Meridian 580 Pilothouse
By Captain Steve Larivee
Meridian was founded less than a dozen years ago and nearly every year since has taken great strides in quality, fit and finish, features and practicality. In the United States this is the cruising boat builder to watch because the Meridian management appears to be well along with its plans to continually upgrade its product line.
I love large motoryachts so it was fun testing the new Meridian 580 last month in Miami, Florida. Here is my take on the boat—
First, let’s look at her basic specs because they will tell us a lot about her functionality and performance. She is 59’5” LOA and has a 17’4” beam, the widest beam in her class. That will make a difference in room, and in functionality and in comfort. She displaces 59,920 lbs. which is also heaviest in her class. That is due partly to her ample beam, but also to the use of plenty of materials which help ensure her strength. Weight usually translates to a better ride and more stability – two of the most important things most people want in a motoryacht.
The rich burl wood on the instrument panel is classy. Note that the helm console is relatively low, thus maximizing visibility while seated or standing.
Operating this boat was a joy. Her bow throws the spray far away from the boat, which not only looks impressive, but it keeps the passengers on the bow sun pad dry as well. She tracks very well, holds her heading, and I didn’t have to struggle to constantly correct for wander. In a beam sea, she had a natural list into the sea, as if shouldering the waves aside like a blocker on the Dallas Cowboys. This is a good thing. In the 2’ to 3’ following seas we had on test day she tracked as if she were on rails. The Meridian 580 always did what I wanted her to do without any fuss. You just feel like you are taking command of this boat when you are at the helm and she responds just the way you would expect. This is definitely a boat for an owner/operator.
There’s a lot of torque in her engines and they’re turning big props (32 x 34 x 4), so low speed maneuverability was excellent. It’s made even more foolproof by a control at the helm called the Docking on Command® system which is linked to the bow and stern thrusters. The control is shaped like your boat, so move the bow of the control and your bow follows. Move the stern and over goes your stern. Slide the control sideways and… well you get the picture.
The lower helm even has a wireless control for the D.O.C. so you can move out to the side deck for better visibility. I like remote controls because it means you can stand anywhere on the boat where visibility is best in a crowded marina, such as the one in Nantucket where the dock master might place you way inside where you have to thread your way through tight quarters. Many people are wary of wireless remotes and prefer the tethered models, but obviously the folks at Meridian are confident in the system.
Note the width of the flying bridge which makes it an ideal venue for a small cocktail party under the stars.
Flying Bridge and Boat Deck
Abaft the helm and entertaining area on the flying bridge is the boat deck. There’s plenty of room here for a 14’ to 16’ tender, and by all means you should have one. There is also plenty of room for a PWC and a kayak. The boat deck is also a good place to put your life raft canister. Meriden expects you to have a tender or PWC on the boat deck and has provided a 1500-lb. capacity davit standard for launching and retrieval.
I found visibility for the skipper outstanding through the large windscreens with mullions about as narrow as they could be made. Windshield wipers are the sturdy-looking pantograph type. The helm area is also a gathering place as family and friends usually want to be with the owner/operator. The settee to port of the helm is comfortable and large. The table is not only a great place for coffee in the morning and lunch, but it also makes a handy nav table to unroll large charts.
Traditional Side Decks
Most veteran yachtsmen I know prefer a boat with side decks rather than a “wide-body” (i.e. no side decks and the house comes out nearly to the rail.) Wide-body motoryachts have more interior room in the salon, but they give up the all-important side decks. The Meridian 580’s side decks were wide enough to walk round the entire boat with ease. Rails were sturdy and high enough to give a confident feeling when the boat is rocking. Side decks make line handling easy, keep people from running through the salon when docking or at other times, and simply make the boat look more graceful and shippy.
The galley is large, has plenty of counter space and features a 4-burner stove top, something increasingly rare on even large yachts.
The main salon and galley are on the same level, so the chef is always part of the social scene. The boat has a good-sized galley and there are no half measures with regard to the size and quality and number of her appliances. I like the trash compactor and the four-burner stovetop. (I can think of a number of 70-footers that don’t even have four burners.)
Full marks to the Meridian designers for rejecting the current fad of putting in under-the-counter, pull-out drawer refers and freezers. Try pulling them out and standing behind the drawer in a boat’s galley and you’ll see what I mean. The 580 has a large size standup refrigerator/freezer against the forward bulkhead with doors that face aft. All the builder needs to do is install a model with French doors with the freezer on the top and refer below. Since the doors are half as wide there will be more room to stand behind them in the galley – and it will be easy to put a small retaining bar between the handles when running offshore to keep the doors from opening.
We like the black granite Meridian has chosen for the galley counter tops – and for counter tops in all of the heads below. It is elegant, classy and the kind of detail you’ll find on boats costing millions of dollars more.
The full-beam master stateroom is large and has a clever design so two people can get ready for a party at the same time – one at the sink and another in the enclosed head.
The cabins are roomy and have plenty of headroom. And when I say roomy, I mean it. The head in the master stateroom even has a full size tub! I suspect that if you would prefer a shower, Meridian would happily make the switch. The tub and toilet are in their own water closet, and the sink and mirror are out in the master. This is a terrific layout as it means two people can get ready for a party ashore (or on deck) at the same time. (Take a close look at most heads and you’ll see that they can only be used by one person at a time.)
The forward VIP stateroom is roomy and has three shelves to port and starboard, where the hull flares out. Meridian has turned this space into needed storage where it is typically wasted on many boats. The midship guest stateroom features a hi-low sleeping arrangement laid out in an “L”. To me this is the best way to handle the bunks in a 3rd cabin as there is a place (the lower berth) to sit down and put on your topsiders without bumping your head on the upper bunk.
The forward head doubles as a day head. At the base of the companionway, a door opens to reveal the washer/dryer.
Note the port and starboard shelving in the VIP stateroom forward which utilizes space that is wasted in many yachts.
The real beauty of this boat, however, is in her dock appeal, especially at night. Subdued lighting gives her a black tie look that only adds to her graceful character. She really is a comfortable and elegant boat to be in and to be seen on.
The boat I tested was powered by a pair of 715-hp CMD (Cummins MerCruiser Diesels) diesels driving through 2:1 reduction gears. We had three people aboard, 600 gallons of fuel, 1’ to 3’ seas and 10 to 15 knot winds. The top speed that we recorded with the gps was 29.6 mph and best cruise was 23.2 mph, or 20.1 knots. At best cruise we were getting .52 mpg giving us a range of 372 miles (324 nm). When taking yachts north and south on the eastern seaboard I like to cruise at 20 knots for six or seven hours then call it a day, find a marina, and wash down the boat. At that speed you can travel two days on one tank of fuel. I like that.
But the age of high speed in large motoryachts may be over. The shock of $5 per gallon fuel has everyone rethinking their approach to speed eventhough fuel prices have dropped to more reasonable levels lately. Trawlers and Long Range Cruisers got a big boost in the mid-1970s when fuel was hard to get in the U.S. But the biggest difference between these boats and motoryachts is the mentality of their owners – they don’t mind going 8 to 10 knots. Indeed, most owners of megayachts and other large motoryachts which are capable of 20 knots or more, are throttling back to 10 or 11 knots these days and are finding that their joy of cruising is undiminished – and some like it even better!.
Deck plans of the Meridian 580.
If you drop back to trawler speeds in the 580 -- say 10 mph or 8.6 knots -- the boat has a range of 881 miles and 1.22 mpg. Now that is economical cruising in a 60,000-lb. boat! Slow down and smell the sea air, and mom will probably enjoy the experience more, as well. With the 580 there is no reason why you can’t have the operating economy of a trawler and the room, amenities, comfort and elegance of a motoryacht, all in the same package.
Speaking of things in the engine room, I liked it too, because it has room enough for even a big guy to get around. Because the engine room is not cramped and uncomfortable, there’s no reason to forgo the daily engine checks, as well as to regularly check sea strainers and sea cocks.
Note the “tray ceiling” effect in the overhead, the rectangular soffits with lights over the main sofa and the settee in the background, the attractive valances, Roman shades and Belle Ironwood hardwood sole in the galley area.
As already noted we are impressed with the long list of standard equipment that is included in this boat which many builders only offer as an option. What this means to us is that Meridian is trying to make the boat as turnkey as possible for the boater moving up to what is a fairly sophisticated and complex boat. Our list of standard items is too long to publish here and we urge serious consumers to go to the Meridian website and check them out for themselves.
Meridian is proud of their warranty package and justifiably so. First she has a two-year factory warranty on all components that don’t already have such a warranty, “…right down to the smallest light switch…” says the company. That is important, and it is double the warranty of most builders in this size. She has a 5 year warranty against hull blistering, and a 10-year structural warranty on the hull and deck.
If I had to come up with criticisms of this boat, then three come to mind. First, the opening in the rail for boarding and disembarking is well aft of the entry door and smack in the middle of a large raised area of the side deck coaming. No one could seem to answer the question of why it was not in line with the door for an easy step off onto the dock. Second is a criticism I make of virtually every boat -- the galley counters need to have a raised exterior edge or fiddles to keep things from sliding off. The stove could use stainless sea rails to keep the cookware in place.
Third, I would like to see the capacity increased for both the fresh water and the holding tanks. With a dishwasher, clothes washer, freshwater flush in the heads, and showers for six people aboard (and a tub!), 216 gallons won’t last very long. The holding tank is 78 gallons, and this again is not a lot for a motoryacht of this size unless it is going offshore every other day or so. FYI, I have these same complaints with most boats this size, so the folks at Meridian shouldn’t take it personally.
Note raised bulwarks on the bow, bunny pad, and ample room for a tender and life raft canister on the boat deck. We’d put teak on the swim platform.
There are other motoryachts this size on the market and I compared the basic specs and interior accommodations of the 57’ to 60’ models of five brands that came quickly to mind with about the same basic specifications. What I discovered was that the Meridian 580 has the highest displacement of the five at 59,920 lbs., with one of them being only 45,000 lbs. or 25% less.
The Meridian also had the greatest beam of the five boats at 17’4”. She is in fact over a foot wider than the next boat and exactly two feet beamier than the boat that is, perhaps, her closest competitor. Those two extra feet mean about 150-sq. ft. more space distributed in her main deck, living quarters below and in the engine room. It means more room on the flying bridge for guests and entertaining, and it means that you can have a tender that is two feet longer athwartships on the boat deck! That is a huge difference. It also means that the boat will be better riding, more stable, and more comfortable, all things being equal. The downside is that more beam and weight makes the boat harder to push so it will go slower and burn more fuel.
When it comes to price, the Meridian 580 -- at a MSRP of $1,663,000 and current transaction prices significantly below that – is hard to beat.
Every boat is a compromise, but on the Meridian 580 I found the important things were done right. She handles well, has ample room and includes all of the necessities of extended cruising and looks like a shippy motoryacht. My advice is that if you are in the market for a motoryacht of any brand at any price point, you should take a good look at the Meridian 580 Pilothouse because it will put all of the rest in perspective.
But don’t take my work for it, check her out for yourself. And bring friends… you’ll be glad you did.