Two years ago, almost to this date, I interviewed Roger MacGregor and his daughter, Laura MacGregor Sharp, at their boat building plant located on Placentia Avenue in Costa Mesa. The story was titled "The dawning of the age of fiberglass," and now, after some 50 years and 45,000 boats built, the MacGregors have decided to stop production of their 26-foot sailboat at their plant.
"Dad's not closing the doors," Laura explained over the phone this week. "He continues looking forward and plans on building custom-ordered 70-footers. Both my parents are in good health. They are both like Energizer Bunnies. They just keep going and going."
Two years ago, while walking through the plant with Roger, I did not listen to him closely enough when he said, "Over there is our mold shop, and on the other side of that wall, our neighbors are putting in a three-story retirement community." Two years later, the expense of updating the mold shop to meet today's state and city requirements has become rather tiring. Laura and her husband, Paul, have decided to continue production of the 26-footer and a new 22-foot trailerable sailboat in Stuart, Fla.
"The city of Stuart targeted us and went out of their way to obtain our business and made a huge effort in making us comfortable with our move," Laura told me. "Here, we are targeted in a way that makes it impossible for us to stay. In Stuart, it's like a flashback to the 1960s and '70s in Costa Mesa. On every street corner, there is a marine business, and we feel welcome again."
When you think about it, the MacGregor family has done more for the sport of sailing than anyone else by producing an entry-level boat. "If I had a dollar for everyone that came up to me and said I learned how to sail on a MacGregor 26, my kids would not have to work," Laura said. "We want to keep that section of the market and have made a few changes to the boat."
The new line is called Tattoo Yachts, and you can find them at tattooyachts.com. "With cars getting smaller, the boats need to be lighter," Laura explained. "The towing weight of the new 22-foot is half the weight of the 26-foot."
As a yacht broker who has specialized in the sailboat market, I owe a big thank you to the MacGregor family for giving so many people the experience of a weekend-type cruising sailboat.
With this news, my concern for our harbor continues to grow, and I have said it many times before. What is going to happen as residential use encircles our harbor and forces out marine industry? Will we still have shipyards, restaurants, boat rentals, yacht clubs and boat launch ramps? Will my grandchildren get to race on the harbor, or will the race starting signals be too bothersome and loud for all the residents in their high-rise condos?
Myself, I'm going to look forward to the future like Roger MacGregor and design a kite I can fly from my Harbor 20. This way, I can still find wind 100 feet above the water after the high rises have surrounded us.
Fortunately, the sails that I have now should be good enough to get my name on the Lorin Weiss Series trophy this weekend as I sail out of the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club. Wish me luck — I'm going to need it!
Should you wish to read the three-part story of Costa Mesa boat building and follow-up story to last week's Baldwin Cup, go to my blog site at lenboseyachts.blogspot.com.