Picture: One of our top 30 pics - a fire dancer caught in action in Ta'haa, French Polynesia.
Many of these pictures you have seen before in our posts, but never together like this. What follows below are the top 30 pictures from our entire trip and a brief description below each. Which is your favorite?
Click here to see the slideshow.
Pic: Our 2004 Lagoon 380 Catamaran sitting peacefully in the Chesapeake Bay, just prior to our 17 month long boat test...
15,500 Mile User Review: Lagoon 380
A question I got asked a lot was, "how do you like your Lagoon." My quick reply was always, "I love it." While that general sentiment may have been true, the reality is that there is no perfect boat and the Lagoon has shortcomings that have always bothered me. So for this reason, I felt it might be helpful (and cathartic) for me to try my best to provide you with an honest user's review of our 2004 Lagoon 380 Catamaran. So without a further adieu, here is the whole truth and nothing but the truth about our boat (presented in classic MBA format, the bullet point...):
In general, Lagoon has created an economically priced cat that delivers more than average amounts of luxury and acceptable performance. It's a comfortable cruiser with more than enough amenities in it to look nice upon inspection, but it is NOT meant to be a racy performer with the highest-end fit and finish. In short, Lagoon is the Toyota of the Catamaran world (where Gun Boat is the Austin Martin, Antares/PDQ is the Lexus and Foutain Pajot is the Hyundai). You can buy cheaper or faster or stronger or prettier boats, but given what Lagoon set out to achieve, it is safe to say they have succeeded and we have been happy with the result.
1) Excellent Interior Design: Lagoon must love it when male buyers bring their wives to boat shows, because the interior design of the Lagoon is its greatest selling point. The layout is simple and efficient, yet inviting and comfortable. You buy a Lagoon because of the comfort it offers, and here are the details:
- Dual Sliding Doors: Why all cats don't mimic this design is unknown, but it certainly creates a comfortable and airy environment inside that feels more spacious than it is.
- Vertical Salon Windows: Much like the Volkswagen Beetle, you either love it or hate it, but its window design makes a ton of sense:
• allows more headroom (6'7"!) and a greater sense of space inside
• shades the windows from the mid-day sun without the ubiquitous catamaran greenhouse effect from slanted windows
• allows for unmatched visibility, 360 degree viewing from inside the salon
- Galley up: While some may prefer the galley down as it increases sofa space in the salon, we liked it up for the following reasons:
• cooking and cleaning dishes with views outside is more pleasant
• cook remains social when having guests over for dinner
• serving to either table requires no stairs
• cooking near the door keeps the boat cooler in warm temps
- Cockpit Seating: The "U" shaped design of the cockpit table and seating area balances two important things:
• uses outdoor space well and fits 6 adults comfortably
• creates a very secure and enclosed cockpit area (good for safety)
- Cabins/Staterooms: Somehow the designers at Lagoon were able to create a spacious bedroom without raising the deck too high or extending the bed across the bridgedeck. The result:
• excellent headroom continues at 6'4" throughout
• nearly queen sized beds in a boat (just a little shorter in length)
- Heads & Shower Design:
• owner's version separates the shower from the head and sink area (a slam dunk with woman boaters). Why the Catana 41 kept the head in the shower area is that boat's biggest downfall.
2) Excellent Exterior Design: Similar to the interior design, the exterior of the boat has been well thought out and appears to draw on decades of experience Lagoon has had in making this particular type of boat.
- Bridgedeck Clearance: is high in comparison to the competition. This greatly reduces slamming and improves hull longevity. The trade off is a higher cockpit floor and smaller cabins, but high bridgedeck clearance is mandatory for anything other than lake boat use.
- Sail Plan: the sail area is more than adequate for the displacement, sailing well in anything from 9 to 35 knots. Less wind than that and the mainsail flogs as you go over waves. And more wind than that and the fully reefed mainsail starts to get overpowered and you might want to reduce sail to bare poles or motor. But the boat easily gets to 7 knots in most conditions, making for daily distance planning of 150 nautical miles, more than adequate for an off-shore boat.
- Lines: are of adequate thickness and are routed out of the way of walkways and above decks, allowing for easy inspection and replacement.
- Electric Winch: is a Lewmar 40 2-speed winch and is more than powerful enough to manage all needs. If you can afford it, install a second one, but be sure to have a battery bank that matches the power needs.
- Rigging: is of high quality stainless steel and is beefier than it needs to be. This is an area Lagoon did not skimp on and it shows.
- Stanchions & Lifelines: are also of similar quality and the use of a teak toe rail avoids the corrosion seen on some boats with aluminum rails.
- Deck Layout:
• deck design is clean and remains uncluttered by unnecessary slopes, lines and other obstacles found on some other cats.
• non-skid is excellent and does not peel off like the sticker non-skid used on competitive boats trying to save on construction costs.
• cleats are beefy and located where you need them (they passed the ultimate test when we transited the Panama Canal).
3) Good Engine Room Design: Although an afterthought on most boats, the Lagoon 380 has an excellent engine room design, which any owner will learn to appreciate. Located aft of the staterooms, the engine room is:
- Easy to access (although maybe not desirable in an emergency in rough seas, for regular maintenance this is a god send).
- Room: Offers enormous amount of room inside, providing excellent access to all engine components that might need repair
- Quiet: engines remain quiet when in use due to separate location in the hull.
4) Good Engine Performance and Control: Our boat featured the Volvo Penta MD2030s.
- Power/Speed: was more than adequate (as tested repeatedly in strong currents). Cruising speed with one engine is 5.5 knots, using .6 gallons per hour. Two engines will easily hit 7.5 knots, and 8 knots full out (*we had slipstream folding 2-blade props).
- Control: of the boat was outstanding with the two engines, despite the windage associated with the cat design. Two props makes docking so much easier you start to get an ego!
- Reliability: we had no problems with our engines (and regular maintenance was easy).
5) Safety: was a top priority for us and the Lagoon is as safe as most cats. Particular features that we liked included:
- Crash Lockers: in both bows could be sealed off from the rest of the hull with the twist of a ball valve. Excellent design concept.
- Through Hulls: are bronze adding additional safety and dependability (some cats have plastic ones!).
- Steering Cables: are easy to access and maintain, despite being routed behind walls and other spaces.
As mentioned above, the Lagoon is meant to be a moderately priced cruiser. As a result, some of its negatives are associated with the builder's efforts to reduce cost while others are performance oriented tradeoffs. However, some of the negatives are inexcusable mistakes. Here are the cons as I saw them, broken into all three categories:
COST DRIVEN CONS:
1) Interior Fit & Finish: is not of high quality.
- Wood: Floorboards creak and the wood throughout the boat is covered in an extremely cheap and easily damaged veneer. The boat might look good in the show room, but after a few years of use the wood is inevitably chipped throughout and there is no way to properly touch up the damaged areas. I am not certain why Lagoon chose to use this method, but it must be a cost or weight savings issue. Any way you look at it, it was a tragic and shortsighted decision and it perpetuates the image of catamaran's being "plastic" in comparison to most monohulls.
- Seat Cushions: and fabrics are also of substandard quality. Compared to other boats, the standard Lagoon fabric is uncomfortable and wears quickly with use. Seat cushions creak when you sit on them and slide out of place. It is easy to live with, but unfortunate indeed.
2) Soft-top Bimini Cover: is outdated for catamarans, where the standard hard top is becoming the norm. Although an option from Lagoon, who would pay the $15,000 USD asking price for this feature that should come standard.
3) Bilge Pumps are Missing: The standard installation by Lagoon shares the hull bilge pump with the shower drain. In an emergency you would want dedicated bilge pumps in the hull, and the redundancy would also be nice. This is easy enough to install, so it is surprising that Lagoon does not do this as standard practice, but again it probably has to do with increased cost.
PERFORMANCE RELATED CONS:
1) Windward Performance: is not very good, but it was never supposed to be. If you want a boat that sails to windward, get one with dagger boards. The Lagoon worked fine for our needs as we traveled the world using downwind trades. But if you are going back and forth to a particular port, get used to motoring as part of the experience (or buy a Catana, Dolphin, Atlantic and be ready to trade off interior space to make room for the dagger boards and narrower hull design).
2) Single Helm Station: makes it difficult to see the main sail shape on a Starboard tack. We got over it, but this is a part of life on a Lagoon that you will have to get used to.
3) Hobby Horse Motion: is apparent when sailing. This is a catamaran trademark and is not just an issue with the Lagoon 38, but I would never recommend buying a shorter catamaran as this issue would only get worse. Additionally, the Lagoon has a related design flaw as the boat weight lists forward toward the bow and is not a balanced design once loaded with cruising gear. Once you install a generator, spare anchor, second water tank and crash locker equipment, the Lagoon tends to list forward into the water line. This is precisely what you do not want to have happen on a cat as it pronounces the hobby-horsing effect while sailing. Again, it works great in the showroom or while on charter, but for a cruising cat this was a constant weight battle. To combat this we had to move our secondary anchor to the stern stanchion and would remove the primary anchor from the bow roller when on long passages (and would try to run with low water in the tanks if possible). The hobby horsing was not terrible, but was again something that took some getting used to.
1) Hull Construction, durability: While all fiberglass boats can become victims of delamination and osmosis, there have been an inordinate number of reports of Lagoons with hull construction and bulkhead separation issues. We've personally met several ex-Lagoon owner's that bought brand new boats, only to have so many issues with them they traded them in for something else. If you are going to buy a Lagoon (new or used!), please ensure that your surveyor thoroughly checks for these issues. Although not specific to just Lagoon, it is terrible to see these issues appearing in many of today's "production" cats and new cat buyers should be aware.
- If Lagoon offers a hull warranty, check to ensure that it covers these types of issues for a minimum of 5 years and is transferable to new owners. And don't take the warranty as proof of good construction - hire a surveyor to review new boats as well as used ones.
2) Fiberglass Thickness: is not acceptable on all Lagoon hatches. Our boat had crazing and spider cracks on the Lazzarette hatches over the engines and we had to reinforce them to fix the issue (similar with forward doors). I'm not certain why Lagoon does not address this issue, but it is cheap and will not wear well. We've even seen pictures of Lagoon owner's putting yellow and black tape down to alert users not to stand there!
3) Missing Winch: Although addressed on the S2 version, the older L380 cats are missing a winch at the helm station. Without it, furling the Genoa on a starboard tack is a painful process as both lines share the same winch. Some owners have installed a second winch, but for a boat so thought out it should have been there in the first place.
4) Electrical Wiring is a Mess: While the quality of wire used was industry standard, the way the wires were organized by Lagoon is a total mess. And without a detailed wiring schematic or labeled wires, fixing any sort of electrical issue would require complete rewiring. Shame on Lagoon for taking the lazy way out.
5) Customer Service Lacking: Lagoon references all customer service issues to their dealer network, which never seem to have the answers you need. Apparently after sale support is not part of the Lagoon product.
6) Poor Windlass Design: The windlass is powerful enough, but the gypsy design only allows for three links to be held at any one time. As a result, occasionally the anchor line will come off completely, at which point you better hope you have tied off the bitter end. We have learned to use a two-foot section of a 2x4 to help hold the links on, which is not a very glamorous way to drop anchor, but it works!
Design Improvement Ideas:
Although this gets into the nitty gritty details, the following improvements should have been made years ago:
- A separate freezer is required (and why not add a coffin cooler fridge door on top of the current fridge to improve access and keep cool air in?)
- Helm access should be allowed from inside the cockpit (it's dangerous to go outside of the cockpit to get to the helm seat as is)
- Longer handholds are required on the salon rooftop to safely get users to the mast. The current handholds are too short.
- Head plumbing hoses are nearly impossible to replace (which they all need eventually). A removable wall should be added to make this easier.
- Fuel fill stations should be located on the port side of the boat, not on the transom steps.
- Larger fuel tanks should be an option for the Owner's Version that might be used in off-shore cruising. We found the 2x25 gallon tanks a little small and using jerry cans got old.
- Push button door knobs on outside hatches corrode over time. Lagoon should look to use better quality components or a different design.
- Hull windows in the S2 model lose their paint. We met many owners that say this is a quality issue and that deck soap seems to erode the paint (not fenders as once believed).
1) So how did we like our Lagoon? We liked it, and would definitely consider buying another one should we ever go cruising again (although dagger boards would be nice). For us, the Lagoon was the right combination of comfort, price and performance (and in that order). Although designed primarily for coastal cruising or local charter work, the Lagoon did well as a blue-water cruiser following the trade winds in the lower latitudes. Should you need a more sturdy boat for cruising in the higher latitudes (where the weather gets more severe) or plan to sail up wind, this might not be the right boat for you. But if you are looking for a good value catamaran with adequate build quality and outstanding comfort, the Lagoon 380 fits the bill perfectly.
Comments: If you are buying a lagoon 380, or currently own a Lagoon 380, please feel free to comment below and add anything I might have missed. Thanks and happy sailing!
This blog will attempt to explain why we purchased a catamaran over a comparable monohull. Comparing these two can be like comparing a PC to a Mac, both have their own benefits and cult like following. And like many, I was a die-hard monohull fan. Hopefully this explains why I switched...
CATAMARAN VS MONOHULL:
There is no perfect boat. This was my conclusion after months and months of searching for the best value cruising boat in the world. Some boats are built to win races and are a thrill to sail but are not safe cruisers. Some boats have beautiful lines that you are proud to point out in the harbor but have terrible interior space. Ultimately, regardless of performance, comfort or cost; a sailor needs to compromise somewhere. What is the perfect boat for you?
For us, we wanted a boat (mono or multi) that would fit the below criteria:
1) It must be safe
2) It must sail well but still be comfortable to live on
3) It must have a good resale value
1) IT MUST BE SAFE:
The first criteria was the most important one to us. If we were to sail around the world and expose ourselves to situations where we would be outside of coast guard rescue range, we would need to be in a boat that we were confident was safe. Initially, this lead me to look at monohulls as tradition dictates that a monohull is the safest boat. They have a long history of crossing oceans and weathering horrible storms. However, the more I looked into it the more I realized they also have a long history of sinking, losing a keel, getting de-masted when rolled or running aground in places they shouldn't.
I am sure this is going to upset many monohull readers, but I have come to believe a modern catamaran is just as safe (and possibly safer in anything but the worst weather imaginable) as a monohull. This is mostly due to the fact that catamaran designs include inherent redundancies that are very helpful in safety situations.
As cruising catamarans came of age, their design moved away from racing specs and became much beamier (wider) with heavier hulls, nearly eliminating the early problems with capsizing (flipping). In our experience it would be very difficult to capsize a cruising cat if you wait for weather windows and sail in the lower latitudes (as ~95% of most cruisers do).
Cats also tend to have crash lockers designed in their bows, which unlike a mono-hull are not used for living space but are instead devoted to storage in an effort to reduce forward weight. Since a large percentage of the floating objects out in the oceans will hit your bow as you sail forward and not your beam (think containers falling off cargo ships), having a water-tight crash locker up front makes a whole lot of sense. And further more, even if you do miraculously find yourself with a large hole in the beam of a cat, by comparison it would actually stay afloat far longer than a sinking monohull, allowing you to get to safety gear, food and life-rafts (if it even sinks at all!). Put a small hole in a monohull and the race is on to get out before it quickly heads to the bottom!
Another nice safety feature is the lack of heeling during passage making. By being far more comfortable, you sleep better and remain more rested for the day ahead. Less things fall off shelves and glasses stay on tables (usually). Sure a cat can get pushed around like a monohull and the motion through the water is somewhat different in feeling, but it sure is nice not to need lee-cloths to hot bunk at night with your (filthy) crew!
But perhaps more importantly, a catamaran also has so many back-ups I find it hard to believe that all sailors don't look into cats more seriously. By having two engines instead of one you are far less concerned about dirty fuel and engine problems (a huge relief when cruising). There are also two rudders, so if one breaks you can still steer your boat! Two props, so if one falls off or gets tangled you have a back up. Two hulls, so if one springs a leak, the other likely stays floating. It also goes without saying that a catamaran has a much shallower draft, thus reducing the chances of running aground. In fact, in our experience the shallow draft opens up significant portions of new cruising ground, including the most protected anchorage sites that a monohull typically cannot reach. And I don't need to mention what happens to a monohull that loses its keel!
While there will always be purists that debate this, the number of cruisers selecting catamarans for blue water voyages alone goes to show you that cats have become a safe option for open ocean sailing and I have to imagine that trend will only continue in the years to come as designs are improved upon even further.
2) IT MUST SAIL WELL BUT BE COMFORTABLE TO LIVE ON:
If the safety argument didn't persuade you already, then this is where a catamaran really takes off. Cats sail fast, have outstanding passage making performance and are far more comfortable to live on once you reach your destination. When compared to a monohull, cats are the only boats that truly offer both performance and comfort as skinny and sturdy mono-hulls are never all that comfortable.
When it comes to sailing performance, a catamaran performs like a much larger monohull. Sure there are some things you have to get used to, like the inevitable and well documented "hobby horsing" motion (get as long a cat as you can to avoid this) and the slamming of water on the bridge-deck (ensure your deck is as high as possible!), but most catamarans also sail really fast, particularly on a beam reach or downwind. Without a deep keel, a catamaran has far less drag in the water which results in impressive speed. And if you are up for the sensation, a cat can even surf down waves and exceed the dreaded "maximum hull speed" associated with a monohull. We regularly stayed up with 45-50 foot monos, particularly down-wind. And since most of our cruising routes around the world would be with the wind behind the mast we immediately felt happier sailing a catamaran and consistently doing 160 nautical mile days (sometimes more!). Particularly when you consider a quicker passage a safer passage (see #1 above). And going 10 knots with a glass of chardonnay standing by itself on the table is pretty darn fun too.
Second, we found that there are many undocumented advantages to cruising on a catamaran. For example, it is wonderful being able to sit inside during a squall and still be able to steer the boat with 360 degree visibility. Or being able to sleep with an engine on by running the engine in the opposite hull in order to keep the noise down. Docking is a breeze with the two engine, tank-like, maneuverability. Even flying a spinnaker becomes easier without the need to mess with a spinnaker pole. Hoisting the dingy on the rear davits is so easy we found ourselves pulling it out every night and still having access to the transom steps. It's also a great fishing boat, staying level while you bring a fish onto the perfect fillet table of the transom (complete with wash down shower!). The Lagoon's vertical windows allow us to keep them open even when it's raining - and in the sun they don't need sun-shades or curtains because of the vertical overhang. And the seats on the bow are a smart addition when dolphins decide to visit. These are all small differences, but they add up to a nicer experience on a cat.
And finally, the living space is outrageous! The Lagoon 380 has the comparable living and storage space of a 55 foot monohull. When we considered the price we were paying (see #3 below), that was an amazing comparison. We love being nominated as the "social gathering spot" in an anchorage as we can seat a combined 12 adults for dinner. Elizabeth has enough flat surface on the bow to do yoga and I have enough space for two 8' surf boards in the front crash locker. The boat has two queen sized beds and the salon has standing room over 6'7". These options simply cannot be found in any comparably priced monohull.
3) IT MUST HAVE A GOOD RESALE VALUE:
Cats are more expensive. There is no getting around this as you are basically buying two shorter monohulls and connecting them with a bridgedeck, so production costs are going to be considerably higher. So while a cat might be safer and more comfortable and faster than a comparable length monohull, the biggest downfall of a cat is the price.
That said, resale values are strong, and in our situation of only needing our boat for a couple of years before reselling it, this was more important than the overall cost. So long as we could recoup our "investment" (this might be the first time a boat has been referred to as an investment, but I digress), then we could "afford" a catamaran.
Catamarans are growing in popularity with cruisers, which is helping keep resale values strong, particularly on mass produced boats that have a global sales history and well understood values (much like ours). Catamarans may be more expensive, but certain makes are actually holding their values stronger than monohulls, which says a lot.
So long as you have plans to resell your boat and have access to capital (which is cheap these days if you need a loan), then the cost of a cat should not be a reason for you not to purchase one. As this was our plan, we moved ahead with the cat...
During our 18 months of sailing, we successfully, yet unknowingly, moved several of our friends on monohulls to the dark side of catamaran cruising. One cruiser even sold their beautiful Moody to purchase a Lagoon 44 (S/V Cinderella)! But we also witnessed several of our cruising buddies getting into trouble that could have been avoided in a cat. 'Follow You' (Hunter 45) lost a rudder on its way to New Zealand and was lucky to get a tow, while Imagine (Hallberg Rassy 46) lost its engine/alternator and had to enlist help to get pushed into shore. After seeing this first hand, yet sailing the same speed with more interior room, I would have a hard time going back to cruising on a monohull.
It was very hard for me to abandon two decades of sailing experience on monohulls, but in the end we decided on our owner's version Lagoon 380 based on safety, speed, comfort and resale value. And we still feel we purchased the perfect boat (or at least as "perfect" as is possible!).