Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat review

By: Norman Holtzhausen


Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat
Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat
Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat
Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat
Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat Tattoo 26 Trailerable Sailboat

The world’s best-selling crossover sail/power boat just got better: the MacGregor 26 is now the Tattoo 26, with a headturning design refresh.

More than 8000 MacGregor 26s have been sold worldwide since the model went into production in the 1990s. Why would you end such a successful run? When the founders decided it was time for a well-earned retirement, they sold the business to their daughter and son-in-law.

After refreshing the boat’s design, the new owners rebranded the company as Tattoo and moved to a brand-new construction facility in Florida. Then they set about expanding their dealer network worldwide and commissioned a new model, the 22, to complement its bigger sibling.

We reviewed the MacGregor 26 nearly 10 years ago, so we’re keen to see how it’s changed under a new generation of boat-builders.

THE FINISH

Although custom-built and short-run boats offer a high degree of flexibility, there’s nothing quite like the build quality of an American production boat. With the sheer number of boats built they have a chance to polish every detail to perfection, and this shines through in the finished product. Surfaces gleam, joints are perfect and everything fits precisely. Window surrounds are part of the design, not an afterthought, and each little detail is properly finished.

THE INTERIOR

Inside the Tattoo there’s an astonishing amount of space, with six full-length berths and standing headroom in the lounge area. This is complemented by a toilet compartment, dining table and a small galley unit. The interior surfaces are a mixture of gelcoat, carpeted walls, vinyl-covered squabs and wood panels. The whole interior has a bright airy feel and it’s easy to keep clean too.

The galley unit slides fore and aft, providing access for meal preparation. A sink and gas stove are set into the galley counter, with a pressure freshwater system.

On the review boat the toilet was a chemical cassette but a fully plumbed option is available. There’s no shower inside but a transom-mounted unit provides a wash facility without the hassle of pumping waste water out of the boat. LED lighting is new on this model, providing brilliant light but with modest battery requirements.

This is an ideal boat for an entire family to get away for a weekend, you can imagine lazy summer holidays idly moving from bay to bay or among the islands off New Zealand’s coast.

There are numerous storage spaces and it would be easy to stash a week’s worth of gear in the cabin.

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HELM

A newly designed central steering pedestal and raised helm seat in the middle of the cockpit enables the skipper to see over the cabin roof. A stainless wheel controls both the twin rudders and the outboard motor. Set into the pedestal are Yamaha digital gauges, although there is just space to install a set of sailing gauges. The throttle control for the outboard is on the right side of the pedestal and while no VHF was fitted to this boat, there’s provision for it.

To keep the Yamaha four-stroke outboard running for around six hours at top speed there’s space for two of the new 45-litre tote fuel tanks. That’s an effective range under power of about 100 nautical miles but unlike a pure powerboat the actual range is almost limitless under sail. The tanks are secured by straps under the side benches. The helm seat hinges up to allow swimmers to board the vessel via a small boarding ladder that swings down on the starboard side of the outboard. The gate valve controlling the 500-litre water ballast system is just behind the helm seat on the port side.

SAILING

The Tattoo is well set up for short-handed sailing, with a self-furling foresail and winches in the cockpit within the skipper’s reach. A deep daggerboard controlled by a line in the cockpit keeps her tracking straight, while the rudders use a kick-up design to avoid damage.

There’s no traveller to control the boom; instead a pad eye is located in the middle of the cockpit to take the strain. The mast sits in a tabernacle and can be raised or lowered single-handedly using a short winch pole. When lowered the mast rests in a stainless steel carrier fitted to the transom but this can be removed if you prefer a clear cockpit and the mast is easy to lower to negotiate obstacles.

There were only light winds so I can’t comment on the boat’s rough-water capability. However, she heeled over comfortably, with the water ballast system providing plenty of self-righting capability. Our previous review found the hull was an adequate cruising sailboat with few vices, even if not particularly suited to racing. The hull has several foam-filled compartments and is claimed to be positively buoyant.

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THE RIDE UNDER POWER

The hull is primarily a sailboat and the ride reflects this. With rounded chines and a long narrow profile, the boat is designed to heel rather than plane. This makes it slightly disconcerting for anyone accustomed to runabouts as the boat rolls on turns or in a side swell.

The Tattoo 26 handles remarkably well. The 60hp Yamaha four-stroke is capable of getting the boat to nearly 20 knots once the ballast tank has emptied out and the hull is planing. The daggerboard lifts completely flush with the hull, leaving no appendage to cause unnecessary drag. It has a larger turning circle than most runabouts but dropping the daggerboard at low speed helps the boat pivot around the centre point and make very sharp turns.

The rounded chines deliver a fairly soft ride through chop, although a bit of a wallow is evident. We didn’t bother to drop the mast but it would make sense to drop it for extended motoring.

The high freeboard means no issues with water coming in from the bows and we were able to push her hard into turns without a problem. Acceleration is less than you’d get from a dedicated runabout but we reached top speed easily enough.

At rest, the boat has a slight rolling motion – allowing the ballast tank to fill helps damp this. Power boaties may find the sensation unusual but sailors will be right at home. The steering position requires a slight change of mindset for close manoeuvring but works well and offers plenty of visibility.

ON THE TRAILER

The Tattoo 26 sits on rails on its aluminium-beamed braked trailer, requiring a decent ramp for launching. A ladder attached to the winch post at the front of the trailer allows you to clamber on board while keeping your feet dry – a nice touch.

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