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An article written by our staff and featured in The Charter Connection

July 2008

First of all, I consider myself a monohull sailor. I had never felt the urge to try a catamaran although my husband has urged me to for years. So when a group of 3 couples said they wanted to go to Tortola and take a catamaran I agreed to do so. 4 couples on a monohull sounded a bit tight and this would be a perfect opportunity to try one.

The newer Lagoon 440 had piqued my interest for some time because of its flybridge helm and spacious layout. I contacted BVI Yacht Charters who had just one in their fleet. It was reasonably priced for our budget and was available.

From the moment I stepped aboard I loved it. We were the last to arrive and it was dark but the recessed lights in the hard top over the cockpit made it feel like you were on an oceanside veranda. In the aft facing galley our friends were making snacks and drinks and passing them through the large window into the cockpit. We carried our bags below and headed to our cabin - no one had to even move out the way!

After stowing our gear I did a complete tour and really liked the way the boat was laid out. The galley is L-shaped with stainless steel counter tops, triple sink, plenty of storage and 2 front loading refrigerators. The salon has ample seating for 8 or more. The panoramic windows, two of which open, plus overhead hatches, allow plenty of light and ventilation.

The flybridge helm turned out to be one of the best features. The helm is amidships and being elevated, allows for easy visibility when manoeuvering into a slip, anchoring or picking up a mooring. It has step access from both the port and starboard side and the bench seating is wide enough for 4 or 5 adults. Having some of the crew up in the flybridge can give more room in the cockpit, which will easily take 8-10 around the table.

She has the usual trampoline forward but there is also a seating pit for 5, with an outside shower which is great for cooling off if you are sunbathing.

The cat was so spacious, there were actually times I had to go searching to look for someone in particular! This boat offers private seating areas for everyone!

Anthony, at BVI Yacht Charters, gave us our boat checkout and was very thorough. We had lots of questions as handling a cat is certainly different to a monohull, but he did a great job and we were all set to go. Jeanne gave us a chart briefing, along with a cell phone which we decided to take as calls were much less expensive than on our Stateside phones - 50 cents a minute and no charge for incoming calls.

The BVI Yacht Charter base is small and does not have the amenities of the larger companies but this is reflected in the price and considering the quality of their equipment, they offer excellent value. Besides, your vacation is on the boat not at the base. The office staff, Abbie, Jeanne and Carrie are very attentive to charterers. The boat was very clean, inside and out and we found everything was on board at the start of the charter.

We really wanted a good sail so we decided to head offwind to Norman Island. We left Road Town on a broad reach to the western end of Peter Island. The boat was moving fast and we had one couple on board who were new to sailing. They were thrilled. Then we hardened to a beam reach with the boat hardly listing and flew past Norman (we just wanted to keep going). After deciding we had better head back to get a good mooring we called it a day.

Pointing up Sir Francis Drake the next day was not so great. Catamarans do not point well in a close haul situation and the wind and current were strong. That was the only day we had to sail up wind so we powered up the channel. We wanted to get a mooring at our next destination!

Catamarans also don't always sail too well downwind but we went from Bitter End to Jost Van Dyke faster than I had ever done it in a monohull. Perhaps it is this particular boat but we were averaging 8-10 knots in following seas and 20 knot winds. And the boat was just gliding along. Very smooth. So,reaching is great, downwind is good but due to the shallow keel, it takes more time and lots of grinding to make headway on a close haul.

So, this is my wrap up of the Lagoon 440 and an overview of catamarans in general. Would I do a 'cat' again? Absolutely. For a group, comfort of sailing and roominess it is the only way to go.

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  Ed Hamilton & Company
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