Boating or Sailing? The MacGregor 26 is Part Floating Camper, Part Sailboat and All Versatility

words & photos :: Allison Kennedy Davies. 

Sleeping under the stars, catching fish under sail and preparing a shore lunch—this is the magic of the MacGregor 26.

For several years, my husband expounded the virtues of the MacGregor 26 sailboat. He spent many hours perusing Kijiji, explaining to me how this trailerable boat would change our lives. And then one day he towed the Zephyrian home through a snowstorm to join our family.

With room to sleep four, the MacGregor has a swing keel and a water ballast. This means it’s easily loaded on a trailer and towed distance that would be out of reach for traditional heavy sailboats.

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The summers since then have given us some amazing adventures and taught us some important lessons. My daughter, 12, likes to tell people that we are “boaters, not sailors” and I’d say that’s true so far. But we’re improving every year, reaching new milestones and expanding our trip possibilities.

This boat really is unique in its design, basically a floating camper that’s lightweight, portable and downright fun. With room to sleep four, the MacGregor has a swing keel and a water ballast. This means it’s easily loaded on a trailer and towed distances that would be out of reach for traditional heavy sailboats. When we get out on the water, we open the tank and fill the bottom half of the boat with water to create the weight needed to sail. When we put her back on the trailer, we pull the plug and drain out all that water weight before hitting the road home.

The MacGregor at home in her natural environment.

While the ballast part is easy, we’ve had to learn a lot about raising the mast every time we head out. There have been a few tense moments, but after two summers we’ve got it down to a system, with a role for each of us. Still, it’s enough work that the MacGregor is much more enjoyable if you can leave her in for a few days (or a week ideally) to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

The Zephyrian has taken us to Wiarton the past two years, and to Killarney last summer. For our Wiarton boat camping escapades, we rented a transient slip at the marina and explored anchorages nearby, snorkelled shipwrecks, caught fish and did a ton of swimming.

Last year, we booked a slip at Killarney Mountain Lodge—giving us the option of accessing the channel and the nearby anchorages, while also getting use of the beautiful lodge and its amenities. Marina guests can use everything from bicycles to kayaks, the pool and sauna, the billiards and games room and even access free boater’s laundry. This was bordering on glamping for sure, with a taste of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous as pontoon planes and helicopters landed frequently just beyond our dock.

She might be small, but she packs a punch.

But our most memorable outing yet was just under an hour from Killarney at Covered Portage. Surrounded by towering cliffs, we spent two nights anchored here, BBQing on the boat, swimming from the paddleboards, fishing and hiking up the trails for a bird’s eye view. We awoke at 6 a.m. one day to a loud banging—never a sound you want to hear while camping, either at anchor or in a tent. I woke my husband up and he peered through the companionway to see an otter who’d just climbed the swim ladder. These enterprising “raccoons of the sea” had discovered that nearby boaters can have exciting snacks to offer.

This summer, we’ve decided to park the floating camper in Meaford, with an eye on reaching some Georgian Bay islands, anchoring by the Claybanks and heading out for sunset swims and evening fishing. I’m sure we’ll tow her further afield to explore and who knows? Maybe 2020 will be the year we officially reach sailor status. —ML