John and his family are aboard a 2009 Lagoon 500 called S/V Wicked. He and his four kids and assorted pets and spouse have lived aboard boats for quite a few years from monohulls to a power catamarans. We’re going to learn a little bit about the Lagoon 500.
Key Takeaways of Lagoon 500
- Enormous salon with multiple places to sit. Galley that four people can stand in. A pantry. Many small cabin spaces for many people.
- Was the flagship of the Lagoon fleet in her day, so they invested all their resources as a company to show off what they could do.
- Built 150 hulls of the Lagoon 500 so there is good availability on the used market and many have crossed oceans or circumnavigated. Likely find one anywhere in the world.
- She will do seven and a half knots sipping fuel at 1800 rpm all day long. She carries a thousand liters of diesel, so she has a thousand nautical mile range under power alone.
- The flybridge helm is great – dry, has excellent visibility and has seating for 6 people.
- Cockpit is large and nicely enclosed with only one exit, so that is great for smaller children and having the cockpit be more secure.
- The 500 came in a three cabin model which has a dedicated owner hull, a four cabin version which has a large owner cabin, and a five cabin which had a small master and bunk beds.
Challenges of the Lagoon 500
- Requires help to dock. Came with backup cameras as you cannot see the stern ends of the boat when backing up from flybridge helm.
- Eats lines because the sail drives are mounted aft of the rudders. They are exposed to lines when going backwards, and there are often lines in the water at docks that get wrapped around the propellers.
- The boom is very high and it is difficult to get to in order to for example zip up the sail bag. They put a hardtop bimini and fly the kids up on a halyard to help address this. They also less often zip up the mailsail bag.
- Sails at 5 knots in 10 knots of breeze 45 to 60 degrees off the wind. John usually motor sails.
- Hard to tack in light winds.
- Transoms are old style than newer designs and lack the beach type platform which would be nice to have.
Tell us a bit about yourself
We’ve been around boats for almost 20 years. The first time my kids went sailing (my oldest is 20) was when she was four months old.
We’ve had a boat ever since then. We started with monohulls and then we migrated to catamarans. We went to catamarans because with four kids we needed room.
Back in 2012 I sold my business, and we decided to take a year sabbatical. We found a 43-foot Lagoon power catamaran, and we went cruising the Caribbean. Three years later we outgrew that boat and really understood what we wanted and specifically looked for a Lagoon 500.
Back in 2017 we purchased our Lagoon 500 and migrated from one boat to the other. We’ve been on her since.
Can you tell me what it was about the Lagoon 500?
The more we spent time on boats and different boats and before we had purchased any catamaran we had chartered six different models over the previous six or seven years. While we owned the monohull when we go on charter on vacations somewhere, we usually looked to charter a catamaran.
We used it as a way to learn about what we wanted, so we’ve tried the Leopards, the Fountain Pajots, the Lagoons, Catanas and an Endeavour catamaran. We tried an Endeavour for a while for one of our cruises.
And there were attributes of each boat that we liked. Having lived on board a boat, it was very different than the four weeks we had spent chartering which was the maximum amount of time.
We learned that we wanted a boat with lots of individual rooms or places to be. So with four kids on board I still kind of run a business out of our home in this case the boat and homeschooling and everything else we knew we wanted bigger.
Our 43 was too small. We wanted a saloon where people could actually sit in multiple places. We wanted a kitchen where three or four people could stand in it. We wanted a pantry which is kind of weird right, but we realized that we wanted a place where you could store stuff. We didn’t want to keep going into the bilges to pull stuff in and out on daily use.
The more we looked around in different boats the 500 series of the Lagoons which we first saw 10 years ago was always out of our price range, and they had just gotten to the point now or three years ago where they became somewhat affordable for us.
We loved how big she felt, and then there’s a lot of other attributes of the 500 but specifically when we were looking for a boat we were thinking 45 to 60 footer. We wanted to find the biggest smallest boat if that makes sense that we could get to, and the 500 was excellent at almost 29 feet of beam and 50 feet long.
She has a gorgeously large salon area. That was our core attraction to her.
Tell me about sailing her. How about getting in and out of marinas? Do you need every kid on deck to give you a hand?
That’s a great question. Whatever boat we purchased, we knew that we wanted to be able to be short-handed, so what’s nice about the 500 was she’s full electric meaning all the winches are electric. She was Lagoon’s flagship where Lagoon had designed and spent most of their effort, “this is what we can do with a boat.” That was back then.
When that boat came out she was right at the top of their range, and she was the first of the large next generation boats that they had.
You asked about maneuvering. I can sail the boat on my own. The only caveat I would say is docking and line handling right. Unless the weather is perfect I need someone to toss a line and grab a line.
But maneuvering in and out is really easy. She’s got her sail drives aft of the rudders to protect the sail drives when you’re underway, but that also means that she steers backwards quite nicely.
Now the downside to that is that she also likes to eat lines from the rear. You’re going to chew a line backing up if you don’t pay attention. It took me about three or four entrances before I kind of went all right you know we have to make sure there’s nothing in the water and never our lines to be fair was never our lines but someone’s lines were always there.
The 500 is very easy. It’s a flybridge boat which we love the idea of. She handles very well under power. Because we spent the last two summers in the med and the med has very fluctuating winds. She will do seven and a half knots at sipping fuel at 1800 rpm all day long. She carries a thousand liters of diesel, so she’s got a thousand nautical mile range under power alone.
Tell me about her under sail. Have you been in rough weather?
We have not crossed any oceans with S/V Wicked. When we purchased Wicked, she was in Turkey. We’ve been as far as Gibraltar, so we’ve done the entire Med, and then we’re heading back towards Turkey.
We will stay in the Med for a little bit longer. We wanted an ocean crossing boat, and the reason that the 500 was always on our list is there are 150 of them made and there are dozens that have crossed. So our boat was originally purchased by an Australian. They sailed it to Australia from France. From Australia it sailed back to the Med. Was owned by a Spaniard. The he sold it to an Egyptian, and then we’re the fourth owner if you will. So our boat’s been around the world already.
Many 500s have been, so that was the kind of important thing. I didn’t want to buy something that nobody’s ever crossed on. I wanted the ability to do it.
What kind of weather systems have you been in with her? How does she handle strong winds because I know you do get those in the Med?
We’ve been in some significant blows. The biggest difference that you would find in coastal or near coastal which is what we’ve been doing is that you don’t get the giant rollers. You’ll get steep seas which is probably harder on you and the boat than the big ocean or swells
We don’t have a lot of experience with ocean swells which is not that big of an issue, but we do have a lot of experience in 35 to 40 knots of wind when a Meltemi blows through or a strong gust comes off the mountains in Europe. She handles perfectly. She loves 15 knots to 20 knots of wind speed. We reef the first point at 20 knots. Honestly if we know that it’s going to pick up we’ll reef at about 18 knots, and then she’ll comfortably sail all day long.
She doesn’t slap, and everything we’ve seen we like. She’s got a fly bridge, so it’s rare to get any spray up there even when we’re pounding into the waves, and it gives really good visibility.
Are you up there when you come in to dock?
Absolutely. In our previous boat, a Lagoon 43 power cat. The power cat has a flybridge steering, and an inside steering. What we quickly realized is we love this fly bridge routine. It’s beautiful visibility on the 500.
It’s got a big seating area, so all six of us can seat up on the fly bridge. We did an upgrade and put a full bimini on it because our experience in the Caribbean was that we like being outside, but we don’t want to be sun drenched the whole time. Our solid bimini covers the whole area up top.
Your visibility is perfect. I can’t see the rear corners when we back in. So that’s actually one of the limitations on this boat and on many others. You can’t see the rears, so it came with cameras.
I removed them because we never use them, and usually it’s all about line handling. If i’m backing into a marina by myself, that’s not going to happen because I can’t do the line handling, so there’s always someone on board or if there isn’t and i’m not going to do that maneuver.
I will side tie somewhere and wait for someone to help us.
What’s nice about being up on the fly bridge, you can jump to either side. I can literally take one stride to the left look down one side and see the end of the boat one stride to the right look down the other side to see the boat. So it’s not as limiting as you would think, but when you’re sitting there steering you can’t see the aft corner.
So the Lagoon 500 is very easy to sail by yourself?
Her beam makes her very stable. She has decent enough clearance underneath. We don’t slap even in the short waves. We pound like anybody pushing into two meter chop. It is horrible. Usually it’s like turn around we’re going the other direction for a while.
The only negative is how high the boom is. If you’re standing, the boom is above. The 500 is weird because when you’re standing on the deck the boom is about chest height. Then you’re stepping into the fly steering area and that puts the boom overhead. So you can’t get to the sail bag.
I wish I had spoken to more 500 owners before we got on board and that would have made our discovery much easier. In our previous boat after absolutely every day of sailing, we would zip up the the bag and then the next day zip it open. Now with the 500 our approach is if we’re sailing for the week and we’re moving every day at night, we don’t zip the bag.
Also our solid bimini has walking areas, so we immobilize the boom with two straps on the back, so the boom’s held in place. You climb up the bimini. You can walk along it and at that point you’re sitting over top of it.
So you find ways around it, but we upgraded our bimini to alleviate the problem. You still have to climb on top of the roof to get to it, but at that point I have full access and now because I have so many kids usually they all want to do something, so we usually end up putting one in a bosun’s chair and setting them up. They have a good time, and they unzip the bag and you know if we’re stationary for a couple of days. We’ll pull the halyard off, tie it to the side, so we don’t hear the banging and then zip the bag up right.
Everything drops into the sail bag anyways, so the real challenge ends up being to zip open and close the sail bag.
Tell me about her in light wind because big heavy boat. What do you need to move her?
My first boat was a Swan, so she was a nice deep keeled very responsive boat.
Our next boat was a charter 43 monohull which didn’t point very well, but still moved and it felt like a sailboat. It was great.
Our next boat was a power cat, and I’m like this looks awesome. All i do is set the throttles and don’t have to worry anything about it?
We went to the 500 because we wanted ocean crossing range, and we wanted a bigger boat and 500 motors great and sails significantly well.
I’ll put my caveat there which means usually I didn’t go sailing if the wind was under 10 to 12 knots because I didn’t want to do three or four knots.
What we found and then we met some cruising friends who happened to be a sail maker and he was on a on a Fountaine Pajot 46, and he’s like, “John, you should sail that thing. It should have great sailing ability.” I’m like yeah if it’s 50 knots we’ll go seven and a half. He’s like, “no you should do it in ten.” I’m like I’m not sailing in ten, we’re gonna do four. He goes,”well you can get five.”
We sailed from the coast of Spain to Mallorca. He and I did, and in somewhere between 8 to 10 knots of wind, we were pointing 60 degrees to 45 degrees. She was handling well. She was easily doing five knots, so i think if you want to go sailing she sails remarkably well in the lighter stuff.
She’s hard to tack like most catamarans are especially in the light winds, but we were comfortably doing 50 percent half the speed of the wind.
Tell me about the inside.
I believe the 500 was the last of the liveaboard designs that Lagoon put together. I’ll make that claim. I don’t know if that’s true or not. There are features on the 500 that make her not great for charter, and those features that don’t make her great for charter make her excellent for living aboard.
In the 440s which is kind of the 500s kind of little sister it’s like 70% of a 500 is very similar right.
What we like in the 500 as far as the features is the salon is much bigger than you would expect for a 50-foot boat. We’ve been on Privileges 585 which is the other boat we considered or a Privilege 615 and our salon is bigger than theirs.
It has a step down kitchen. The kitchen is actually offset only by about six inches. One step lower. You can be sitting in the kitchen and be kind of eye level looking out the boat nicely. You can be talking to the people who are sitting in the salon.
Our salon table seats ate comfortably. We’ve had 14 people for dinner inside the boat. Four people cooking at the same time.
The boat came with four refrigerators from the factory, a dedicated freezer and two fridges and then a bar fridge outside. This is all standard kind of from the design
There’s i think probably three characteristics that make the 500 unique and i haven’t found another boat that’s very similar to it. We like the asymmetric cockpit outside. Unlike most charter cats where you want to be able to get out and into the water back and forth easily we only have one way in and out, so we are captive. It’s an asymmetric design, so it’s very enclosed which makes our cockpit area very safe.
There’s kind of like a door to get out and then when the screens are down we have a separate room with a nice table with big u-shaped seating that can seat eight people on the outside. We liked that an awful lot. You can have six or seven people sitting for dinner outside and people still coming and going not being interrupted.
Most of the modern catamarans they’re much more kind of walk through the back to get to the outside. I know that wasn’t a popular thing in the charter market for the 440s and the 500s, but for us that is a great.
We immediately get into our cockpit, take our life jackets off because you can’t fall out you can’t fall out back. It feels very safe and secure which i think makes it important for crossing. It makes it important with smaller kids. Ours are a little older now, but she would have been a perfect boat with toddlers because there’s no way out.
So we love the cockpit.
The other thing we really liked is this boat had a pantry. You step down into the hull on the port side hall there is a good 10 foot room. The hallway right between the front and the back. In that 10 foot room is our built-in two refrigerators and our laundry facilities and a big counter that’s six feet long where you can stack all your stuff on top of and there’s cabinets on the inside and there’s cabinets underneath.
We also like the fact that most boats when they say they have a master’s cabin they’re talking about an owner’s hull. They dedicate the entire hull of the boat to the owner. The 500 in the four cabin layout has a very large owner’s cabin, so it’s kind of like a regular cabin plus what would have been the pantry area dedicated to the owner. In our master we actually have a full sitting desk which is great to work on most of them have sofas.
You have an owner’s cabin version with a dedicated large area for the owner without giving up that fourth cabin. Do the kids have the space they need?
The 500 came in a three cabin model which has a dedicated owner hull, a four cabin version which is what we ended up with, and a five cabin which had a smaller master, and they added bunk beds.
We wanted the four cabin because we wanted the big master, so we have a four cabin model. Two of my kids share. One of them is at university. Only two kids are on board now. They have dedicated cabins, and a guest cabin it’ll be the sleepover boat.
Do you have any other critiques of the Lagoon 500?
Maybe her transoms are dated. There are the older style transoms that don’t have a big beach in the back or a big landing area.
What I do particularly like about that boat seems to have decent bones. You see lots of people. It’s an active community especially on the 440 because there’s so many more of those doing modifications and adding to the boats and modifying their transoms and re-putting different stuff inside.
The boat wasn’t built as a kind of throwaway. The second we could see more and more of that, we’re like okay this is perfect. So this boat has a community associated with it. People are investing money to keep it so you talk to many of the 500 or 440 owners rather than buying a new 450 or a new 52.
They would put money into their existing boat to upgrade it competitively or comparably to the new 52s, probably a little bit better.
Are there any projects that you see yourself doing on your Lagoon 500?
We upgraded all of the electrical systems to lithium, so we have a full lithium battery system on board now. We got rid of all the propane so we’re a single fuel boat. We only run diesel. All our cooking is electric. We have solar panels.
Our big upgrade since buying the boat was the lithium battery system and all the electric cooking that went along with it and then our large bimini which really increased our quality of life.
I would like to kind of make some changes to carry a larger dinghy in the back. We’re a very active family, and we like being the boat where everybody gets to so that was the home we grew up with.
All the kids were always at us, so on our boat we carry dive equipment for six people. All my daughters are are certified. We have a dive compressor on board. We carry two sailing dinghy, so we have two 12-foot sailing dinghy with us. When we’re at anchor, we splash the sailing dinghies and the paddle boards and everything else. The 500 just swallows all of that stuff up.
I can sail it as effectively as I could the Catana 47 that I was on for many years. I love that boat, but I would never give up my 500 for it.
If you would swap her for any other boat is there anything else out there that you’d swap her for?
People always keep looking for the next boat, so I keep going through that. I really like the Garcia Explocat 52s. I wonder if they could build a 500 version in aluminum, so you could go to the south pole and check out all the icebergs and stuff.
I don’t know that i would ever sail in those areas i just like the idea of it.
My next upgrade would be more than likely just comfort of living. We want to change out its refrigeration. Put modern fridges in it. We’re still in the original 10 year old fridges that are in there which are fine, and we will probably switch to very high efficient home units that are built today. They’re more efficient than what we have.
We’re fully air conditioned and heated. There’s very little that’s missing on our boat. I don’t have boat envy which is rare.