Ferretti 500

The Ferretti 500 pampers owners with a soft ride and luxurious Italian styling.

The editors at Yachting have noticed a steady growth of luxury yachts positioned in the 50-to-60-foot category. Yachts in this range have proven a happy medium for cruising couples transiting up or down the LOA scale, since they are manageable with minimal crew and offer large social areas. Savvy builders such as Ferretti Yachts have taken note. The Italian builder's latest launch to hit U.S. shores, the 500, is poised to take advantage of the trend. She offers a great ride and a group-friendly interior.

I'm a big fan of convertible designs for their large cockpits and single-level saloon arrangements. The Ferretti 500 embraces a convertible-inspired layout, but with Italian style.

"We have concentrated mostly on the interiors, increasing both headroom and interior volume on our products", said Jim Varela, product manager for Ferretti Yachts at Ferretti Group USA. In my opinion, this approach works.

The 500's saloon is a visual feast. The windshield is tall, as is the headroom. The seating is inviting, and the galley is tucked away yet in the heart of the action-near but not detracting from the saloon. The soft hues, light-color joinery and inlays create an openness that belies the 500's concise 15-foot beam. The saloon has a flat-screen TV, a stereo, a soft-leather settee, ash inlays overhead and a coffee table that opens for dining.

A few steps down on the starboard side is the galley. While there is space for only the cook, he can create on granite counters, easily serve meals and stay within earshot of the saloon. Bulk stowage is a bit light, but the 500 provides other areas for that. Ferretti supplies dining service for six. The galley is large enough for an upright refrigerator and a three-burner cooktop with an exhaust fan.

Even on larger yachts, lower helms often have restrictions of visibility or access. Scratch those off the list on the 500. First of all, the single-pane windshield is far forward of the helm and luxuriously tall. When seated at the well-cushioned helm seat, behind the stylish Ferretti wheel and one-piece molded console, the skipper has unhindered lines of sight forward and aft. Beside the helm seat is a stainless-steel stanchion, which has wood treads for quick access to the bridge deck. Outboard is the ship's precisely labeled electrical panel.

Near the helm and on each side of the house, a section of the window can be opened for natural ventilation. Opposite the helm is a dinette, which is sure to be a favorite spot.

The 500 replaces the 48 and has a hull design (cored from the chine up) similar to that of her 46-foot sibling. It is a nicely performing platform, offering skipper and guests a peaceful ride inside and out. Ferretti engineered the 500 to be quiet under way; she has extensive sound-dampening material in the engineroom and a fiberglass underwater exhaust system. A large section of the exhaust is derived from the hull form itself, and two silencers are in the after corners of the boat. They work well-decibel levels did not exceed 78, even at full load.

Our test ride took place in 15- to 18-knot northeasterlies, and the 500 handled the 3- to 5-footers well. She navigated the head sea smartly during our short stay at the top of the rpm curve; entry was reasonably tender even at 31 knots. At an easygoing 1650 rpm, our speed was 21 knots, fuel burn was 41 gallons per hour, decibel levels in the saloon were a quiet 72, and the ride was sweet. Beam-to the seas, the 500 sat patiently in the trough-in part due to her 4-foot, 10-inch draft.

Varela proved she is responsive in tight quarters, as well. The original slip had us starboard-to, outboard of a 33-foot center console, braced by a dock and a large yacht. To move the Ferretti dockside, Varela, with a cell phone in one hand and the center console lashed broadside, simply applied liberal amounts of bowthruster, jockeyed the main engines and spun both boats into the berth with ease.

"She makes a good towboat, as well", Varela said with a smirk.

Some Americanization had our test boat utilizing the pair of optional aft crew cabins for stowage. This is a capital idea, since cruisers will appreciate the washer/dryer or an extra freezer more than they would unusable berths.

A passerelle, positioned over the spacious swim platform, doubles as a gangway and tender davit. (There are also removable gates for side boarding.) Ferretti created a garage within the platform to house a PWC; folding doors smoothly open electrically for access to the compartment.

The cockpit area, more than 7 feet deep, has the feel of a convertible thanks to its volume. Here, you'll find access to the two stowage/crew quarters, as well as a large hatch leading to the twin 700 hp MAN engines, which are coupled to V-drives.

Interior volume does exact a price, so on the 500, the engineroom is workable but tight. The engines are relatively close together, but the large opening hatch above facilitates general maintenance. The after bulkhead is readily accessible and houses the breaker panel, battery charger and inverter. Items requiring less maintenance, such as the batteries, are in harder-to-reach spots forward of the engines. The chilled-water system for the air-conditioning is accessible on the starboard side. A freshwater system is cleanly piped and neatly labeled with two easy-to-find manifold banks: one in the engineroom and the other beneath the sole in a guest cabin. Ferretti uses a 13kW Mase generator, crash pumps and FRP fuel cells.

The 500 has a three-stateroom, two-head layout, which provides a good-size master cabin and almost identical guest cabins. While I found the descent to the accommodations fairly comfortable, some guests might find the trip up the molded steps a bit steep. A handrail might be all that is needed.

The master cabin has only two sizeable drawers, but the builder makes up for this with exceptionally deep lockers. Thanks to convenient side steps, you should be able to climb into the queen berth with ease. Controls for air-conditioning are at arm's length, even if you're reclining. Two portlights and an overhead hatch naturally light the space.

The portside guest cabin has greater headroom, since it is under the helm and not the galley. Both cabins have side-by-side berths. The master and day heads are quite spacious, nearly 5 feet wide, though using the smallish circular showers might be challenging.

In my years of conducting boat tests, many builders have said yachtsmen spend only a small portion of their time aboard belowdecks. The 500's bridge deck, accessed via a cockpit ladder, is a reflection of this belief. Settees with stowage underneath will accommodate a large group, and a console is provided for the optional barbecue, fridge and sink. Equally important, the helmsman has unobstructed views of his craft. A radar arch angles gently from the deck.

Side decks are wide and have suitable protection for roving crewmembers. Large sunpads are at reasonable angles and have cutouts nearby for whatever you bring forward. A windlass, which feeds the chain into a large locker, addresses anchoring chores.

The Ferretti 500's low profile will please coastal cruisers. She incorporates the traits of the American convertible many have become so fond of. Her style, impressive cockpit and saloon layout will be attractive to those looking for an alternative to the full-blown motoryacht design.

Contact: MarineMax, (888) 71-YACHT; www.marinemaxyachts.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877