|LOA||49 ft., 10 in.|
|Beam||14 ft., 9 in.|
|Draft||3 ft., 4 in.|
|Engines||Twin Volvo Penta IPS600, 435 hp each|
|Base Price||As tested $1.135 million|
|Twin 345 hp Volvo Penta IPS600 engines with pod drives, Onan 13 kw genset, bow thruster, swim platform, Moabi wood interior finish, interior cushions, microwave/stove/refrigerator and more.|
|West Coast Dealer|
|Bayport Yachts, Newport Beach, Calif.;
(949) 631-0228; bayportyachts.com.
Sundance Yachts, Portland, Ore.;
Sundance Yachts, Seattle;
Posted: March 1, 2014 | Boat Type: Motoryacht
A pleasant surprise above, below and underwayI like boats. My mantra is, there’s no such thing as a bad boat, just bad uses for a particular design of boat. But truth be told, I’ve tested a few boats whose description may include words such as “silly,” “inexplicable” or even “a hot chocolate mess,” so I’m always leery of what I’ll find at the end of the dock on test day. Imagine my delight, then, when I stepped aboard the Prestige 500 Fly and realized it was a boat that offers good value, a smooth ride, a clever layout and fun surprises an owner will never tire of showing off.
Pedigree & Technology
The Prestige line is 20 years old, and more than 2,500 yachts from 35 to 75 feet have been built. There is a longevity here that suggests there has been time for refinement, and that is most certainly what I found. The Prestige 500 comes in two flavors, the Sport and the Flybridge. It’s expected that 80 percent of the models sold will be the Fly version like our test boat, which is attributed to Prestige Engineering but definitely shows the lines of Michael Peters.
The hard-chine hull was designed from scratch to accommodate Volvo Penta IPS pod drives, so there was no shoehorning of modern technology into an older hull. The IPS system revolutionized propulsion a few years ago with rudderless forward-facing props. The pods allow smaller engines that have better fuel economy to be used, and the placement of the engines is farther aft in the hull, which creates a better, roomier layout. But of course the star attraction of pods is that the boat handles in a precise manner, and in the case of the Prestige, one that glides along like a Cadillac.
I stepped onto the 3-foot-deep, teak-covered swim platform and discovered the optional retractable passerelle, which makes sense in Europe where Med mooring is de rigueur but is unlikely to be necessary in the States. Steps to both port and starboard lead from here up to the aft cockpit, which has a settee integrated into the transom that may be converted into a sunpad with the drop-down table and filler cushion.
Here’s where the Fly and the Sport versions differ. On the Sport, the entire settee raises to expose access to a garage that will hold a 10-foot dinghy with the outboard attached. The Fly model has an optional crew cabin below the settee. It has a roomy berth and its own head.
The cockpit isn’t huge but certainly comfortable for cocktails when it may be too windy to lounge on the flybridge. Our test boat has the optional retractable awning that extends from the fly top and out over the settee. To starboard is an optional recessed control station with two joysticks, one for the IPS and one for the bow thruster. Also to starboard is a standard aft windlass (a second optional winch is available on the port side).
A hatch on the cockpit sole provides access to the machinery space, which includes the engines and pods as well as 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.
Party Central (Times About 10)
Steps on the port side of the cockpit lead up to a large flybridge. The helm with full controls and navigation electronics is to port (opposite the interior helm). Visibility is good all the way to the bow, so you can see whoever is helping with anchoring or catching a mooring, but is obscured aft on the starboard quarter by the built-in L-shaped settee and the dining table. An enormous sunpad is next to the driver to starboard and will likely be a favorite hangout for many. An optional second galley behind the helm seat includes a sink, a refrigerator and an electric grill.
With a Bimini top to manage the elements, I can’t imagine why every sundowner wouldn’t take place right here in a very livable space that has just about everything except its own head.
Jeanneau, which builds Prestige yachts, leveraged its sailboat expertise to create well-sized sidedecks with high safety railings that lead from the middle of the aft cockpit all the way to the bow. It’s easy to get around the boat quickly. A triple-wide sunpad on the bow can lay flat or tilt up to form a chaise. An optional folding cabana provides shade at the head, and a cutout in the cushions at the center allows for the forward cabin hatch to be raised. Considering the aft cockpit, the flybridge and bow sunpad, there are at least three exterior areas that create separate conversation nooks and give the feeling of space to all aboard.
The interior shared social area is nicely tied together to form a great room of sorts. The aft galley has composite countertops (unfortunately without fiddles), plenty of storage overhead and below, and an entertaining island that adds additional storage but also can be a place to set hors d’oeuvres and drinks. A standup refrigerator/freezer combo is hidden behind matching wood paneling, and the oven is at knee level below the induction stovetop. A dishwasher is optional.
The salon is one step up, which provides a near 360-degree view even if you’re seated. Five to six people can be seated around the fold-out table to port, and a matching straight settee will fit additional guests to starboard. The Sport version includes a 36-square-foot sunroof that opens up to let even more light and air into the salon. The Flybridge model loses this sunroof but gains the very workable entertaining area up top.
There are some truly striking elements to the Prestige 500 Fly accommodations. First is that this 50-footer feels like a 60-footer inside. Every inch both forward/aft and across the beam has been incorporated into a functional interior layout that just works. Second is the amount of light that comes in from the full-panel windows, which include separate sections along the sides that open electrically. And third is the way each onboard space integrates with the others for a finely tuned flow. For example, the galley is aft and to port. From here the cook can pass meals forward to the port-side dinette or directly aft to the cockpit.
The divided floor plan is another standout feature. For maximum privacy, the master stateroom in the three-cabin, two-head layout has completely isolated access. Steps across from the galley lead down behind the starboard-side settee to a luxurious, full-beam master with a centerline queen bed and a port-side lounge that includes two seats and a vanity table next to a large window. Ample storage is in a cabinet along the starboard side, and the posh head with a separate step-down stall shower is forward. I have not seen this kind of separation for owner’s accommodations outside of superyacht territory.
An optional washer/dryer can be installed under the second set of steps that leads down from the salon to the forward guest quarters. To starboard is a shared bathroom that doubles as a day head. To port is a guest cabin with twin singles and good storage. The VIP cabin is in the bow with an island bed that splits into two single berths — just lift the aft end of both sections of the bed and pivot them outboard. Optional slats under the mattress allow air flow and also double as a ladder that can be used to exit via the overhead hatch in case of an emergency. If you’ve ever tried to climb out of a hatch that is just a bit too high, you’ll appreciate this thinking.
At the Helm
The helm to starboard is well laid out and compact, so most controls are easy to reach. Twin Raymarine e120 MFDs sit astride the wheel, with a full complement of rocker switches to the left. The Volvo Penta joystick is outboard, which is good for right-handed drivers, and a second joystick just aft is for the standard bow thruster.
The finish surprised me. The white headliner panels fit together well, and the helm dash was topped with a nonreflective paint that really cut the glare below the windshield. The hardware is top-notch, and the wood is engineered with perhaps a too-perfect grain but certainly a visual appeal. There’s very little about the finish that suggests this is a high-volume production build.
After a thorough walkthrough, Jeff Helsing of Bayport Yachts and I headed out for a ride on a sunny, warm winter afternoon to see what the Prestige 500 could do on the open ocean.
As we opened up the throttle outside the jetty, I actually noticed the lack of squeaks and rattles. The boat was solid, and the joinery held together well. We popped up on plane just shy of 2000 rpm with little bowrise and took off like a shot over calm water. To create a little disturbance, I maneuvered figure-8s in our own wake. Each time we crossed, there was barely a thump, and when we took the waves at an angle, they set up a bit of a roll but nothing serious.
The boat took the turns gracefully, because the IPS system will not allow an out-of-control turn, and the wheel was well behaved. We topped out at 3550 rpm and 28.2 knots of speed. Downwind we did a little better. Depending on the desired cruising speed, say between 16 and 20 knots, the range will be between 250 and 300 nautical miles with 340 gallons of fuel. Everything about the ride was calm and quiet. For a while underway, I sat out on the aft cockpit settee. I wasn’t bounced around at all and stayed dry even in the turns.
We did not need to raise our voices as we took off, because the noise level at the helm changed little. At Helsing’s urging, I went below to the master stateroom to listen as we sped along at nearly 25 knots. With the pods so far aft in the hull, there is little engine sound or vibration, even in the aft-most cabin. Back at the dock, Helsing started the genset, which sits abaft the master, and still there was little in the way of noise.
The base price of the Prestige 500 Fly is $815,000, and our test boat, with all the goodies including a six-unit A/C system, was just north of $1.1 million. That is still a good value that comes from the buying power afforded by Groupe Beneteau, which owns Jeanneau and Prestige. It is a well-thought-out costal cruiser that will get a couple and their guests to their destination quickly and will even accommodate a professional crew, though it hardly needs one. Mostly, it will allow the owner to walk guests through the myriad details and see their eyes light up with the clever surprises this boat has up its sleeve. And isn’t wowing people during happy hour at anchor half the fun of boating?