus many Macgregor and Venture sailboats of the Macgregor sailboat line.

This last summer of year 2000 My brother flew up from Vancouver to Edmonton and we took off for the coast with boat in tow, truck loaded with a month's food, gas, water and clothing wet gear included. We drove through Jasper in the Rockies, over to Williams Lake on the Caribou highway in British Columbia. From there we headed west on the Chilcotin Trail for another 465 Km (290 miles) out to Bella Coola.

Then sailed for 600 miles and did we sail, sometimes when you looked aft under sail the dinghy looked like it was going flat out like as if we had the motor down at full throttle. Man was that fun, some days we sailed 60 miles through many channels and narrows without motoring.

One time we crossed Fitz Hugh sound under sail in a good wind, tacking and keeled at 30 degrees, just plain exciting fun. Then we tacked into a long narrow channel like a canyon with a head wind coming right off the Pacific Ocean. All I can remember was calling out "coming about" and Don on the jib laughing his head off. They were short tacks about 26 in all. By the time we got into Pruth bay we were all worn out and in time for a relaxing Happy Hour making it another perfect day of sailing.

We fished just about everyday catching nothing but Coho and kept only what we could barbecue and we had plenty of them. Besides we also caught nice fresh crabs.

After the first week of sailing my brother Don said he was very impressed with the Macgregor 26X and liked it. He had already sailed for 17 years with his Columbia 27 out of Vancouver and knows his sailing. He also showed me the advantages of rigging the sails and I never new my boat could go so fast and just hung on to the helm.

During the whole cruise it brought my brother and I much closer together after years apart in two different cities. Our wives said they enjoyed their space while we were gone. Will have to do that again. I was born in Ocean Falls, Don and I grew up there till we left in 1942.

Near the end of this trip we sailed into Ocean Falls with a Coho cooking on the barbecue another feast of fresh salmon.

After another three days of wandering around, relaxing, meeting old friends, then attending an Ocean Falls reunion complete with banquet followed by speeches, games and goodbyes. The next day a storm was brewing and decided to leave and head home and on the way we skinny dipped in the Eucott Bay Hot Springs on Dean Channel.

A great sailing trip, we experience great ground swells sailing on the Queen Charlotte and Millbank sounds and the Macgregor 26X did it all well. I am going to do again this coming year at age 73. Want to do it while I can as there is so much to see even though I have seen it all before on my dad's boat the "SEA ROAMER" 60 years ago.

Going to or out of Bella Coola is another exciting adventure. You have to come down or go back up a narrow mountain18% grade gravel road from sea Level to 5000 ft. elevation through Heckman's Pass, Tweedsmuir Provincial Park.

One other thing, I equipped my truck with a rear deflector called "ROCK SOLID" my boat never received a rock off the 60 miles of gravel road and came home clean as a whistle. Trailered distance one way, 1370 Km (851 miles) 2 days each way

Fred Scott
Sherwood Park, Alberta
Year 2000

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