Sunday, 15 July 2012

MacGregor Motorsailer


So at last we had a weekend with some sunshine between the rain showers. Off to see a MacGregor motor-sailer for sale close by. We’ve discussed motor sailers quite a bit on this blog and speculated on their appropriateness for my purpose. One advantage of a English motor-sailer is that they tend to be excellent sea boats coming from a traditional fishing boat lineage. Fans, tell you they offer the best of all worlds, heavy stable robust sailing boats with a get you home option of a big powerful engine just in case wind and tide are against you. Critics say that motor-sailers are poor sailboats and not much better as motor vessels.

But a MacGregor is a different kettle of fish, a MacGregor is a American design coming from a very different school of naval architecture. MacGregor have been building sailboats for 40 years and they claim to have sold more sailboats than any other manufacturer.

Their unique feature for their 26-footer is a water ballast system developed during the late 1980s. Essentially, it provides for a heavy or light vessel whenever you want. Despite their size, these boats are particularly easy to tow with water drained out of the ballast tank. Fill the ballast tank when you launch the boat to give it stability when heeled under sail, drain the ballast when you pull the boat back out on the launch ramp and it can be towed by an ordinary car. Under power, the latest MacGregor model is now also a fast powerboat.

Early MacGregor 26’s had swing keels and tillers with a small outboard. The later versions have steering wheels and big outboards. The styling has changed over the years too. The original models looked more like traditional sailboats whereas the 26M looks definitely “Euro-powerboat” in appearance. People seem to love or hate them.

I found  the MacGregor 26 to be quite roomy below with all the amenities I would need. She had:
  • A large aft berth and vee-berth forward
  • An enclosed head with porta-potty
  • A galley area with sink and stove
  • A removable table
  • 6 feet of headroom under the sliding hatch.

I found the mast-raising system particularly attractive because the ability to raise and lower the mast with ease is one of my very important requirements to get me through the French canals. The MacGregor I visited had her mast raised by the owner on his own in the parking lot beside the launch ramp.

Out in the bay the boat sailed well in a strong breeze under just the mainsail. Roller furling on the jib would have made it easy to extend canvass without leaving the cockpit but she felt incredibly tender. More tender than most sailboats I am used to – more like a dinghy than a cruiser. What is more, despite her surprising ability as a sail boat she actually looks like a powerboat with a mast. She gave me the impression that she might suit a powerboater with an interest in sailing or someone who wants to trailer to distant places, stay onboard a few nights, and be able to race back into port if the weather starts to deteriorate but she had none of the romance I seek.

As a powerboat she looked strange cutting through the water with such a tall mast. As a sailboat she was boxy, high sided skittish and prone to massive leeway. So, she is not for me. Not that I could have afforded her anyway, the asking price was twice as much as my planned budget.

Now this blog has taken on quite a fishing theme in the last week or so and I’m making every effort to get back to main purpose but here is a true story that I simply have to share with you. As you may know the Island of Jersey UK is one of a small archipelago of Islands some 90 miles south of the UK. Politically English but in many ways culturally closer to the French, the principal Islands of the group are Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Alderney and Sark. Jersey and Guernsey each has its own independent government and there is fierce rivalry between the two. To the Guernseymen, Jersey people are ‘Crapauds’ (Toads), while to the Jerseymen Guernsey people are Donkeys. No citizen of either Island refers to the other Island by name. Instead their neighbouring Island is ‘the other place’. Here is a recent piece of news from ‘the other place’ (Guernsey), reported with glee in the Jersey media.

Guernsey had a fishing competition last week and the prize of £800 went to a local man who presented the judges with a monster Sea Bass freshly caught. Unfortunately another competitor thought he recognised the prizewinning fish and called for an investigation.

How did he recognise the fish? Could you recognise an individual sea bass? Well, maybe yes you could - if the fish in question had been on public view as a live specimen in the local town aquarium. Following his hunch, he visited the aquarium the following day and asked to see the tank in which the sea bass lived – on inspection – no sea bass! It had been stolen.

The winner of the competition was in court on Wednesday charged with stealing a sea bass and fraudulently obtaining £800 in prize money. He was convicted after a the aggrieved angler and aquarium staff identified the sea bass’s head from among a line of other sea bass heads in an identity parade! – Well they say truth is stranger than fiction. You couldn’t make it up!