When it comes to cruising, I have to admit that I have become accustomed to comfort. I like a boat that is stable, both at anchor and underway. And I’m partial to space – the more the better. Privacy aboard is important, too. So you could say I’m pretty much predisposed to catamarans.
And ideally, it’s always nice if I’m in the tropics, say the Whitsundays, for instance.
So when the opportunity came up to spend some cruising time aboard Lagoon’s 450 Flybridge, courtesy of Airlie Beach’s Queensland Yacht Charters, it was a case of take the phone off the hook, cancel all appointments and hang out the ‘Do not disturb – gone sailing’ sign.
Anyone who’s spent time on cats and monohulls will have formed an opinion on the benefits of either – and aligned themselves with one camp or the other, no doubt.
There are obviously a lot of pros and cons for both, but the stability and space, in particular all the socialising and chilling-out room that cats offer, seals the deal for me. I can tolerate the downsides, like needing a wider berth at marinas and occasional ‘slamming’ in a sea, although the latter tends to be limited to vessels with lower bridgedecks.
Twin engines – in our case a pair of 40hp Yanmar diesels – is another cat advantage in terms of redundancy, should one inconveniently expire. And having a prop in each corner certainly makes manoeuvrability a breeze when navigating tight spots and berthing.
Manufactured in the French city of Bordeaux and in the Vendee region, Lagoon is the catamaran world leader in terms of production numbers, producing double the amount of vessels per annum as its nearest competitor. Owned by the giant Beneteau group, Lagoon has plenty of boatbuilding and design expertise to draw on.
The exclusive Australian dealer is the award-winning Multihull Group (TMG), based at Quays Marina, Church Point in NSW, under the stewardship of experienced industry identity John Cowpe.
The first thing that became apparent when the QYC crew introduced us to our new craft, named Fidelio, was how really, really big she was. Over forty-five feet big, in fact. And beamy too, with a width of 7.84m. With four cabins – one in each corner completely self-contained, with their own twin berth and each serviced by their own en suite heads and separate showers – once we’d stowed everything (‘we’ being three emotionally unconnected males) it was almost as though I was all alone.
While the four-cabin layout of Fidelio was specifically chosen to maximise charter appeal and profitability, there is also a popular three-cabin owner’s layout available, with the starboard hull set aside as the master cabin, incorporating a large aft berth and en suite head with separate shower, plus a small office space or extra storage.
Upstairs on the main deck is a vast entertaining, cooking and dining space that extended beyond the saloon out to the stern rails, while a couple of steps up either side was the open flybridge, which afforded uninterrupted 360-degree views of our surroundings. And they would vary enormously as we ventured out from Abell Point Marina the following morning to explore the Whitsundays for the next six days.
The main deck is a vast space in cruising terms, affording indoor or outdoor dining and entertaining options for any number of people – although the Lagoon 450 is rated to carry a maximum of 10 actual passengers. Rafting up somewhere like Nara Inlet in the crowded peak season, I’d venture the Lagoon would be party central once the festivities started.
The spacious saloon includes a U-shaped rear-facing galley to port, with twin sinks, a microwave, bench-top stove and heaps of storage space at waist level and overhead. Directly behind is the navigation station.
In the centre is an L-shaped dining space, large enough to seat six or seven comfortably. Aft of the dining area is plenty of stowage in the form of drawers and cabinets, so you’re never left searching for extra space to store supplies for longer cruises. The saloon can be completely enclosed for privacy or shelter from the elements or, by opening the rear-facing windows, it merges with the cockpit to make one large indoor/outdoor space.
With windows everywhere, the saloon is flooded with natural light, although there was plenty of subdued lighting available once the pick had been dropped each night and the sunset toasted.
Adding to the well-lit outdoors feel of the interior spaces was the use of light oak and walnut timber throughout.
As a charter vessel, Fidelio also boasted plenty of stowage space in the cockpit and forward behind the trampoline. And there was plenty of refrigeration to keep a large crew well fed and watered for extended cruises.
With a generously proportioned hard bimini sheltering the cockpit, we were able to relax on a U-shaped lounge and dining table on the port side, while opposite in the starboard corner was a lazarette for fishing or snorkeling gear.
The aft rail incorporated a gas-fueled barbecue, which got regular use sizzling up a feed of bacon and eggs every morning.
Also copping a good workout was the small RIB, which we used to explore some of the many beaches and other geographic features of the islands.
Accessed by generous walkways on either side, the bow section of the 450 boasts another forward-facing cockpit, which would most likely attract the kids or teenagers, where digital devices could be used without annoying the adults. And there’s even more stowage under the lounge swabs.
Up top, the flybridge has seating for four, with a large sunpad spread out in front. The helm is to starboard, with engine controls within easy reach. A pair of analogue tachometers keep track of the Yanmars, while a suite of Raymarine electronics units help maintain course and optimise sail settings.
Speaking of which, while winds during our six-day charter were mixed, we did have the opportunity to spend the occasional relatively brief time under sail. And here I have to confess that none aboard could be categorised as seasoned sailors – more like enthusiastic occasional harnessers of the wind.
But even a crew of novices was able to handle the 450 rig without too much in the way of bad language or tangled lines. At times, we managed to reach close to 10 knots under the mainsail and genoa, and eventually had Fidelio happily cruising along with the Yanmars taking a rest.
Everything was within easy reach and the whole rig was set up so that even novices could make the most of a day on the water without too much stress.
Otherwise, we relied on a sedate 6-7 knot (11-13km/h) pace provided by the extraordinarily thrifty Yanmars which, at the end of a charter in which we pretty much circumnavigated the main Whitsunday islands, rewarded us with a total refuel bill of a paltry $160.
Having spent considerable time on large powered offshore cruisers and limited time on sailing monohulls, I would confidently recommend that anyone intending to spend time exploring our fantastic and varied coastline do themselves a favour and give the Multihull Group a call for a tour of the Lagoon 450.
Designers have managed to capture the true essence of the catamaran experience, maximising space while minimising stress for those aboard. It is a well-planned and laid-out craft, showcasing the group’s reputation for quality in terms of build, fitout and finish.
The Lagoon 450 is available in two configurations: the Flybridge, as reviewed, and a Sportop. Pricing for the Lagoon 450 Flybridge starts at $960,000 delivered and handed over in Australia, with options for direct factory pick-up also possible from TMG.
Find out more by cruising to: themultihullgroup.com.
LAGOON 450 FLYBRIDGE
Engines: 2 x 40hp Yanmar
Fuel capacity: 1000lt
Water capacity: 350lt
Capacity: 10 persons
Sail area: 134sqm
Price from: $960,000
More information: The Multihull Group, tel: 1300 175 325. Web: themultihullgroup.com.
For Whitsunday yacht charters: Queensland Yacht Charters, tel: (07) 4946 7400. Web: yachtcharters.com.au.