How a Lagoon catamaran turned our dream into a nightmare

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Double Down seemed like a perfect name for the 78-foot Lagoon catamaran that my partner and I bought in December 2017, after first laying eyes on the vessel at a Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. It had been just a few years ago that we’d circled the globe in a sailboat, right before a grim cancer diagnosis from my doctors led me to believe I’d never get a chance to do that again. But now I am in good health, and so this sleek new French-built twin-hull boat had us dreaming of doubling down with our second ocean trip around the world.

But over the last-year-and-a-half, our Double Down dream has turned into a nightmare. Instead of following the world’s ocean currents, we’ve endured a stream of structural problems, dishonest sales tactics and broken repair promises that, frankly, should shock the conscience.

Last week, our partnership — Best Buddies in Motion, LTD — filed a lawsuit in Florida accusing CNB/Lagoon, the Bordeaux, France-based makers of the catamaran, of breach of contract, fraud, and violating a settlement agreement that was reached last year. We are asking to bring our case — seeking to void the sale and return the purchase price as well as unspecified damages — before a jury. (Read our lawsuit here.)

It never should have come to this. But over more than 18 months, our investigations into what went wrong with the 78-foot catamaran have revealed that the initial construction was substandard, that Lagoon attempted at the time of the sale to conceal an accident in the Gibraltar Straights that significantly damaged the vessel, and that the French company has been either unable or unwilling to make good its promises to fix the problems.

In fact, our efforts have revealed that Double Down was potentially miscategorized — and, thus, misrepresented to us — from the very start as an ocean-faring vessel that can handle the large waves and stiff winds of the open sea. The vessel was, in fact, advertised to us as Category A in the rating system developed in the late 1990s by the European Union.

Only after the both the initial sale of the boat and the subsequent settlement did Lagoon issue a revised owner’s manual that urged caution for encountering waves higher than one meter – in other words, declaring belatedly, and by fiat, that Double Down was not truly an ocean vessel but a coastal day cruiser.

It provides us with no great pleasure to either be taking this legal action or writing this post about our experiences in dealing with Lagoon. However, our disastrous dealings with the company have convinced us that it’s important that others know about these problems – as a warning to would-be customers and as a warning to Lagoon to clean up its act.

When we first saw the catamaran that we named Double Down at the Fort Lauderdale boat show, we knew only of Lagoon’s hard-won reputation as the world’s largest manufacturer of multi-hulled vessels, amplified by years of reviews that praised the company as willing to listen to its customers in constantly upgrading its designs.

We had no way of knowing that the specific catamaran we’d selected was already, in a sense, damaged goods — that the 78-footer had, en route from France to the United States, already suffered “an incident” off Gibraltar that had caused significant damage to both the hardened platform between the two hulls as well as the right, or starboard, hull.

Nor would we not learn until much, much later, that the troubles with Double Down traced all the way back to its initial construction – that the platform had never been built to the proper specifications and that the Polish work crew had not followed the guidelines in laminating the deck which would have strengthened it.

During the course of of our purchase of Double Down, we visited the company’s manufacturing plant in Bordeaux, met with high-ranking officials from Lagoon, and — despite the early discovery of these major problems — negotiated the purchase of the boat, contingent on the repair of these flaws. But Lagoon consistently failed to follow through on its promises and — it later became clear — determined to downgrade the catamaran’s listed capabilities rather than bring it up to the ocean-faring status that had been promised.

Even after the settlement agreement that we reached with Lagoon on July 30, 2018 — after we invested thousands of dollars hiring top experts and consultants to study the vessel and recommend the fixes that we needed — the company failed to meet its obligations to finally bring Double Down to the high standard we were initially sold on.

In the meantime, and not surprisingly, new problems continued to emerge, including issues with corrosion control. What’s more, sometime last summer users of the boat began to report high noises in the right stern of the vessel that were bothering them and even interrupting their sleep.

If you’ve been following the saga, you won’t be surprised to learn that Lagoon spent a lot more energy on denying that the noise problem existed (despite considerable evidence, even their own tests) than on trying to fix it. It was this final flurry of problems that took us over the edge and forced us to file our lawsuit in Broward County, Fla., last week.

This would not have happened if Lagoon had worked with us and worked to live up to its reputation that took decades to establish. Nor would I be writing this post, with the goal of informing other consumers about Lagoon’s problems.

But I am determined to see this fight through. After everything I’ve been through in recent years, I remain determined to circumnavigate the world a second time. It just won’t happen in this Lagoon catamaran.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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