My Sailing Experiences

Brief Overview

I started sailing when I was a kid. Over the years I've sailed or owned several sail boats. The most notable of these were the Laser, Super Snark, West Wight Potter 19, MacGregor 26M aka The Albatross, and our current boat the Hunter Edge 27.

Car Top Super Snark

For many years I sailed a small car top boat called a Super Snark. It's inexpensive and you can take it a lot of places you can't take other boats. It's only for day sailing and having two adults in it pushes or exceeds the rated weight limits, but as it's constructed the same way as a plastic shell over foam cooler it's unsinkable though it is possible to swamp it at which point it won't sail well. It's a fun little boat and I still own it and occassionally sail it from time to time.

Trailerables - West Wight Potter

After sailing a small car top boat for many years I moved up to a 19 foot West Wight Potter in 2001. It was a 1994 I bought used. We named it "Ruhig" which is german for peace or rest. I did not like the bunk trailer it came with so in 2004 I replaced it with a Venture roller trailer. Other than that the boat was mostly trouble free. I did forget to wash the salt water off the metal crank up keel at the end of one season and had to grind a lot of rust off it. After that I sealed it in an epoxy coat and had no more problems.

I personally can't say enough good things about this boat. It was very rugged, and handled reasonably well though sometimes it got into irons coming about. The V shaped bow and flat bottom towards the stern made it very stable. I think it would have been pretty hard to capsize this design. My wife and I originally thought it would be good boat for the two of us to camp on but we found the sleeping compartment a bit tight, even for only two people. Instead we used it for many years as a day sailor for up to 4 adults. When we decided to get a bigger (but still trailerable) boat that we would find comfortable to camp on and sold it we were sad to see it go. I understand the person who bought it from us still owns it and is quite happy with it which is no surprise to me.

Trailerables - MacGregor 26M aka "The Albatross"

In 2008 we decided to get a bigger boat. We wanted one that was trailerable but would still be large enough so that it would be comfortable two to four people to sleep on. Basicaly this left us with one choice at the time, the MacGregor 26M. This boat turned out to be a nightmare for us. It was so bad we took to referring to it as "The Albatross"

It's a really long story involving a lawsuit. The short version is that when the boat showed up it was in unusable condition and, due to the utterly incompetent wiring job done as part of installing certain add ons by the dealer we got it from it was also a death trap which required ripping all the wiring out and replacing it in order to make the boat safe. The list of problems with it numbered in the dozens. It took me thousands of dollars and about 8 weeks of constant work on it to get it into a usable condition.

The dealer we bought it from was a sleaze. I can't use his name due to the terms of the lawsuit settlement and it doesn't matter anyway because it appears that our suing him eventually caused him to lose his status as an authorized McGregor dealer so he doesn't sell boats anymore. The slime ball's sales guy ignored our calls and emails when we tried to contact him about this to get things sorted out. We eventually started telling folks about this on the internet, which got their attention but only to the extent that he sent a regional sales rep out to take a look at it.

Fortunately for us just after this happened they had hired a new sales rep to work in our region on a commission basis. He was an up and up guy who knew that if he lied about things he'd lose all his credibility and wouldn't be able to sell any boats in our region. So being the honest guy he was he came out to look at our boat and then reported the truth back to the dealership owner (in writing) verifying that everything we said was wrong with the boat was true. After this the dealer said he'd make good on things but then failed to follow through. By this point we'd started learning that almost everything their senior sales weasel (the one who sold us the boat) had told us were lies. Everything from the motor having a 3yr manufacturer warranty (only true if they did a pre-delivery inspection to validate it, which they of course didn't do) to his passing out color glossy brochures listing a dealership address in our state (why we chose to buy from them because we thought they were a local dealer) which had never existed.

After further foot dragging by the dealership's owner we finally had no choice but to file suit in small claims court in our state and made it well known on the internet in the circle of MacGregor enthusiasts that we were forced to resort to this. The laws of our state allow a plaintiff to seek triple damages for instances of willful deception (like lying in writing about having a dealership in the state for example) so we sought the triple damages. When the dealer realized he was losing sales because of all this he decided to settle so we recovered about 90% of our financial losses but got no compensation for all the time and hassle.

Although I'd spoken with MacGregor's sales manager about all the problems we were encountering with this dealer on at least two occasions, throughout the whole thing MacGregor was of absolutely no help. Basically, at least as it appeared to us, they wouldn't stand behind their product. That alone would be good enough reason to not buy one, but I personally didn't like almost everything about the boat. Here's just one example, but it's the one which proved to be the final nail in the 26M's coffin as far as we were concerned.

After hearing me complain about the thing constantly my wife put her foot down and told me that I couldn't get another boat until I'd gotten rid of the Albatross. This eventually changed when one day, just as we were getting ready to take the Albatross out for a sail. She went to drop the keel only to notice when she went to let out the rope to drop it down that the keel was gone.

It appears that I had left it down when I went out on the boat less than a week before. Just one week of the rocking of the boat on its mooring caused the keel to chafe through the lines. That's because the keel on the 26M is hollow and is held on by two lines that are passed through the keel shell and then knotted off. MacGregor does a lousy job of finishing any fiberglass parts that aren't out in the open. Just look inside the hatches in the interior and you'll see what I mean. As a result the holes in the keel had sharp edges which easily chafed the line.

This proved to be the straw that broke the proveribal camel's back and we started looking for our next boat. If you want to hear more about the things I didn't like about the 26M read on to the section for the next boat (Hunter Edge) because you'll find a link to a page where I contrast what I liked about our next boat with what I didn't like about the 26M.

Just to give you an idea of the mindset of the MacGregor enthusiast I should tell you about my attempts to sell it. At the time I listed it the boat was only one year old, had literally been sailed less than 2 dozen times, and was pretty much loaded. It had cost us a little over $33,000 including all the options we had installed. I listed it for $30,000 and had no takers. Even after I dropped the price to $27,000 (i.e. an 18% discount for what was in effect a brand new boat) the only people who were interested tried to bargain me down further.

Eventually I realized that for people interested in the 26M quality and options didn't matter. It seemed all they cared about was the bottom line. At that point I decided to strip off as much gear as I could that would be useable on the next boat, or at least garner a higher pergentage of its initial if sold separate from the Albatross. This even included the 50HP Evinrude E-Tec motor. Evinrude's prices had gone up so getting the same motor new on the next boat would have cost more than I'd paid for the only 1 year old lightly used one that was on the Albatross. So it ended up being worth paying my marina a few hundred dollars to move the motor onto the new boat.

I was eventually able to pull enough gear to get the base price of the Albatross, as it was then equipped, down to around $24,000. When I listed it for $22,000 someone from Florida offered me $21,000 over the internet having only seen photos and I accepted. This person sent me a deposit in the mail and then drove up to pick up the boat and paid me the balance in cash. As its new owner drove it away I wished it good riddance. I haven't heard from the buyer again so I assume he's satisified with it. I'm sure at this point he's probably sunk thousands of dollars into it to get it equipped the way I had previously had it, but when he bought it his only concern was how little he could get one for, irrespective of how it was equipped.

This attitude is actually reflected in the way MacGregor advertises its boats. Check their website and you'll see they list only the cost of the stripped down boat equipped with only the most basic of rigging to try to make the cost of it look lower to prospective buyers so that they'll think they're getting a good deal when in fact they'll pay thousands more to get the boat comparably equipped to others on the market. In my comparison of the 26M with the next boat I bought. An apples to Apples cost comparison for a basic, comparably equipped config is shown in Comparing Apples to Apples. In my opinion the difference in quality, comfort, etc. is worth the extra cost. I'm still working on the section where I talk more about some of the misleading marketing MacGregor employs and will post that when it's readyin a section to be called Comparing Apples to Apples - Part 2.

Trailerables - Hunter "Edge" (things get a lot better)

Several weeks after the 26M was delivered to us, basically right about the time I finally got it seaworthy, another company, Hunter Marine, who makes a wide range of boats, announced they were coming out with a competitor to the 26M called the "Edge". Up until that time they hadn't even told their dealers about it. We wish we'd known that sooner since we probably would have held off buying the 26M and gone with the Hunter. How can I say this? Well we were actually considering getting a Hunter 30 but the upfront cost, not to mention the ongoing operational and ownership costs, were more than we wanted to spend. The Hunter Edge's price was well within our budget and we really did like the power sailer concept of the 26M, just not MacGregor's cheap, flimsy implementation of it.

So in July of 2009 we went to look again at the Hunter Edge. My wife liked it a lot better than the 26M and we went ahead and ordered one. With the economy tanking we actually got a good deal on it. In the end I managed to get rid of the Albatross (see prior section) in a manner that reduced my losses enough that when coupled with the good deal I got on the Hunter Edge I only spent within at most $1000 of what it would have cost me to get it in the first place the year before had it been announced at the time.

We've owned the Hunter Edge for just under 2 years now. Thanks to it we managed to salvage the last 3 months of the 2009 sailing season. We got a full season in last year. So we've had enough time with it to know that we really like it.

The Hunter Edge does cost more, depending on how you get it configured when you actually compare oranges to oranges the cost differential for it over the 26M isn't as much as MacGregor tries to make you think it is. However as one who as owned both boats for over a year for each of them I can say that from comparing the two I think that a lot of the price difference between the two is justified in the difference in standard features, quality of materials used, and the quality of construction by Hunter. MacGregor's 26M is more of a high volume, low price production line boat. In my opinion while the 26M is well suited for lake sailing, it is not as good a choice for coastal use as the more substantial Hunter Edge.

Click here for a more complete comparison of how I think these two boats stack up to each other .

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