Living Large Aboard CALIFRENCHIES, a Prestige 500S – By Laurent Ruben

Hello Friends!

I want to share with you the extraordinary last 15 months my wife and I have had living aboard our Prestige 500S, CALIFRENCHIES in Marina del Rey, California!

First, I’d like to thank Desirée Van Welsum for managing the Prestige Yacht Owners Group on Facebook with great discipline and always a great sense of humor. And also my wife, Estelle Garnier Ruben, who’s crazy enough to sponsor our way of life on the water 

It all started awhile back in 2014. We never owned any boat before, when my wife and I started to browse the luxury yachts on YachtWorld and started dreaming of getting into boating…

We rapidly acquired our first boat, a 2004 Sea-Doo 22ft (8 seaters) which was fun to motor around Santa Monica Bay of Los Angeles. After a year, we learned especially what not to do, such as not being aware of cleaning the bottom during the entire 12 months it was in the water (we had 5 inches of seaweed and our speed got reduced from 60mph to 25mph). Or going from Marina del Rey, California to Catalina Island (40nm) without checking the weather and realizing that we would not have time to return before sunset. We were almost obliged to sleep aboard with the humidity. Or going back full speed from Newport Beach, California with the mother-in-law aboard and running out of gas at 8pm just 3 yards away from the dock!

The Sea-Doo 22 footer, a sister ship

Lessons learned, we decided to upgrade to a 2004 Sea-Ray 320 Sundancer with 2 engines that sleeps 4. We enjoyed it a lot! At the time, we were living in a tiny apartment in Marina Del Rey at Avalon and we were fortunate enough to have our boat docked by the apartment. We realized that we were spending more time on the boat than in the apartment. We had our ritual…. every day, after 5pm, my wife and I were going downstairs, jumping on the boat and talking until midnight. Most evenings, falling asleep aboard, and waking up at 6am going back to the apartment to have a shower and going to work.

After a year and a half and 250 hours running the Mercury engines, we decided that it was time to let it go and we started boat window shopping (it lasted more than a year) with the crazy dream of buying something big enough to live aboard…

We went to every boat show you can imagine, Newport Beach, San Diego, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, you name it… We learned a lot but the more we were looking at boats, the more we became picky with features, layout, quality, … and not the least we could not afford the boat of our dream. We eyed towards the Prestige brand not because my wife and I are French () but because of the unique layout and being more affordable compared to the Italian brands of this world.

CALIFRENCHIES? Frenchies in California, what else?

We bought a beautiful 2012 Prestige 500S in France in a pristine condition with only 260 hours. We decided to dock the boat in Toulon, France just in front of the island of Porquerolles, Provence-Alpes-Cote D’Azur, France for a year so that we could enjoy the Med first. During all 2017, we spent almost 5 months aboard, cruising across the French Riviera, Corsica, it was such an amazing experience for our entire family.

A nice catch for young Sam

At the end of 2017, we shipped the boat from Genoa (Italy) to Ensenada (Mexico) and then we cruised it ourselves to Los Angeles, our homeport. Since January 2018, my wife and I decided to rent out our Hollywood Hills house and move permanently into our 600sft boat. Most of our friends and family warned us that this would just be an infatuation, but after 15 months of live aboard status, it’s not an infatuation, it’s just love!

Estelle with Sam, Lissa and man’s best friend, Scarlett

At the time I am writing these few words, my wife is in cooking a fantastic pea soup and making a nice apple/pear puree, she’s enjoying every moment, every inch of our boat. Sure, a boat is obviously more fragile than a house, but I have to admit that all the issues we encountered have been quite manageable and not crazy expensive. While I sometimes feel that Prestige could have used a slightly higher level of materials in places, overall the quality is good and the engineering behind the boat, quite remarkable.

The fact that we have a separate entrance to the master cabin is quite unique. We’ve installed a 55 inch, 4K TV, it’s really like home and even more cozy 

The beauty of living aboard is that when you want to go somewhere with your boat, you take literally your entire house. You don’t have to plan much in going to the grocery store and choose which pair of shoes you want to take with you, you have them all aboard (well almost !

Home sweet home aboard the Prestige 500S with plenty of comfort and lots of natural light!

Talking about this, yes space is limited, but we’ve adapted to the space. We have a storage unit nearby where we have the winter clothes during summer season and vice-versa during winter. We learned to be extremely organized, we cannot afford to clean our stuff for 2 days, it would be a mess, so we do it as soon as we see something not in its place 

Luckily my office is less than a mile from our boat, so I usually walk to the office or ride an electric scooter, we almost never use the car anymore. My wife decided to work from the boat, she installed a 23 inch monitor that she displays on the dining table during the day. In the evening, she places the external monitor on the side so that we can take advantage of clean space.

I inherited of the master cabin storage spaces and my wife hijacked the rest of the storages into the VIP and guest cabins. It’s quite OK, we have all the stuff we need aboard.

The Prestige 500S is not exactly a fishing boat but no one said you can’t fish from it if you want to!

The life of the docks is quite amazing. I’m an early bird and when I drink my morning coffee at sunrise in the aft deck, that’s so delightful and relaxing. In the evening, my wife and I have kept our bad habits, we have a glass of wine, we smoke a bit of cigar, we work a bit and then we always keep dreaming of our next adventure on this boat or our next 

Living large aboard Califrenchies

We come to a point, after 15 months, that we have hard time thinking about that we might have to live into a house (or apartment) again, the freedom and pleasure the we have aboard is immense and quite joyful.

I hope this was not too long, I am quite excited when I talk about our “Califrenchies”.

Enjoying the ride!
Laurent Ruben

On The Rocks but a Long Ways Away from Rock-Bottom: By Paul Fenn

Spend enough time on the water and it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself going aground. If you’re lucky, and you’re grounding is a soft one, as in mud or sand, the result is usually little to no damage; except to your pride which may be bruised but not broken. If you’re not so lucky and you’re grounding is a hard one, like hitting a rock, it’s an entirely different story altogether. Anyone who’s done this, knows that it causes your heart to jump right into your throat and rattles your bones from your head to your feet. It’s an experience you will never forget! If it sounds like I’m speaking from experience, I am. When I was in my late twenties, so along about 1987, I found myself in dungeon fog picking my way through Watch Hill Passage into Fisher’s Island Sound with a strong ebb tide under my keel. Although I navigated the passage OK, I misjudged the strength of the current and all of a sudden “CRACK,” I hit the reef and it was all granite. The rock felt nothing. But me, I still shiver when I reflect back on that moment, lost in fog and on the rocks. Definitely not one of my better days!

Watch Hill Passage
Watch Hill Passage is just one of several passages or channels that provides a safe route into Fisher’s Islands Sound from Block Island Sound. Currents are strong here during peak tide changes so you have to be careful especially in fog.

Recently, my friends Art and Sue Wittmack, had a similar experience aboard their Prestige 500S, Loofah lll. And while on the surface (no pun intended) this story is not an overly happy one, there are elements of it that make the whole thing not so bad. Before I go too much further, you should know that Art and Sue have been working their way around the eastern U.S. via the Great Loop. They started their adventures last September in Chicago and have been underway ever since, traveling counter-clockwise around the country. Up until, “the grounding” last week, they’ve had a marvelous trip with no significant issues. But as I said, spend enough time on the water and it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself going aground.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing
Art and Sue (left) with fellow Prestige owners’ Wendy and Victor aboard Loofah lll

They were cruising through the North Sound at the very top of Lake Huron when they hit a submerged rock at a speed of 22 mph. As You can imagine, hitting a rock going this fast is not going to allow you to get away without some damage and it didn’t. This is however the low-point in this story, from here forward, it gets better!

So Loofah lll clipped the rock with her starboard Volvo IPS Pod, which is similar to the lower unit on an outboard engine. While this could have resulted in ripping a gaping hole in the hull, Volvo cleverly designed the IPS Pod to sheer away upon impact leaving the hull itself undamaged and the boat afloat. A good thing!

The starboard IPS Pod that sheered aways as designed, leaving Loofa lll floating and relatively undamaged

Art and Sue could have panicked and called “May Day,” many novice boaters would have, but they didn’t. Because they are seasoned mariners with thousands of miles under their hull now, they calmly brought their boat to a stop, marked their position using the MOB function on their GPS, then dropped anchor and assed the situation. This is the first thing I like about this story, they kept their heads and handled a bad situation like pros.

After realizing they weren’t sinking, they went back to find the drive unit which they did. It was laying on the bottom in about 4′ of water. Using their Kayaks, they managed to move it into deeper water and secure it to the back of the boat. And just to make things a tad more challenging, Art had to dive down 15′ to free their anchor that had gotten stuck in some rocks below. Never a dull moment when you’re on a boat!

With the drive safely secured and the boat still completely seaworthy, they got underway for Parry Sound using their undamaged second engine and dragging the drive behind.  This is the second thing I like about this story, they moved from problem to problem-solving independent of outside help.

A nice description of events from the time of impact to heading back to Parry Sound

Today, Loofah lll is safely on the hard and in process of repair. The boat itself is fine, a real testament to both the quality of the Prestige 500S and the clever design of the Volvo IPS engines. And as for Art and Sue, they look at it this way, “The bad news is obvious.  The good news is that no one was hurt, no other boats were involved, LOOFAH continued to float, and although the props were bent, the port engine and drive unit were able to get us back to port without assistance.”

Loofah’s crew has been characterized, by some, as being “Pollyanna’s,” overly optimistic, glass-half-full (or more), people. This trait, “optimism” in one of my favorites and one I constantly remind my kids to work towards. Optimistic people always see the bright side, they are problem-solvers. And this is what I like best about this story, for it was Art and Sue’s optimism, their ability to turn lemons into lemonade (OK maybe not quite lemonade) that enabled them to deal with this problem in the manner that they have.

It was not a great day for these “Loopers” but while they may have been on the rocks, they were never close to hitting rock-bottom.

Oh and by the way, it should be noted that after close examination and having a closer look at the chart, Art and Sue should have had plenty of water under their keel to make safe passage, especially since Lake Huron is currently 36″ above what the chart shows. I’m not sure if the rock they hit has a name but if not, it does now, Loofah’s Rock! Watch out for it!

On we go…








This article appeared in the 2018 January issue of Sea Magazine.

New layout and design cues complement the quiet ride and maneuverability Prestige is known for.

HULL #3 OF THE Prestige 460 was so new that its first visit to the fuel dock was just before our trip in Southern California from Newport Beach to Long Beach. As Bayport Yachts owner JR Means and I waited for more than 300 gallons of fuel to slosh into the tank, we checked out the swanky Garroni design. Although it shares the same hull with its predecessor, the Prestige 450, which it also replaces, the refreshed model features new deck and interior layouts and follows design cues from its recently introduced larger siblings, the 630 and 680. And while the 450 did well, with the redesign, it seems good just morphed into better.

New Prestige 460 Photos by MVP 2-1

The changes that make the 460 enticing are visible immediately. The massive hydraulic swim platform carries up to 500 pounds and makes launching the tender easy, because it submerges a full 32 inches below the surface. It’s a $27,000 option but well worth it considering owners can now stand on it and cook at the optional outdoor galley that juts out from the transom.

The cockpit also gained a bit of room and teak decking is now standard. The forward-facing transom settee has been replaced by an L-shaped lounge in the starboard corner. It wraps around a high-low table and sits just ahead of a lazarette that is so large it can house optional crew quarters complete with a bed, a head and its own A/C.

A hatch on the cockpit sole provides access to the machinery space, which includes the Volvo Penta engines and pods and the standard 13.5 kw Onan genset. Due to the low headroom, the space is limited but workable for engine checks. Getting aft to the pods is a bit of a squeeze.

At the other end, the bow gained a lounge. No ordinary sunpad, this feature now includes popup headboards that form two chaise lounges complete with cupholders. An awning lifts up from the deck to form a superyacht-style cabana. The center cushion can be removed to reveal a skylight and a hatch, which bring light and air to the VIP stateroom below.

Readers counting along will note that the bow sunpad is the second outside area for people to gather. The third — and of course the magnet for most outdoor social activity — is the flybridge, which houses a second outdoor galley (optional), another sunpad for two and an aft dinette. The helm, to port, has a Raymarine display, a joystick, engine throttles and a seat that looks to be built for one and half humans. The steps that lead down to the cockpit are a bit steep, more like a ladder really, but two good railings provide plenty to hold onto during the descent.

Social space on the 460 Flybridge abounds, from the flybridge (far right, bottom) to the cockpit — especially when the doors are open and it’s combined with the galley — to the main cabin salon (top left). The VIP stateroom is well appointed (top middle), and the helm includes MFDs, joystick controls and access to every system via digital switching.

Inside, the 460’s layout is different than its predecessor. By removing the signature second staircase that normally leads down to the secluded master stateroom on other Prestige models, the company created a master that is now 30 percent larger. The full-beam stateroom shares the forward stairs with the guest cabin but doesn’t sacrifice much in terms of privacy. It has an en suite head, a bed on the center-line and a lounge next to one of the large windows. To port is a dresser whose top drawer flips up to form a vanity mirror. It’s quite the posh pad.

Of course, the VIP cabin in the bow runs a close second. As mentioned before, plenty of light and air pour in through the overhead hatch and skylight, but there are also hull windows and opening ports. The centerline bed splits into two single berths. Just lift the aft ends and pivot them outboard. This versatile cabin will work for a couple, guests who can share a room but not a bed, or kids. An optional washer/dryer can be installed under the steps that lead up to the salon.

“Some folks might not believe it’s a production build.”

On the main deck, the galley is still aft to starboard. It can easily be used to serve guests at the interior portside dinette and in the cockpit. The chef will enjoy the convenience of a ceramic cooktop and a separate oven at knee level. A standup refrigerator and freezer combo is hidden behind matching wood paneling to port.

The salon is two steps up, which raises it enough so seated guests get a near-360-degree view through the newly enlarged windows. Five to six people can sit on the U-shaped settee that wraps around the foldout table to port, and a matching straight settee to starboard will fit additional guests. Nice touches include a bottle locker and digital switching via a Scheiber display panel.

To starboard, the helm is well laid out and compact, so most controls are easy to reach. Twin 12-inch Raymarine ES125 MFDs — touchscreens with a control wheel to the right — sit on an angled dash behind the wheel. They’re easy to see but hard to reach from a seated position. It would be nice if the control panels were outboard on the side pad and closer to the driver, but that’s already a crowded area, home to the Volvo Penta joystick, the bow thruster joystick and the engine throttles.


Other instrument interfaces include the Volvo engine display, the EV-2 autopilot and the Raymarine 260 dual-station VHF radio. Two cupholders, an opening side window and air vents provide comfort for the driver, and the dash is covered with a matte paint that cuts down on glare and windshield reflection.

Altogether, buyers can opt for three pod joysticks, including one in the aft cockpit. For anyone thinking that’s overkill, let me say that it’s the best place from which to dock, especially backing into a slip.

With each iteration of the line, Prestige has stepped up its fit and finish. Under-standing aspirational boating, the company knows that the owner of a 46-foot cruiser really wants to feel like he has a (smallish) superyacht and everything that implies. Our test boat featured gray oak wood surfaces — Means calls it “driftwood,” for better marketing appeal — and white headliner panels and white matte lacquered cabine-try that fit well with the Marline Pure White leather upholstery and leather handle accents. Sound-dampening fabric panels added to the feeling of luxury. Some folks might not believe it’s a production build.

We made our run up the coast at a cruising speed of 24 knots on a glorious Southern California day. Behind the Los Angeles Harbor jetty near Cabrillo Way Marina, we slowed down and put the boat through a few tests. It handled beautifully, making precise turns and taking just eight seconds to plane. Circling back over our wake, we felt no slamming or rolling. With the upgraded 435 hp IPS 6 engines, the 46 Fly topped out at 32.5 knots at 3600 rpm, where the engines burned about 45 gph. At a 24-knot cruise, the boat’s range is more than 200 nautical miles, depending on sea and wind conditions.


Once again, I noticed how quiet the Prestige line is — hardly a creak to be heard, even at speed. The hard-chine hull was designed from scratch to accommodate Volvo Penta IPS pod drives, which I never tire of, because they’re fun and easy to drive. The Prestige 460 will make driv-ers look like a rock star and take the anxi-ety out of docking. Owners may find them-selves wanting to go out and drive for any reason, just like when they got their first car. If we hadn’t been on a schedule, I’d have stayed out all day, maybe popping over to Catalina Island for a signature Buffalo Milk.

There’s really very little not to like on the Prestige 460, and that’s pretty good for a fresh-out-of-the-box model that hasn’t yet had the benefit of owner or dealer feedback. The larger swim platform and transom galley along with the wider cockpit and roomier master cabin are nice evolutions, while the quiet ride and the easy maneuverability that Prestige is known for continue. With four years of feedback and some creative thinking, good did indeed just get better — much better.


There’s really very little not to like on the Prestige 460, and that’s pretty good for a fresh-out-of-the-box model that hasn’t yet had the benefit of owner or dealer feedback. The larger swim platform and transom galley along with the wider cockpit and roomier master cabin are nice evolutions, while the quiet ride and the easy maneuverability that Prestige is known for continue.


Standard Equipment: Twin 370 hp Volvo Penta IPS500 engines, Onan 13.5 kw genset, bow thruster, swim platform, microwave/stove/refrigerator, window defogger and more.

Optional Equipment: Volvo Penta IPS600 435 HP diesels, elec-tronics package, custom hull colors, crew quarters, joystick in cockpit, foredeck Bimini, aft cockpit retractable sun awning, Glendinning CableMaster shore-power cord management, underwater LED lighting, washer/dryer and more.

Builder: Prestige (Groupe Beneteau), Les Herbier, France;

“Looping” with Loofah III — “Downsizing,” “What’s Next,” and other musings.

Starting in September, 2017, Aboard their Prestige 500S, Loofah III, Sue and Art Wittmack open another chapter of their lives by embarking on a 6,000 mile, yearlong adventure called “America’s Great Loop.” Follow their journey! CLICK HERE

Saturday (11/18)

Frequently, as we are having breakfast, enjoying coffee,  catching up email, planning the day and making entries into our various logs, the boat “CAPT SID S” returns to its mooring place. (Upon closer inspection, it appears that faint lines through the “S” renders it a “$” sign.)DSC_0929

A small, grey pickup truck is always there to greet it. Usually, a couple of coolers are passed from the “shrimper” to the shore.  Today, there were none passed.  Time, labor and fuel invested with no return. Again, we counted our blessings and prayed for those who work so hard, in so many diverse ways, to put food on our tables!

Time seems to fly by.  It was 11:30 when we completed reading and returning email, observing marina operations, and starting to consider our next leg, down the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway.  As some of our fellow mariners are already on their way, we get emails and text messages daily, with their observations, suggestions, and concerns.

We continued to receive some “guff” regarding our rental car.  It’s a Yaris. DSC_0932When we initially drove it into the marina, a fellow Looper didn’t think it “was in keeping with our boat.” Today, someone asked if we were planning to put it on our swim platform. Enough!  It’s a great size.  We have downsized from a house to a condo; maybe it’s time to downsize cars as well!

As we did our circumnavigation of Mobile Bay the other day, we saw a “Camping World”, an RV/camping super store, selling everything from soup (dehydrated, awaiting water over the campfire) to a large inventory of RVs.  We needed to return.  And did.  Is a “land cruise” in an RV, in our future?

The afternoon outing to Camping World served two purposes: 1) to see the store, 2) to help Bill and Bobby (First Forty) advance their car to the Homeport Marina. We agreed to meet them at Lulu’s at 5:00 and to have dinner at Ed’s Seafood Shed on the return.

Ed’s sits on the original causeway that runs across north Mobile Bay, which I-10 now parallels.  EDS_AIRAlthough just opening in 2000, it has become a well established favorite of locals.  It is “Home of Yo Mama’s Platter”: “A cup of ED’s famous gumbo, a cup of garlic cheese grits, a cup of turnip greens, served before a platter of fish, oysters, shrimp, scallops and crab claws and Ed’s fries – finished with Yo Mama’s Dessert.  Served family style (NO substitutions please) 39.95”.  We passed, and choose to downsize.

Returning to the marina, we saw some water running down the parking lot.  Concerned that a water main had broken, we surveyed the parking lot with our headlights.DSC_0943  Shortly, we were able to determine the water was emanating from a marshy area on the north edge of the lot.  High winds and a rising tide was piling water in the bay.  As high tide was still three hours away, Art used his surveying skills and selected a high point to park the car.

We hit the sack… until the front went through and broadsided Loofah with 30- to 40-mph gusts. Art, in his pajamas, doubled the stern line as the frontline winds passed, and the rains began.  It was a narrow front, lasting just a few minutes, but it was fierce.  Happy that we were securely in a slip, and not at sea, we returned to our berth, and sleep.

Friday (11/17)  Circumnavigation of Mobile Bay … by car!

It was time to burn some fuel, this time in the Yarus we had rented.  Sue’s research indicated that we should head to Dauphin Island, about 20 miles south. We are always attracted to long causeways, bridges, car ferrys and forts.  This had all of them!

As we toured the island, it was clear that this “barrier island” had been hit hard by recent hurricanes.  The municipal fishing pier was now land locked in sand deposited around it by “Katrina.”  repairs-wspeed-limit-signMore recently, hurricane “Nate” hit it with a good punch.  There was a checkpoint on the only road to the west end of the island through which only residents and contractors could pass.  Dumpsters topped with debris and “For Sale” signs were everywhere.  For those interested a WKRG News 5 article, actually posted this afternoon at 4:12 PM, follows today’s entry.  FEMA has been, and continues to be, busy!

Talking about properties “For Sale,” one of these five “boat houses” we passed was selling for $179,900.  Not sure of the floor plan. Any takers?DSC_0895


DSC_0918Never wanting to miss a ferry ride, we drove to the east end of Dauphin Island for the 35-minute crossing to Ft. Morgan Peninsula and Gulf Shores.  DSC_0916

We had read that a natural gas field had been discovered under Mobile Bay and it was hard to miss the abandoned wells that dotted this end of it.

Lulu's 2Our destination was “Lulu’s.”  Lulu, the owner, says she is Jimmy Buffet’s “crazy sister.” The gift shop (one t-shirt lighter) has all kinds of Lulu and Buffett memorabilia and CD’s.  It is a large and popular spot (for both locals and Loopers), located in the Homeport Marina.

Lulu’s and Homeport are located at mile marker 155 of the Gulf Intercostal Water Way so we will see them again, in about 10 days.DSC_0925

Leaving LuLu’s, and all along the way, we were reminded that Christmas is coming! With sunny days, sandy beaches, and the warm waters of the Gulf replacing blowing snow, it just doesn’t seem right.  Oh, well; we’ll take it.

Our mission completed, we headed up the East Shore, across the long  I-10 causeway at the north end of the bay, and back to Loofah.

Today’s mission, accomplished!

Take Delivery in Europe!

Have you ever thought of discovering the wonders of Coastal France, Spain, Italy or Corsica? Have you thought of chartering a boat in the Mediterranean but decided that you would rather do this on your own yacht? Have you looked at shipping your current Yacht to Europe and then shipping it back to America?

If you have thought of one or several of the ideas above but never did it because it seemed too complicated, we have a suggestion: Buy your new Prestige Yacht and ask for a delivery in Europe!

I had to the opportunity to delivery a brand new Prestige 680 to Mr H in Les Sables-d’Olonne, a seaside town in western France. Mr H plans on cruising around the Mediterranean over the next three months and then have his boat shipped back to the west coast of Florida. This was the second time around for Mr H who had cruised his Prestige 620 around the Med nearly 3 years ago! It gets better and easier every time!

Nick Harvey, Prestige of Prestige Yachts America and Michael Galati in Les Sables d’Olonne preparing for the 680 delivery!

The entire process was extremely seamless! All the necessary paperwork and setup was taken care of by Prestige Yachts America, their American dealer, and a company that specializes in European cruising for foreigners. If you are interested in the awesome way of discovering Europe, contact your dealer now and ask them about this possibility that Prestige Yachts offers! What are you waiting for??!