I was recently aboard Meridian's new 391 Sedan.
Here are some observations and a general description (not a "review")
of the boat. Persons who object to this type of material are invited to
click on the next thread.
Quiet but not Shy, Meridian's 391 Crowd Pleaser
Boat builders emphasize a variety of attributes to position their
products in various segments of the market. While only a tiny
percentage of recreational boaters will ever make an ocean crossing,
there are vast numbers of boats sold every year to people who buy Brand
X or Brand Y because it "could" make such a crossing, if desired.
Boaters who do little or no deep-sea sportfishing will appreciate the
qualities inherent in the design of boats that are famous as
sportfishers and purchase them for yacht club social cruising, summer
gunkholing, or family weekend adventuring. Meridian Yachts, introduced
just a few years ago by Brunswick Corporation, have become well
regarded as some of the most user-friendly and comfortable boats
available. While not everybody cares whether their boat could make a
passage to Tahiti or is set up to troll for billfish off the Mexican
Coast, nearly everyone wants a comfortable and convenient boat. Perhaps
that's why Meridians are selling in greater numbers every year.
Brunswick's deep pockets have allowed an accelerated product
development schedule at Meridian. Some early critics of the trademark
quickly and less than correctly wrote off the brand as "nothing new
at all, just re-badged Bayliners" but there is very little
resemblance between any of the latest Meridian Yachts and the Bayliner
Motoryachts that were Brunswick's mass-market, top-selling, midsize
offerings in the past.
Among the very newest Meridian models is the 391 Sedan. The first hull
in the Pacific NW was on display at the Seattle Boat Show, and
Nor'westing was invited to test the boat at Olympic Yacht Center in
Seattle during the following week. Larry Abraham, a veteran sales
representative with over 15 years experience at Olympic, was our host
for the morning.
Specifications and Overview:
Meridian's 391 is a flybridge sedan with a bold styling theme.
Proportions are important, and the classic proportions of the 391 allow
some imaginative (and attractive), departures from traditional box
styling to blend well into a harmonious, salty looking whole. It's
the loss of expected proportion, as much as the avant garde styling
touches, that causes many modern boats to look contrived or gimmicky,
and Meridian successfully walked the line that brings a modern refresh
to a traditional sedan concept. The 391 includes two rows of windows
and a broad windshield to flood the salon with natural light and
provide excellent visibility whether seated or standing in the main
cabin. The flybridge extends over most of the cockpit, and a jaunty
radar arch is set so far aft that it terminates above or perhaps
slightly beyond the transom.
LOA: 40' 11"
Beam: 13' 11"
Dry weight: 23,740 pounds
Meridian has paid careful attention to nearly every aspect of the deck
and exterior layout of the 391 Sedan, and seems to have looked for
opportunities to include value and enhance user comfort at every
opportunity. There is a broad swimstep, with a built in boarding ladder
on the port side and a covered passageway for the shorepower cable to
starboard. The 50-amp shorepower cable itself stows in a transom locker
immediately above the swimstep "gully", so when the shorepower
cable is deployed there is no need for any portion of it to drape
across a deck or swimstep area and present a tripping hazard. The
non-skid cockpit includes a fender stowage well under both the port and
starboard steps to the sidedeck, and we noticed that Meridian has
thoughtfully included a drain in each fender well. Stowing fenders is
one of the challenges seldom addressed by many manufacturers, and it is
thoughtful of Meridian to provide designated, built in compartments for
at least two fenders.
The side decks and safety rails appeared adequate for confident passage
from the cockpit to the foredeck, and we put this design feature to the
test while retrieving lines and fenders after leaving the dock. Even a
"full size" adult male can traverse the side deck without resorting
to sidestepping, and there were handrails where needed each step of the
way forward. One of the few "isms" we noted was the lack of an
intuitively placed rail to use for support when returning aft and
stepping down from the side deck into the cockpit, (particularly with a
large fender in hand). One would quickly learn to use the existing
rails to find adequate and proper support, but it seemed to this
observer as though an additional, short rail would have been
The 391 foredeck is only slightly crowned near the forepeak, providing
user-friendly footing when operating the ground tackle. The bow of the
391 is ever so slightly and relatively rounded, providing more deck
space and increasing cabin room below. There are beverage holders and
two dedicated areas for "sunpad" cushions, allowing the foredeck to
double as a tanning salon when at the dock or at anchor.
Access to the battery control panel and the aft starboard quarter of
the engine room is available under the hinged flybridge stairs on the
starboard side of the cockpit. This external access is a thoughtful
feature sure to be appreciated when used engine oil or mechanical
components need to be removed from the engine room- there is no need to
drag potentially soiling materials through the carpeted salon. For
stand-up servicing, three hatches in the salon can be removed to
provide access to the engine room as well.
In about a decade, access to flybridges has advanced from vertical
ladders, to narrow molded steps, and finally to wide, easily negotiated
molded steps found on boats like the Meridian 391. One can easily
imagine carrying trays of snacks or beverages up to the flybridge with
minimal fuss or risk at the dock or in a moderate sea state.
The flybridge will seat two or three guests on a port watch seat
opposite the starboard helm, with room for an uncrowded 5-6 additional
adults in a large settee to port. An optional refrigerator or icemaker
can be installed on the flybridge to complement the beverage service
sink. The helm is to starboard, with very good sight lines in all
directions but one does need to look down the flybridge stairs to get a
workable view immediately aft of the transom (important for backing up
to a float in a marina).
Boats about 40-feet in length are popular choices among regional
cruisers, as they are small enough to be handled by almost anyone, fit
into the most commonly available slips, and still large enough offer
full feature comfort for owners and guests. Meridian's 391 sedan will
pamper four adults in two deluxe staterooms, with a few "converted"
options in the salon available as well.
The master stateroom is most forward, with a centerline bunk headed
against the chain locker bulkhead and featuring a thick, comfy,
innerspring mattress. The bunk would probably classify as a queen,
rather than king size. His and hers hanging lockers are to starboard
and port, with private access to the vessel's VacuFlush head and
vanity sink to port and private access to the shower stall (and second
vanity sink) to starboard. With well over 6-feet of standing headroom
in the master stateroom, few boaters will be required to "stoop"
when dressing or relaxing in the stateroom.
Guests will enjoy a much nicer than standard guest stateroom, aft of
the master stateroom and to starboard. There is a step "down" to
the guest stateroom, where an angled double bunk is located immediately
below the dinette on the main deck. While there isn't standing
headroom next to the guest berth, there is more than enough clearance
to prevent any feeling of claustrophobia. When dressing, guests will
find ample standing room next to the hanging locker at the foot of the
guest berth. Guests can access the shower from their stateroom without
stepping into the central companionway, but must cross the companionway
to reach the head. This thoughtful aspect of the 391 design reflects
the very practical recognition that most people will value privacy far
more when exiting the shower than when leaving the head.
As nice as the staterooms are, (and that's very), the highlights of
the 391 interior are surely the galley and the salon. Especially the
salon. The galley is to port, "down" a step from the main deck
level of the salon and "up" a step from the lower deck staterooms.
A stainless sink and an electric two-burner cooktop are concealed under
inserts that extend the workspace on the engineered composite
countertop when the sink or cooktop is not needed. Baking and warming
are accomplished with a built in convection/microwave oven. There are
no upper lockers aside from the joinery supporting the
microwave/convection oven, so at first glance one might conclude that
stowage is unduly limited in the 391 galley. Further investigation
reveals that a 7.5 cu ft.
Nova Kool, dual door, refrigerator freezer, four deep drawers, a hatch
in the teak and holly galley sole, a deep locker with a lighted,
built-in "lazy Susan" between the cooktop and the sink, and another
locker below the sink itself will stow enough crockery and provisions
to allow the 391 to spend a few days or more "on the hook" without
worrying about running out of food or beverages.
The salon in the 391 seems to say; "here's a bright, relaxing, and
comfortable place to sit a spell." Carpeting is standard throughout
the boat, (except in the head, shower, and galley), and Meridian has
chosen a quality weave with a thick, premium pad. The Meridian
headliner incorporates full-length air ducts to distribute heat or AC
from the reverse cycle air conditioning system. The ducts provide a
constant flow of high volumes of air, without creating the sensation of
a hot or cool "breeze" anywhere in the salon, and the filters are
easily reached for service behind a drop-down section of the headliner.
Even in mid January, on a heavily overcast Seattle morning, there was
enough natural light in the salon that the automatic flash didn't
fire for some of the photos.
When not connected to shorepower, a generator tucked away back in the
lazarette powers heating, air conditioning, and cooking. One impression
that was formed, repeatedly, on the Meridian 391 was how remarkably
well Meridian had soundproofed the boat. We were aboard, at the dock,
for about 25 minutes before I realized the AC current powering the
reverse cycle heaters was coming from the on board generator, rather
than through a shorepower cable. The generator wasn't merely
"quiet" in the salon, it was (to my ears) completely inaudible. One
important factor in the quiet operation of the generator is its
underwater exhaust. The tell tale splash-splash that accompanies most
generator exhaust systems was non-existent, with only a stream of small
bubbles off the port side of the swim step indicating that the
generator was operating at all.
The interior wood used throughout is cherry, and the finish is very
nicely done. Larry Abraham explained how it is applied at Meridian.
"First of all the wood is cut on c&c routing machines, which allows
us to create uniform pieces that fit to within a few thousandths of an
inch. Once the wood has been cut, it goes to a special finishing oven.
The wood is put into the oven, sprayed with a primer, sprayed with the
stain, and then sprayed with the final finish. UV rays accelerate the
curing and drying of the finish, and this process is repeated four more
times to give the wood items their deep luster and protection from
stains. When the wood emerges from the oven the finish is dry, hard,
and ready to handle. The process that used to take many hours of drying
time to complete is now faster and better than before."
The salon is laid out with a dinette on a raised platform most forward
on the starboard side. A leatherette settee, configured as a lazy L,
wraps around a large, solid cherry tabletop. When ordered with the
optional lower helm, this dinette area is eliminated by the raised
platform ensures enhanced visibility for anyone seated in this area,
whether dining or operating the boat.
Aft of the dinette, Meridian has positioned an Ultraleather settee.
There are matching "recliner" sections in the standard settee, and
Larry Abraham commented that a settee with a pullout bunk was also
available. Meridian builds its own salon table, a stout but compact
item with an impressive burled top.
On the port side of the salon are two matched Ultraleather easy chairs
flanking a center table. The table includes a locker and drawer, and
additional stowage is available in the base of the chairs. An
entertainment center with an LCD flat screen TV, surround sound
stereo/DVD player, an icemaker, and (behind two locker doors) the
vessel's AC and DC distribution panels is in the aft port quarter of
Larry pulled the three hatch covers to expose the engine room beneath
the cabin sole. The access under the flybridge steps would be more
convenient if there were a number of guests in the salon, but opening
the hatch allowed a clean and uninterrupted view of the engine
Our test boat was fit with twin Cummins 380-HP QSB engines, (an
The engines are mounted on "L" brackets that are secured to the
stringers, rather than mounted on the stringers directly. In effect,
the engines are suspended between the center and outer stringers.
"Changing to this engine mounting system allowed Meridian to reduce
the noise and vibration that would transfer to the boat through the
stringers, without sacrificing strength," said Larry.
"These advanced series engines meet all the EPA requirements, they
produce almost zero smoke, and they are more fuel efficient as well as
a bit higher in horsepower," remarked Larry. "The engines have
electronic control systems that are tied into the SmartCraft gauges at
We noted that some 110-volt lights allowed excellent visibility in the
engine room. Through hulls below the waterline were large, stout,
bronze fittings. The stainless shafts were a full 2-inches in diameter,
with dripless shaft seals. Hoses and wires were routed neatly and
intelligently. Engine servicing is made easier with remote-mounted fuel
filters that eliminate the need to crawl between the outboard side of
the engine and the gunwale to remove filters during an oil change.
Workmanship throughout the engine room is certainly on par with many
vessels selling for figures well above the Meridian's price bracket.
Docking or undocking a Meridian is a much easier process than with most
boats. All Meridian Yachts include bow thrusters and stern thrusters as
standard equipment. The thrusters are coordinated through a
"joystick" system called "D.O. C." (Docking on Command). To
move the 391 sideways away from the dock, a skipper need merely give a
sideways nudge to the boat shaped joystick handle and the boat's
thrusters will cause it to respond in an identical manner.
"When my daughter was 19, she docked a boat about his size on her
second try using the D.O.C system and without any previous docking
experience," said Larry. "She had always been afraid to attempt to
dock, but this system made it so easy she figured it out almost
A Northstar Marine Electronics single screen display at the helm
handles chartplotting, radar imaging, fuel consumption calculations,
and more. Not too many years ago a small flock of independent
electronic devices would have been needed to collect and report all the
data provided by this single screen. A lighted compass, a large readout
Northstar fathometer, and a VHF radio are standard equipment on the
We ran our sea trial without rigging the canvas flybridge enclosure. As
a result, it was just a bit chilly on the bridge in mid January. Had we
rigged the enclosure, we could have captured some of the heat from two
heater outlets that were pumping plenty of warm air to the bridge and
no doubt would have been quite comfortable.
We motored through the north end of Lake Union, and across Portage Bay.
We noted that at a 7 knot "trawler speed" the Meridian 391's
fuel flow meter reported trawler-like fuel consumption of just over 2
gallons per hour for both engines, combined. The mention of a trawler
prompted Larry to comment on another of the 391's features. "We
have a full, vertical keel under the hull, and that will help provide
enhanced tracking even with side winds," said Larry.
We stopped in the Montlake Cut for some photographs, (taken from shore
by Olympic's Bob Pound), and as there was no traffic to deal with we
turned the 391 several times within the width of the cut. If it's
physically possible to turn a boat in less than its own length, we
surely did it using both the DOC thrusters and opposing engine thrust
simultaneously. The 391 is Nimble, and the capital "N" is
When we reached Webster Point we throttled up to cruising speed, and
the Meridian 391 responded instantly. There was an extremely slight bow
rise that remained steady after we had achieved planing speed. Only a
small amount of trim tab would probably have corrected the bow rise,
but it was well within acceptable limits so we ran the entire Lake
Washington portion of our trial with zero trim tab applied.
The 391 ran smartly, and quietly. The engines have underwater exhausts,
just like the generator, and from our position on the flybridge engine
noise was not an impediment to normal conversation. We tried to find
the "best" speed to run the 391, but had little or no success in
the endeavor. It seemed that no matter how we ran the boat, it was
smooth, quiet, and responsive. "Our variable-degree deadrise hull
allows the boat to perform well at a variety of speeds," said Larry.
"If you want to go as fast as possible or slow down to save some
fuel, go for it. The 391 will do a good job."
Our top speeds were in the 25-30 knot bracket, with an easy 18-20 knot
cruise speed available at a reasonable fuel economy, for the speed, of
about 1 nmpg. Speeds in the low teens improved fuel economy to about 2
At all speeds, the 391's wake is very civilized, producing a wave
that even most kayakers would find acceptable. It's obvious that the
boat doesn't "plow" through the water and that Meridian's
design is extremely efficient. We were able to turn flatter and in a
tighter radius than we expected, even at speeds near WOT. We busted a
few wakes and took some 2-3 footers full abeam- and concluded that the
391 Meridian would be very suitable for our typical Pacific NW
Boaters in search of an easily handled yet roomy vessel, capable of
running economically at slower speeds or picking up and hauling along
briskly (to get to port before a storm or finish a passage before
sundown), will want to consider the 391 Meridian. Whether entertaining
a group in the salon or on the flybridge or simply cruising with
ones' significant other, the 391 should prove to be quite
satisfactory. Perhaps the Meridian 391 is like a high-end wash and wear
shirt; classy enough for formal affairs, yet comfortable enough for
casual, everyday living.
Every so often a boat comes along that sells in relatively high
numbers. We wouldn't be at all surprised if the 391 Meridian
doesn't prove to be just such a boat. Price won't be a serious
impediment for comparison shoppers. A basic, diesel powered Meridian
391 starts at approximately $315,000, and the boat we tested with the
larger engines and a long list of options was considered "loaded"
Thanks to Larry Abraham of Olympic Yacht Centers for showing us through
the 391 and accompanying us on our trial run. For additional
information on the Meridian 391 or other Meridian Yachts, please call
Olympic Yacht Center at .