Sonrisa, The Catamaran
Sonrisa is a standard production Lagoon 440, hull number 203, delivered new to La Rochelle in March 2007. She has the ‘Charter version layout’ which means 2 double cabins in each hull with an ensuite head and shower for each cabin. All sailing functions are done from the ‘flybridge’ which leaves the aft covered main deck seating area just for living and eating – just delightful.
Before any ‘real’ yachties bitch about this ‘caravan on the water’ and enquire as to her sailing capabilities it’s important to specify how we use her – she is a floating home that sometimes sails but seems to motor more often. We envisaged around a 10 year voyage from La Rochelle to Tasmania, with two very young children immersing ourselves in foreign cultures and spending, up to 3 months, without provisioning or shore facilities. We don’t like or intend to ‘bash’ to windward, stay away from bad weather and anchor where there is good diving and surf. As we sail very conservatively we find that in any reasonable breeze and not hard on the wind with just the genoa up we can easily manage 5 -6 knots which is fine by us. The large drifter is used up to 15 knots apparent wind and keeps us moving in quiet conditions. When the wind is well aft we wing & wing the genoa and drifter or jib, with the wide beam spinnaker poles are not required and we just tie a block to the midship mooring cleat. In 4 years we have only actively tacked Sonrisa a few times !
There is absolutely nothing special about her, apart from our own equipment additions. We had a delightful 6 months in La Rochelle installing all the required goodies plus a few extra! We think of Sonrisa as a ‘plastic fantastic’ or a ‘sikaflex yacht’. She was designed primarily as a charter catamaran so is probably not best suited to long distance cruising and long periods in isolated anchorages , that being said, she has served us well after several thousand miles over the past 4 years. To say she is overloaded (yeah, I know a no no for a catamaran) is an understatement, then with a young family to look after along with several ‘home’ comforts we really do not care – going west between 20 Deg N and 20 Deg S and keeping an eye on the weather has not caused any moments for concern.
Sonrisa was delivered with 2 watertight compartments forward, apparently for crew – they would have to be small! In the Port hull I installed a floor and work benches for the location of our Schenker 60 litre / hr 12 volt watermaker. The other hull was also floored and painted – for general stores.
She now has a starboard side shade awning, a complete set of deck hatch covers, and inserts into the 4 hull opening port holes to ‘scoop’ the air in.
After 4 years cruising we have been pleased with Sonrisa, there have been all the usual niggles, but no more than other new yachts I have been involved in. After a few years there were several areas where the gel coat had seriously yellowed and numerous stress fractures in the gel coat – more annoying than serious. Also the main saloon windows ( Perspex) had also started to craze – happily I have it in writing that these will be remedied by Beneteau at some future date. Annoyingly, the top nylon rudder bearings now have some play (Beneteau told us this was normal wear – however with only some 7 thousand miles I am again reminded of Sonrisa’s charter origins! ) While of no real concern it is extremely irritating as when anchored in any swell there is a constant ‘clunking’ noise from the bearings, and as our heads are only inches from the bearing a real pain – by locking the rudders hard over the noise is reduced but still………. There is a constant list of chores and improvements in the pipeline even with the seemingly endless work over these years.
Late 2011, apart from a haul out for saildrive , rudder bearing repairs and new Coppercoat antifouling there is;
Install 2 more 120 watt solar panels along with the existing 3 over the davits and 2 x 60 watt flexible panels stuck to the coachouse.
Install a new bunk in BJ & Huon’s cabin.
Sew window screens for main salon.
Install new WiFi aerial and router.
Install dinghy chocks for new walker sailing dinghy.
Make cover for sailing dinghy.
Replace the rather ‘pissy’ original trampoline with a custom woven one.
Install new Blue Sky solar panel regulator system
I still consider this cruising as being part of our shake down trails – OK, 4 years is a long time to determine which equipment is inherently reliable, what spares to carry, and how to service the various components but this is all necessary for our long term objectives. Also I feel it takes years of various weather and living conditions to sort out sailing characteristics, power, fuel and food requirements. The main purpose of Sonrisa is to spend long periods at secluded islands throughout the Pacific so sorting out the bugs well in advance can hopefully help this cause.
I am a firm believer that a safe and comfortable cruise starts with proper and sensible preparation – yacht and crew alike. While the saying ‘it’s not if a piece of equipment will fail but when’ is absolutely true, one can take numerous steps to ensure proper installation, maintenance and repair procedures are followed. In my experience of disasters (of which there have been plenty) it is the series of small failures that eventually lead to a major disaster rather than the disaster just happening out of the blue.