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March 16, 2011

Lagoon 440 Review: Charter Catamaran

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , — Richard Jordan @ 2:12 pm

Lagoon 440

I wish I could take delivery of every yacht I review here, but I am usually restricted to a short seatrial at best. Hearing from owners the qualities of a vessel is one thing, but experiencing them yourself makes the unique qualities more vivid and altogether leads to a superior review. I hope that is the case here as I am still yearning to be offshore after my 12 day delivery of a Lagoon 440 catamaran from Venice Isle, Fort Lauderdale to Gibson Island, Annapolis.

Lagoon was established in 1984 as a development of the legendary Jeanneau Advanced Technologies racing division. Lagoon went on to achieve fame for building the trimarans for the blockbuster movie Waterworld starring actor and inventor Kevin Costner. Lagoon’s first era of production ran from 1987 to 1996 and included production of 55, 47, 57 and 67 models meant as bluewater cruising catamarans for private purchase along with 37 and 42 models suited for the charter service. The charter side became dominate post-1996 and continues to today. The designs by Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot Prévost use the latest in cost saving techniques. Lagoons populate the Caribbean charter fleets in the Leeward and Windward Islands. Today the builder is CNB, a division of Group Beneteau whose other brands include the monohull lines of Jeanneau, Wauquiez, and Beneteau.

First Impressions
The Lagoon 440 like her second generation sisterships has their trademark vertical panoramic cabin windows. As you will read later, this is a spectacular feature worthwhile looking for in any prospective purchase. She is 44′ 8″ in length, 25′ 3″ in beam, and draws 4′ 3″ per the design specifications. The bows are slightly raked with a straight sheer and swim platforms aft. The goal is to maximize interior volume. The rig has a fair bit of rake to it coming in Intracoastal friendly 63′ or tall versions at 70′. The 70′ height can be a real limitation as we doubled Cape Hatteras with 30 knots from the north because of our tall rig and the fixed Fairfield bridge limiting inside clearance to 65′. The Lagoon 440 features a centerline flybridge which sits the helmsman up high. Underneath the rudders are set forward of the Yanmar saildrives to maximize space in the aft cabins. This unusual ordering leads her to be a bit squirrely in close quarters, more on that later. The hulls are voluminous and have mid-sized keels to improve tracking and minimize leeway.

Construction
Displacement is a moderate 27,000 pounds. Construction of the hulls and cabin below the waterline is of solid epoxy laminate while the topsides are a composite cored sandwich of fiberglass, epoxy, and balsa with abundant framing throughout the interior for better strength and reduced weight. As well as our 2009 model performed, I would not want to test her too hard and sail the wrong way around the world. Certainly she can take a day of beating – we proved that. And she was previously sailed transatlantic further attesting to her seaworthiness. But as the sailors say, you only see the ones who made it moored to the quay at Papaetee – not those who gave up or turned back. The handrails along the cabintop could be better backed; it would provide additional safety to have temperature and oil pressure sensors along with the tachometers. Hull construction is robust, and we had no fear of flexing. Lagoon leverages all the advanced techniques of Group Beneteau and knows where to cut costs while maintaining integrity. On the equipment front, the three diesel heaters one for each hull and another in the saloon performed exceptionally and exhausted between the hulls. The saloon one seemed to pull from the port fuel tank as we burned slightly more fuel on that side.

What To Look For
The only near failure we had was a loose starboard rudderpost coupling. While slipped in Beaufort, North Carolina waiting for our weather window, we decided to do a checkup on the twin Yanmar saildrives which were seeing heavy use (100 hours each) due to the lack of apparent wind. During inspection, we noticed that the starboard coupling had slipped down a quarter of an inch, and the bolt was tearing up the vertical slating alongside the engine access boards. If not caught, we could have faced a loss of steering as the stainless coupling ground through the fiberglass shaft. Once slipped back up into place and tightened we had no further issues. And every other piece of equipment from the autopilot to refrigeration saw a fair amount of use without the slightest signs of wear.

The other items needing upgrades on this particular Lagoon 440 were related to her European heritage. She was a 220V vessel which is a pain in the USA, and there is nothing much you can do easily about it. Wire gauges on European vessels are higher than on USA vessels because of the lower amperage, so to convert over you likely need to rewire the whole yacht. We stayed off the grid and kept the batteries charged via solar, wind, and the alternator. The stove ran off butane which is hard to find in the USA, and if your Lagoon 440 runs off butane, you might want to budget in the need for a new regulator and new jets in the burners to switch over to propane.

On Deck
The high helm position provides excellent visibility when maneuvering. Instead of guessing where all four corners of the 440 are, you can see well but need a mate to catch the dock lines. There is a windlass with bridle forward for easy anchoring, trampolines port and starboard, and a centerline well with deep tackle stowage area. Along the hull deck joint, Lagoon could have had longer chafe protectors, but the French gelcoat is tough and showed no wear. There are a multitude of hatches, a couple dorades, and ventilators spacing the deck. The aft cockpit is a perfect outdoor lounging area for entertaining and has room for a table. The port offset companionway leads to the interior.

Down Below
Inside is what the Lagoon 440 is all about, and she certainly delivers. She was a pleasure sail from the comfort of the heated interior and keep watch through the large cabin windows and radar display. And when secured open, the sliding companionway door perfectly ventilated the interior without need for air conditioning. Interior autopilot controls allowed us to comfortably change course though it would have been nice to have a throttle as well. The saloon features an L-shaped settee with excellent storage underneath, a matching L-shaped galley starboardside and aft along the companionway, and the previously mentioned navigation desk. I would have liked a higher seating position and more versatility when navigating from the inside helm position.

There are charter and owner version layouts which affects the layout of the starboardside hull. The owner version features a large master cabin aft paired with a spectacular head with separate stall shower forward. The charter version has matching hulls with cabins and heads forward and aft for a total of 4 heads and 4 cabins. Storage in the cabins was okay but could use a deeper locker to hide away a large travel bag. Note that the owner version has only one holding tank for the forward portside head. The other two heads go straight overboard using the clever gravity fed waste system with large 3 inch diameter hosing.

Engine
The tankage capacity is 172 gallons in two 86 gallons tanks with fuel fills from the stern in each hull. The water fill is under a fold up cover in the well area fore of the cabin windows, feeds into three tanks, and overflows between the hulls. The Yanmar saildrives were dependable motoring for 100 hours over 12 days and burning .6 gallons per hour operating. There is easy access through the port and starboard lazarettes to the steering and, below the floorboards, the engines and saildrive transmissions. The cockpit controls are dumbed down so far that the tachometer and fuel gauges are the only feedback mechanisms. With the rudders in front to maximize interior space the prop wash throws the helm out of balance when kicked into reverse. You need to hang on which complicates docking. Both are left handed, so she naturally docks to starboard.

Underway
When we first left Fort Lauderdale until the Space Coast, we flew along downwind in 8 knots apparent wind from the south going 10 knots over land with a slight boost from the Gulfstream; you have to love that boost. Upwind was another story; it was tough to make way, so we either kept the jib up or motored under bare pole. No doubt I could have done better job of trimming the sails with a thorough study of catamaran sailing, but all in all we made above average time in comfort. Because catamarans do not heal, you feel a washing machine kind of affect that can be questionable in terms of comfort. But on the Lagoon 440 even in the 10 foot and 9 second period seas with 30 knots from the north we experienced off Cape Hatteras, she had a surprisingly soft motion only once in awhile burying her bows and throwing saltwater on deck. The design is dry and seaworthy. The autopilot had some wild swings but worked nonetheless which we were thankfully for. It would have been brutal to hand steer in those conditions especially after living the high life of steering from an inside helm.

Conclusion
The Lagoon 440 I can say with some first hand reputability is a fantastic coastal cruising and Caribbean liveaboard. Her accommodations sell the design, and despite the trade-offs to save cost, I felt safe doubling Cape Hatteras in squally conditions and would jump aboard again to take her anywhere. The retail price for these is in the $400k range with many available leaving the charter trade. Lagoon now makes a 450 on which there are few if any changes. While I might prefer a monohull in this range, I admire the shoal draft, fast downwind performance, and ample accommodations of the Lagoon 440. In South Florida, the Keys, Chesapeake Bay, and the Bahamas, especially the draft is an attractive feature.

References
http://www.sailingmagazine.net/boat-test/760-lagoon-440-
http://www.multihullsmag.com/pdf/article.aspx?t=Lagoon%20440%20Catamaran%20Review&id=a0g600000004mhzAAA

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  • Mike Weaver

    All Lagoons 440’s have been sailed to there destination from France.

  • Mike Weaver

    You contradicted yourself, but agree with the steering. If I purchased this boat, (that I want so much), for distance, I would have a second auto pilot on the other side in a pickled state. They are a handful in following seas. After hundreds of hours at the helm of 440’s, I let the auto pilot drive. Much better than me. With Ray Marine, you have the option to change response time, 1-4. One being good in light wind. I love to practice and love a good serf down a moderate wave, but that auto pilot is on 85% of the time! Sailing in ten days on one.

  • Mike Weaver

    Fantastic fuel economy at 2,400 RPM. I can afford that on a regular basis, 1.3 gallons an hour for both 3J Yanmar sail drives ! Get some sail up I see eight to twelve knots most of the time. The gen set uses a gallon an hour as well.

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