Filed Under (Boats and Boating Gear) by Debbie on 05-02-2008

The first sailboat my hubby and I owned was a 1992 MacGregor 26.  It took us three days round trip to go get her and bring her home.  She’d been sitting in Anacortes on the hard for years.  When we first saw her we thought the trailer had a flat tire, turned out the tire was just sunk in the mud from sitting so long.  We bought her on the spot (please click here if you’re new to boating) and we drove to a tire place to have the tires checked and the wheel bearings greased.

We spent the first couple of weeks cleaning and scrubbing inside and out and boy did she look nice when we were done.  We took the outboard in to the shop to have a compression check done, the oil changed and the impeller replaced (click here if you don’t know why we did this) just to be sure everything was ok before venturing off with her.

She was a MacGregor ‘trailer-sailor’ so we knew we’d have to step the mast (raise it) before going out on the water.  There was roller furling and it seemed as if there were never ending wires for the standing rigging.  She came with a ‘mast raising system’ that was a 4:1 block and tackle but we kind of stood there scratching our heads as to how to use it since she didn’t come with an instruction book (want a checklist for raising it?).

If you’ve read any of my past stories about the stupid stuff we’ve done, then you’ll know I don’t like being part of the circus.  So, we tried raising the mast at home first, actually we did it three times.  It was much more difficult the first time than we thought it would be.

Finally on a bright and sunny but very cold February day in 2004 we loaded up.  A couple of blankets, a change of clothes, a couple of thermos’ of hot tomato soup and the fixings for grill cheese sandwiches and we were off to a nearby lake to try out our new baby.

We were a bit nervous as we arrived at the lake but the parking lot was almost empty and the ramp was clear.  Unfortunately, the dock was resting on the hard and we had to formulate a plan on just how we’d get on board the boat once we launched her.

The plan was my hubby would take the boat off the trailer as he would have the muscle to start the outboard and I’d park the truck and trailer.  Then I’d walk down to the water and carefully pick my way over the boulders were he’d ‘nose’ the bow of the boat to and I’d climb over the bow and we’d take off.  The reverse of course was how we’d get off the lake.  Ah, simple plan!

We position ourselves in the parking lot so as to be out of the way while we step the mast.  It takes us about 20 minutes to get everything ready and in position to raise up the mast.  The roller furling is ready to move forward to the bow, the tie-down straps are secured at the port and starboard sides of the mast to keep it from wobbling, the ‘system’ is attached and the line is lead to the winch, and all the standing and running rigging is positioned free from entanglement.   At my hubby’s signal, I lift the mast from the back of the cockpit and he begins to pull on the line from the block and tackle.  Once I can’t reach the mast any longer I run forward to take the furling to the bow and pin into place.

Yeah, success!  We carry out the boom and set it in place and then reach for the mainsail (pronounced mains’l) halyard.  Humm…seems some little birdy came and untied it from the lifeline and now the sail end of the halyard is more than half way up the mast.  I tried standing on the boom to reach it, then I tried to catch it with the oars but in the end, we had to lower the mast and re-tie it to the lifeline.

Up went the mast again only this time the backstay got wrapped around the masthead and we again had to lower the mast.  That first time it took us 45 minutes to get the mast up and ready.  My hubby, aka the dock ape idiot, was pretty frustrated but I pointed out that we’ve now made all the boo-boo’s and it’d be smooth sailing now, plus we’d not make any of those mistakes again.

Launching the boat was pretty easy and our daughter who was 10 thought it was pretty kewl.  She waved with great gusto as she and dad pulled away from the ramp.  I quickly parked the truck and trailer and carefully picked my way over the partailly submerged boulders.  I found a nice spot that had a good drop off and since the ‘keel’ wasn’t down yet I knew the boat could come in to pick me up.  I must admit, for a fat old bat, I didn’t do too badly scampering over the bow.

While my hubby manned the tiller I went below to fill the water ballast.  This was an extremely odd feeling to deliberately fill a portion of the boat with water.  I was really afraid I’d over do it and sink the boat, of course I didn’t.  I then dropped the keel and went topside while our daughter stayed below and played.

We motored out a bit, then cut the engine and ran up the main and pulled out the 150% genoa.  There was just enough wind to almost fill the sails so they didn’t hang like limp rags.  We ghosted along until we could see Mt. Jefferson off in the distance still covered with snow and then we dropped the sails to settle in and enjoy the view.

We had a great lunch with hot sandwiches cooked on my little portable propane burner.  It was amazing how wonderful tomato soup and those sandwiches tasted while sitting in the cockpit.  The sun was out and while the air was cold, we did have the lake to ourselves.

We had a really nice first time on the water with that boat and were sad when we had to head back in.  I carried my shoes to the bow of the boat as we got close to the boulders to drop me off.  It was a bit more intimidating getting off the boat than it was getting on the boat.  Before long however, I was backing the trailer down the ramp.

There was a family fishing nearby and they nodded at me as I ran out the bow strap in prepartaion to hook up the boat.  My hubby was motoring up slowly and we were talking as he approached.  When they were about ten feet away from the trailer, the engine quit and then the boat began to drift off.  My hubby grumbled and gave the outboard a quick couple of pulls to start it.  He swung back around and approached again…the engine quit again.

Now he’s getting angry and starting to complain about the boat.  The engine sputters back to life and he swings around yet again to approach the trailer.  As he’s doing that I’m thinking maybe I’ll just take off my shoes and even though the water’s really cold, I’ll just walk down the trailer and clip the bow strap on and then I can winch the boat onto the trailer.

So there I am, jeans rolled up my calves…no shoes…gingerly balancing on the narrow metal rails of the trailer, trying to ignore the really cold water, ready to clip the boat to the trailer.  My hubby comes in much faster this time, actually it seemed like he was doing ramming speed and he gets about 15 feet from the trailer and you guessed it, engine sputters and dies.  He drifts to within about 6 inches away from my best grab and as he slides past I make a quick grab with my other hand thinking, if I can just haul her around a bit I can clip on…my hand misses the boat.    Crap!  I’m off balance; I look at the trailer trying to decide where to step to regain my balance.  I think about the really cold water and my ‘not water resistant’ Mini Mouse watch…my hubby is now yelling he wants to sell the boat and our daughter is starting to cry for me.

This is where you get to cue up the circus music…I step to my left and try to get a good foothold on one rail of the trailer.  It’s too far over to balance well and I bend forward flailing my arms wildly.  I step with my other foot to a different section of trailer and lurch backwards, my arms still waving like a madwoman in the air.  I do the flutter clown two step a couple of time and suddenly find myself heading back first into the water.  All I can think of is my watch and while my entire body splashes below the water, I manage keep my wrist out of the water and save my watch.  Geeze, that water was COLD!

I came up laughing.  Neptune really seems to believe I need to land in the water on the first outing of every boat….  I reached down and grabbed the bow strap and looped it around the trailer guide.  Then I waded out to the sailboat and grabbed the bow and walked her back to the trailer.

You know, to this day I am amazed how quickly that family fishing had packed up and left.  I swear, when I started walking down the trailer they were fishing and when I came up out of the water…they were gone.  I guess they thought it’d be a yelling match.

I’ll tell you what!  Being sopping wet in 45 degrees is not fun.  However, this wasn’t the first time Neptune pulled this prank and I had a nice dry change of clothes in the boat.  We kept our MacGregor 26 for a couple of years and certainly enjoyed her plus we learned a lot from her.  Check back in a couple of days and I’ll have part two for you.  Want to know why the engine kept quitting?  Well, it seems my hubby, aka dock ape idiot, forgot to ‘vent’ the gas can.  Another lesson learned.

Interested in more information about the MacGregor trailer-sailor?  Click here.  If you’d like to visit the owners site then click here.

 Please remember, if you find help here please buy me a beer, thank you. 

You can read more about our MacGregor here: two three four five  You can find more sailboat articles by looking under ‘archives’ and clicking on each month. 

12 Comments posted on "MacGregor 26 Sailboat part one"
Jay Jennings on February 5th, 2008 at 8:29 pm #

Great story! =:)

My family and I are working towards getting our first boat by next December — and our first boat is going to be a liveaboard. I suspect we’ll have some stories of our own after that — I just hope we laugh about them later!


Debbie on February 6th, 2008 at 9:16 am #

I’m sure you’ll have tons of stories after getting your boat! It doesn’t take Neptune too long to start teaching us and I think it’s best to have a sense of humor about it.

Life is so short, keep that dream going until it’s reality. Your kids will always have that memory and they’ll be better for it.

When you find your boat I’d love to hear about her.

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sailboat show ct on April 8th, 2008 at 1:08 am #

Really funny story about this couple’s first time out with their new to them boat. Also shows what not to do and what to look out for

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