The 341 Meridian is a sedan which has aspirations of being a mini motoryacht. The builder says it is designed for people who want to do extended cruising, and if it is your dream to someday own a large motoryacht, this is a fine place to start. There are not many true cruising boats in this size range, so you owe it to yourself to carefully check out this boat. Thirty-five feet is a bit stubby for a cruising boat and that is why boats in this range often have a case of the uglies. Yet, somehow Meridian’s naval architects have managed to draw a 35’ 10” sedan bridge cruiser that doesn’t offend the eye. And packed into this boat are more accommodations and utility than one usually finds on these size boats. One of the most demanding captains we know of is Capt. Steve, so we asked him to test the Meridian and give us a report.
The Helm and Flying Bridge
There is no lower helm station on the 341 which is a design concept that I like. Having a helm on both the flying bridge and in the cabin is a huge waste of space and driving from below is always more problematical because of restricted visibility. However, if you plan to do the extended cruising this boat is designed for, you’re going to have to have cruising canvas and isinglass.
Visibility from the helm is great and even when backing into a slip you can see the stern through the hatchway in the bridge deck where the stairs pass through. There is plenty of seating on the fly bridge so it lends itself well to entertaining, and of course, it will be the main gathering spot when underway.
I found the Meridian 341 Sedan to be a very nice handling boat and she is heavy enough to give her a solid feel as she busted through the 2 to 3-foot waves we encountered during the test.
I like the ease of piloting with electronic single-lever throttle and gear controls. If you are used to the traditional two levers for throttle and two for the gears, it will take some getting used to. But once you do, like most professional captains I know, you’ll love them. With these controls, there was a noticeable detent in the neutral position, and two others as well – one in the “slow ahead” and another in the “slow astern” positions. When docking in close quarters you’ll have to mentally keep track of the detents -- first one, then neutral. You’ll get used to it.
“Docking on Command” Docking System
The “Docking on Command” is a breeze to operate and makes anyone look like a pro. It gives you a single control -- shaped like a boat! -- which is linked to both your bow and stern thruster. Move the “bow” of the control to port, and your bow follows. Move the “stern” of the control to starboard and over goes your stern. Slide the control sideways and both your bow and stern thrusters move you sideways. By having both a bow and a stern thruster docking is made easy for both the skipper and whoever is on deck throwing lines ashore (because they won’t have to throw far).
Bow and Stern Thrusters
There is one important thing to know about all electric bow and stern thrusters no matter what brand of boat they are on – they are powered by a battery near the thruster. If you use them for too long at one time they can overheat and a circuit breaker will then shut them off. Also, the batteries can become exhausted after a short while. You’ll have plenty of power for docking but not enough for showing off for the camera too. Veteran yachtsmen use them sparingly in short bursts, letting the momentum of the boat do most of the work.
Salon and Galley
Moving into the interior brought a few pleasant surprises. There was plenty of headroom all throughout the boat and I liked how the guests are all facing each other in the main salon. It made for a comfortable feeling, and the salon is a convivial spot for casual dining or relaxing at the end of the day.
The most notable feature in the salon was Meridian’s method for air handling. Inevitably, I’m always the guy who gets stuck next to the air conditioning vent, so I freeze, while everyone else is trying to stay cool. Problem solved on the 341. There are two recessed fiberglass moldings in the overhead that run fore and aft nearly the length of the salon.
The A/C units pump cold air into a channel in the molding and it gently spills over the lip along the entire length, rather than blasting out of one three inch opening. This is the first time I have seen this on a production boat at nearly any size and price. The only other boats where I have seen this is on 100’ megayachts costing several million dollars. Full marks to Meridian’s engineers for incorporating this feature, which we hope is much imitated.
The galley design is another one of the secrets of this boat. By putting part of the galley in the passage way to the accommodations below, Meridian has picked up added seating in the salon. The downside is that the cook will have to move when someone wants to go below. We think that is small price to pay for the added utility of the layout.
While on the subject of comfort, thank you Meridian for the extended overhead on the aft deck. This is a prime gathering spot on nice days while anchored, and speaking as the resident fair skinned guy at BoatTEST, the additional shade is a welcome sight. Another advantage to this design is that you can install cruising canvas and isinglass here to create another living space in cool or rainy weather.
Moving below decks, the island berth in the master stateroom has been pretty much standard on boats the last 20 years. But what’s not so standard in a 34-footer is the amount of room Meridian designed in at the foot of the bed. There’s room here to dress and move past your bride to get to the ensuite head.
The second stateroom is a mid cabin arrangement tucked up under the salon. Headroom is limited, particularly on the starboard side, but the cabin is certainly functional and makes cruising with another couple or kids far more pleasant than having to open up the sofa or break down a dining settee. I’ll take this cabin over the other options anytime.
Standard Equipment Impressive
I was impressed by the number of important items that Meridian has built in as standard equipment on this boat. Here is a list of items that caught my eye as being a little unusual as standard: radar arch, spotlight, seat covers, dripless shaft logs, Docking on Command docking system, natural hardwood cabin soles, rolling pantry, VacuFlush head, Ultraleather coverings on the lounge, and windshield cover. None of these items are earth-shaking (except Docking on Command), but it is reassuring to see so many on the standard list and all are important to have.
The MSRP base price of the boat is $312,000 equipped with the standard gas engines. The boat we tested had 330-hp CMD diesels. While we did not test with the gas engines, this boat is at the high end of the range (at 18,250 lbs.) for gas power so we’d go with the 8.1L engines as matter of course. If you choose to go diesel then you will have to consider the extra cost of the engines vs. performance and added savings in fuel economy. Before making up your mind, weigh all of the engines options comparing cost and performance to make sure you get the boat to best suit your cruising needs.