Well, the Lagoon 440 is the second large catamaran we’ve owned and we’ve sailed her many miles and possibly through more storms than most.
Impi crossed the Atlantic three times before heading across the Pacific and oceans farther afield and every time we’ve negotiated nasty seas we pat ourselves on the back for buying this craft.
We had planned to sell our cat every 5 years for a new model, however buying new catamarans has its own problems and we really understand how safe our boat is. However, we have done work to ensure this – and so it should be on any catamaran that does years and years of passage making.
Let me say this though – one of our first projects on our brand new from the factory 440 was to add strength to the outer sections of bulkheads as we were kitting the boat out for ‘off the beaten path’ travel and would be sailing alone mostly, not accompanied by other boats.
In fact, bulkheads is something every owner of any brand of catamaran should be inspecting … and I mean not just by flashlight and camera but also by scraping an object like a thin steel rod or back of the nail to establish by sound and feel if there is any possible de-lamination happening.
Catamarans are wide platforms and if they slam into heavy seas (which they do) the underside between the hulls is subject to flex. This is why we sometimes see catamarans with flat undersides having a series of ribs to support the flex as water slams and finds its way through. When the underside flexes (and builders usually make this section thinner than the hull as it sits above the water – saves weight) it does so ahead of and behind ‘hard points’ such as the bulkheads, and as a result of this over the years it can be prone to weakening the underside of the bulkhead cove and glassed in foot section.
No matter how well the bulkhead is then glassed in, it is the flexing action and twisting of the boat that can eventually work at the bulkhead bases. For this reason we actually added ribs on the inside of the boat from the bulkhead going forward some distance to reduce any risk of flex working at the bulkhead points. We would seriously consider doing this on any brand we buy if we wanted to keep the boat for years to come and do the style of sailing we do. My son sells cats and he tells me of an owner who brought his boat in for survey. The buyer wanted particular attention to the bulkheads … it is not a Lagoon and I won’t mention the brand as it won’t be helpful, but the bulkhead was totally damaged.
The owner was shocked after years of sailing the boat – he had no idea. Lagoon on the 440 and 500, design the bulkhead outer sections to be ‘glued in’ whilst the main section from mid hull through to mid hull on the opposite side is glassed and designed to keep the mast up even if the outer sides collapsed, and they told me it was designed this way as a means for the outer sections to break away if subjected to a force, such that it would not break through the hull – thus keeping it water tight.
It’s kinda like a ‘crumple zone’ in a motor car I guess. On Impi (when new) we decided after much consultation with a naval architect and engineering friend to rather glass those sections in and build a decent cove off the sides of it.Some cat bulkheads are actually designed not to have the bulkhead abutt the ‘floor’ but they build in a cushion between the bulkhead and floor and then place in a decent cove (large radius) and glass that up in layers.
This way the ‘hard spot’ of the join is distributed better. In fact, when we have our bulkheads inspected, the surveyor has the build schedule from the manufacturer and the surveyors inspecting it for us are quite impressed with the design and some of the theory behind this. A fantastic feature on these models is the V shape on the underside as this shape tends to support forces of a ‘side to side’ nature and is why it would be rare to find a bulkhead under the mast actually broken through on these boats.
I’ve personally been asked by a number of friends and social media people to go look through boats they wish to purchase, and I’ve picked up a number of issues related to bulkheads on various models of catamarans. So my dear friends – I’m not being your ‘Lagoon joy boy’ here – to the contrary I love most brands and models of catamarans but I do get the sense that Lagoon is being singled out in all this. I hope this will bring a bit more balance to the debate and help owners of all boats to keep looking at their boats particularly after encountering heavy seas .. the twisting and slamming motion can have an impact on many things in catamarans including bulkheads, windows, furniture and more.
At the end of the day we need to be the sea people who sail our vessels well and help the boat through heavy seas.I’ve seen many owners smashing their boats into the seas with too much sail area up for the conditions – the boat drops off a wave and surfs into the back of the one ahead of it – the sail filled with air keeps forward momentum on the mast (which creates a downward force) with the boat trying to stop as its bows dig in and float upwards. Some folks over tension the rigging and this also pulls on the outsides of the hulls whilst trying to push the mast through the bottom of the boat. Bulkheads are something we’ve always paid attention to over years and years of sailing – this is nothing new.
Yesterday we had a couple on our boat discussing a boat they want to buy – a Lagoon 450. They aren’t concerned about the bulkheads as Lagoon are doing a fix which will then be inspected by a surveyor – I think they’re going to have a great home on the sea as they are prepared to upgrade several things we discussed. I’ve had chats with a number of owners who’ve had their boats checked and for most it’s not near as bad as some have made it out to be.
Well – that’s my two cents worth – we are here in Australia still as our trip to New Caledonia has been delayed until after cyclone season due to a delta variant outbreak. Australia has given us sanctuary for a little longer, thank you!
I hope we all keep sharing the kindness, as after all, sailing is a sport that makes us free … on the seas genuine sailors and owners are caring people and there are always two sides to every coin – it’s important to get a balance so folks interested in boats have a real perspective on things.