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