In the family way

Chris Beattie | VOLUME 24, ISSUE 1

The recent Club Marine Mandurah Boat Show provided an opportunity to sample Meridian’s impressive new 441 Sedan cruiser.

As far as family-friendly large cruisers go, they don’t come much friendlier than Meridian’s new 441 Sedan. The stylish flybridge cruiser is a welcoming craft, with plenty of open space for relaxation and recreation, whether indoors or out. In fact, the flybridge is a good example of how this boat is designed to make its passengers feel relaxed and at home.

Accessed via a fully moulded cockpit stairway and large in-floor hatch, the flybridge is a self-contained living and entertaining area on its own, with plenty of lounging space, that can convert to a sunpad – or double berth at a pinch, for extra accommodation.

Apart from the helm and associated hardware and electronics, there are refrigeration and cooking facilities so that a family or couple could realistically spend a whole day, or night, on the bridge without need to go below. It’s also very uncluttered and easy to move around, with plenty of visibility for the skipper and a lockable stairway hatch so the little ones can’t take a tumble. Other nice touches include plenty of good-sized drink holders and lots of grab-rails and hand-holds for when the going gets rough. The targa top offers good protection from the sun, while a full set of clears keeps the salt and wind at bay.

Skippers will appreciate the layout of the helm, with everything easy to hand and all instruments – our test boat was fitted with two Northstar 6100i plotter-sounder units – easy to read and navigate. The chair was bolstered and was a very accommodating perch from which to monitor the 441’s progress.

Speaking of which, the destination for the day was Hillarys Boat Harbour, north of Perth, which gave us plenty of time to become acquainted with the 441 and its features. It was a picture-perfect day with a near-flat sea, so I can’t comment on the 441’s heavy sea performance, but I can vouch for its relatively flat attack angle once on the plane, overall stability and the good response and performance of its twin Cummins 480T QSB diesels, which are the top-of-the-line optional powerplants.

TOTAL COMMAND

The 441 also boasted the Cummins Total Command Integrated Vessel Control System, which links the engines, gearboxes and stern and bow thrusters to provide manoeuvrability in all directions at the touch of the joystick. Having sampled various other ‘smart’ docking systems, I’d have to rate the Cummins system equal to anything I’ve tried. It was predictable, precise and confidence inspiring – yet another family-friendly feature of the 441. The only criticism I had for the on-water performance of the 441 was the steering, which felt a little heavy compared to other large craft in the class.

The heart and soul of the 441 lies behind the stainless-framed saloon doors. Inside is a very plush and well-appointed interior, the main deck housing the saloon, dining area and galley, one step separating the saloon from the raised galley/dinette.

Intelligent use of space has allowed designers to cram a lot into this area. The saloon can accommodate around seven, with two floating chairs to port and a lounge and floating table to starboard. Entertainment is provided by a 23in LCD TV and DVD player and the whole space is bathed in natural light, courtesy of large windows to the sides and front. Fully ducted air-conditioning further enhances comfort for those seeking sanctuary indoors.

The port-facing galley boasts a three-burner electric cooker, Karodan countertops, two stainless sinks, a large fridge/freezer unit, microwave and plenty of storage space. Opposite is a compact dinette that can seat four to five. Both the dinette and saloon lounge convert into double berths for more accommodation options.

Moving forward down a short flight of centrally-placed stairs reveals the plush master cabin, which boasts a queen-size island berth, with access to its own fully-moulded ensuite sit-down shower and head. Large cedar-lined lockers are a nice touch here, while there is plenty of extra storage under the mattress.

GLAMOUR

For a boat of this size, the full-beam, midships guest cabin is a real glamour feature that will be appreciated by its occupants. Visitors descend via three stairs into a space occupied by a queen-size bed surrounded by ample storage options in the form of lined lockers and drawers. While some height has been sacrificed over the bed due to the cabin’s placement under the saloon, it is still easy to kneel on the mattress without bumping anything while crawling in or out.

Those who need to apply cosmetics before greeting the day will appreciate the vanity area and counter space that is well lit by a pair of windows to port. An ensuite shower/head can also be accessed by a separate door for day guests.

A washer/dryer unit is concealed behind a folding door in the cabin’s rear bulkhead.

For those with a taste for the great outdoors, there is plenty of space in the cockpit to the rear and up front, which is an ideal spot for lounging on the sunpad and is accessed via sidedecks protected by nice, deep grab-rails. A large swim platform at the rear makes watersports an easy option.

The cockpit lounge easily accommodates four people and with the protection of the flybridge overhang, makes for a good outdoor entertaining area. There are rope lockers and a couple of well-concealed fender lockers in the steps to the walkaround on either side of the cockpit.

Engine access is via a large hatch in the cockpit floor. While there is some working space between the Cummins powerplants, overall maintenance access around the edges is, I would think, a bit tight. Not so limited, though, is the storage space available in the utility stowage pit under the saloon. Accessed by a hatch directly inside the saloon door, it is a spacious area that could accommodate all manner of gear, including an armoury of water toys and fishing equipment, with room to spare.

After a half-day in the company of Meridian’s 441 Sedan Bridge, I have to admit I came away very impressed. Designers have packed a lot of boat into this stylish and elegant craft. There is ample accommodation, recreation and entertainment space, overall finish is very good to excellent and the quality of the fittings and cherrywood cabinetry is superb.

There are many clever, practical touches on this boat, overall handling and manoeuvrability are very good and attention to detail is excellent. For a family that likes to spend a lot of time together on the water, it is definitely a worthy contender. And possibly its best feature is its price. At around $950,000 as tested, there are not too many other boats of equivalent size or quality in the running.

For more information, contact Berowra Waters Wholesale on 1800 802 444.

SPECIFICATIONS: MERIDIAN SEDAN 441

LOA: 14.3m

Beam: 4.3m

Draft: 1.2m

Dry weight: 14,162kg

Fuel: 1635lt

Water: 568lt

Power: 2 x Cummins 480T QSB diesels

Price: $950,000 (as tested)

Agent: Berowra Waters Wholesale, tel 1800 802 444.

On board the flagship

Joining us for our run from Mandurah to Hillarys Boat Harbour was Meridian’s 580 Pilothouse, which was undergoing sea trials prior to delivery to its new Queensland-based owners. Barry Wiseman went along for the ride …

The Meridian 580 Pilothouse is full of the latest technological developments and one of the most impressive is the Total Command Integrated Vessel Control System.

A gentle twist of the joystick and slight pressure to port and we move sideways off the refueling jetty. Another twitch of the stick and we clear the multi-million dollar line-up of luxury vessels and head for open water.

Being the first of its type in Australia from the Meridian Yachts factory in Washington State, the 580 turned many heads during the Mandurah show. And it’s already generated sales for the Avante Marine Group in Australia.

Managing Director of Avante Marine at Ascot in Perth, Maurits Hayim, said another vessel is now on order.

“Unlike many flybridge boats, where the lower helm is a bit of an after-thought, the pilothouse on this vessel is a focal point and crucial part, all within a short distance of the entertaining area in the saloon. The open flybridge is for clear days when you want fresh air, but when it cools down or the weather turns nasty, you take control from the lower station,” Hayim explained.

The pilothouse is spacious, light and airy and has 360-degree panoramic views for safety and ease when docking. The sliding door on the starboard side gives quick and easy access to the walkaround deck, plus the huge tinted glass side windows in the saloon provide the skipper with a good view while standing at the helm. There’s no need to climb the internal staircase to the flybridge if the weather is foul.

There are many outstanding features on this vessel, from the spacious engine room to the rich polished timber finish in the living areas, full domestic-size refrigeration in the galley and stylish staterooms.

Some people may be apprehensive about getting into a vessel such as this because they are worried they may not be able to handle it, especially when it comes to putting her in a pen. But the computerised docking system turns the most novice boat handler into an expert in no time at all.

When the system is activated at the push of a button at the helm, the steering wheel is disengaged and the skipper uses a tiny joystick to activate bow and stern thrusters in combination with the engines to send the vessel in whatever direction is required. The boat can be moved sideways, forward and backward, and turned on its axis.

“You just take it gently,” said skipper, Michael Collins. “This vessel is powered by twin 715 QSM Cummins diesel engines, but by using the joystick the thrusters and motors provide all the power you need when entering a marina or coming alongside. By back-thrusting, I can control the momentum and not actually touch the jetty. It takes a lot of the headache out of parking the boat. People who may have feared handling a vessel this size can now be confident within a very short time.”

The Meridian flagship has an overall length of 18m and a beam of just over 5m, allowing generous space for a range of first-class amenities, including the three stateroom layout. The main bedroom is located amidships on the port side and comes with a bath in the ensuite.

In the saloon, you have elegant lounge seating, with double recliner armchairs, state-of-the-art entertainment centre, plus a cocktail table. The galley has black granite benchtops, a four-burner electric cooktop, electric oven, and an 18 cubic foot stainless refrigerator, with separate freezer – a feature any serious long distance cruiser should be fitted with.

As well as the extensive range of Raymarine electronics, navigation and radar, the 580 Pilothouse comes with its own gen-set power-management system and a video monitoring system covering the transom and engine room; again features appreciated by skippers intent on heading far afield.

Heading out from Mandurah, we cruised comfortably at 37km/h using 180lt of diesel an hour. The vessel has a fuel capacity of just over 3000lt, 825lt of fresh water, and a 100lt/hr fresh water maker.

This particular boat retails for $2.25 million, but of course the drop in the Aussie dollar means you’ll be paying a bit more now.

For more information, contact Avante Marine in Perth, tel (08) 9478 3444.

– Barry Wiseman


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