|Prices, features, designs, and equipment are subject to change. Please see your local dealer or visit the builder's website for the latest information available on this boat model.|
|Std. Power||2 x 370-hp 8.1L Mercury Horizon Inboards|
|Tested Power||2 x 425-hp Cummins QSB5.9|
2 x 330-hp QSB Cummins Diesels
2 x 380-hp QSB Cummins Diesels
2 x 425-hp QSB Cummins Diesel
2 x 420-hp 8.1L S-HO Mercury Inboards
The Meridian Yachts 391 Sedan Bridge has two staterooms and the option of a lower helm or a settee. Note the large portlight on the starboard side of the VIP cabin.
Capt. Steve Says...
It’s always interesting doing tests on Meridian Yachts. They all have a very “shippy” feel to them, and are well decorated for their size and class, but the builder has carefully not succumbed to the temptation to glitz them up. I’d say Meridian’s mission here was to create an “everyman’s boat” feel, and I think with the Meridian Yachts 391 Sedan Bridge they have been successful.
Meridian deserves big points for the way it has extended the flying bridge nearly to the transom, thereby creating an overhead above the cockpit. This makes for comfortable relaxation outdoors without having to endure the hot sun and UV beating down on you. And for me, the token fair-skinned boy at BoatTEST, that’s huge news. [Capt. Steve is into Safe Sun, but everyone should be as well.—Ed.]
We think that Meridian has done an exceptionally good job of space utilization.
What’s more, if you’re into isinglass, you can wrap the entire aft end of the boat in plastic, open the salon door, and create another wonderful season-long living space. For people up north, this means that they can effectively increase the size of their boat for very little extra expense. And canvas makers these days are doing excellent work, and properly executed, the Meridian 391 can look like a mini-motoryacht with an enclosed aft deck.
As if these two perks weren’t enough, that extended overhead also has the added benefit of allowing for gobs of extra seating up on the flybridge deck.
There is a large hatch in the cockpit deck for putting large items into the lazzarette, and the stairs to the bridge are not only at a shallow angle, easing entry and egress to the bridge, but they also open up to reveal additional access to the lazzarette, the generator, and the main engines under the salon deck. Meridian Yachts has done this because the stairs reach so far into the cockpit.
This is an important design detail because it is a break with convention, to some degree, as designers normally try to keep the stairs from intruding too much into the cockpit for reasons of aesthetics, space utilization and tradition. Every boat is a compromise, and Meridian Yachts has decided to come down on the side of making their 391 easy to get around on, and making below-deck access handy – all without giving the boat a bad case of the uglies. We heartily endorse this compromise because it makes it easier to get to the bridge and Mom, and less agile guests, will appreciate it.
As always when it comes to fiberglass steps on any boat, we caution new boat owners to immediately affix a serious non-skid material to the tread surfaces. The reason is that when these steps are wet -- even if the boat is not running and the steps are not at an aft-leaning angle -- they are extremely slippery. One slip and you can seriously hurt your noggin. We prefer teak because it is attractive, but any good non-skid material will do.
Note how the overhead extends to the end of the cockpit deck. The stairs are at a shallow angle, and lift to reveal entry to the lazzarette.
Another design feature from the Meridian Yachts' textbook is the utilization of opposing seating in the salon. This keeps conversation intimate without having to constantly crane your neck to look at who you’re talking to. There are two single barrel-style chairs opposite. These chairs are comfortable and lightweight so they can be easily moved. Our experience is that once they are placed somewhere they usually just live there. In that case, why not enclose the bottoms, creating much-needed storage under the seat cushion?
The starboard side couch did have two built in recliners, which is one of the latest features found on boats these days. The entertainment system is built into the aft port corner of the salon, and the TV can actually be seen by everyone when seated normally. Too often we see TVs on hydraulic lifts that rise out of a cabinet behind a sofa, making it useless for half the people seated. Just above the flat screen is the convenient location for the ships electrical panel.
These chairs are freestanding and can be moved around as desired. Note the doors above the TV housing the electrical panel.
Another Meridian feature is the amount of glass in the salon. You can see the horizon line even if you are seated, and that does a surprising job of reducing mal-de-mer while underway or at anchor. Air handling vents are running along the overhead, so the room is heated or cooled evenly, as opposed to having a vent behind someone who gets hot or cold while the rest of the room gets nothing.
In my opinion, Meridian should add a teak grab rail running the length of the salon overhead. The space doesn’t lend itself to safely walking while underway.
In the center of the salon deck are three hatches to the engine room below.
Engine Room Access...
Engine room access is via hatches in the salon sole. This is pretty much SOP on this size and style boat. The center hatch gets you between the two main engines. There you will find engine oil dip sticks and the reservoirs for the engine water cooling system, and the engine raw water intakes with sea strainers in front of the engines. There is only 2-3” clearance over the engines so to get a good view of all the belts and the outboard sides of the engines you need to open up the hatches directly over the engines. To do this, all you have to do is move the coffee table.
My guess is that most owners will check the fluids through the center hatch every day while aboard, and then once every few days pull open the other two hatches, run the engines at the dock or at anchor and do a visual check to make sure everything looks right and all hose clamps are snug and thru-hull ball valves operate easily. By the way, the hatches are made of fiberglass, with foil-bonded on the foam sound-deadening material on the bottom side, and carpet on the top and sides.
Note the amount of glass. Visibility is outstanding in the main salon. This shot shows the optional lower helm, which was replaced on our test boat by a settee. Look closely at the bottom of the picture and you can see the three hatches to the engine room.
No big surprises here. A single 9” step down to the 391 galley which is laid out as you would expect with the usual appliances, covers, drawers and cabinet space. The stove is recessed so pots and pans won’t go off on their own while cooking, thus eliminating the need for fiddles. I’d still like to see a raised edge on the counters though. Below your feet is a hinged hatch housing a large cooler. This is a great use of dead space and is a bit unusual.
The galley is a 9” step down. Note the hardwood deck and the hatch holding a large cooler.
The dinette was opposite and raised in the model we tested. This gives you a commanding view while eating. Seating is C-shaped and the pedestal table swivels out of the way when entering or exiting. It also lowers to add filler cushions making it another berth, albeit, with no privacy. The dinette is raised for two good reasons. The option of having a lower helm requires it so the skipper has good visibility. Secondly, this area must be raised to create the headroom needed in the VIP cabin below. (Meridian tells me that roughly 10% of the boats ordered are with a lower helm.)
The VIP stateroom is tucked under the helm/settee. It has private access to the shower.
Not too shabby for the guests onboard. Be aware of one thing when you get out of bed and stand up. If you try, or are not aware of the overhead, you’ll hit your head on one of the levels. If you are aware of it, and don’t worry about it, then you won’t hit it. In other words, I hit my head, and once aware of it, I had no problem. The decision to split the head, putting the sink and toilet on one side and the shower stall and a sink on the other, is a good one. It allows two people to use the facilities in privacy at the same time. By having the shower (with sink) accessible privately to the VIP stateroom, it makes the morning bath more comfortable and convenient for guests.
Note the multi levels on the overhead and also on the deck. You can hit your head once, and then it’s not a problem. We think this is a rather remarkable space on a 39’ boat.
The master has an island berth and the usual arrangement of storage underneath and hanging cedar lockers to the sides. No storage up above though. Meridian opted for portlights instead and they do a fine job of admitting natural light into the stateroom along with the overhead hatch. From the master there is private access to both the toilet and sink and to the shower stall.
No surprises in the forward stateroom. Note the portlights instead of overhead storage in the bow flare. We'd like to see some cabinets in this wasted space.
The Bridge Deck...
Up the easy to climb stairs in the cockpit and you enter the large flying bridge. Ours was completely enclosed in isinglass, which surely reduced our speed a bit with all its sail area. (Our guess is that this could slow the boat anywhere from one to three knots.)
A large settee takes up the whole aft end of the deck and was big enough for a party. Ahead was a sink, an option for a grill lies in a counter abaft the helm and a refrigerator/freezer under that. To port of the helm was another Meridian trademark... a long forward facing bench seat. This is a much appreciated feature as it allows for another, if not several sets of eyes facing forward. And it’s very comfortable. A large glove box lies ahead of it and can swallow up a myriad of supplies, as well as the half dozen electronics covers from the helm.
Note that there is plenty of room for two companions to help the skipper. We like this forward-facing arrangement.
The helm is a superb layout and it affirms the cruiser heritage of the boat. Twin Raymarine E120 displays flank a digital depth gauge. If the panel were a tad wider Meridian could relocate the Smartcraft Vessel View, which gives you digital readouts of all engine parameters, to the center of the two E120’s. The depth finder can be moved anywhere. The autopilot is way off to port, a good spot since it’s not getting constantly used and both it, and a gauge under the depth finder, give rudder angle indications. The wheel falls right into the sweet spot of where my arms reach when the elbows are slightly bent. That’s thanks to the tilt wheel.
Many boat builders have a curving instrument panel wrapping around the skipper so that his line of vision is more perpendicular to the screens. I actually prefer the way Meridian does theirs with the instrument panel relatively “flat” from right to left so that the companion/navigator can more easily see one of the screens closest to the centerline. In this way in fog, the navigator can be focused on the radar screen while the skipper strains to see forward. Likewise, when going fast, the helmsperson needs to be focused forward, not on the chartplottter screen, which can be read by the navigator.
Note that the flying bridge deck extends almost to the transom, creating another good living space.
“Total Command” Is, Well...Total
The engine controls rest at that sweet spot thanks to Meridian mounting them properly. Just outboard of the digital engine controls is the control for the thrusters and “Total Command”. This is a Meridian exclusive that links the fore and aft thrusters to the engines in one joystick control. They had a previous version called “Docking on Command” and it only controlled the thrusters. Now the main engines are involved in the functions and it’s a giant leap ahead. It literally gives you “total” command, plus the versatility of a joystick, for a fraction of the cost of pod drives and a joystick. I managed to dock the boat with pinpoint accuracy.
Backing down, visibility is enhanced by the hatch over the stairs that gives you a clear view of the starboard quarter. With the dock on the port side, I used the view of that starboard quarter to slip it in past a piling, and once all the way in, slid sideways to the port dock, ever so gently. Mom would have been proud.
The boat has a much larger feel to it, thanks to the stiff Sea Star hydraulic steering. It’s not power assist, so it takes a firm hand to control the boat. That’s important, so if you think you’ll be cranking the wheel lock-to-lock as you maneuver around the fuel dock, you’d best think again. Prepare to have the engines doing the work, or better yet, let “Total Command” do its share of the work.
We tested the boat on the intracoastal. With the twin Cummins 425 QSBs doing their thing, we hit a top speed of 32 mph. Pulled back to a more economical 2200 rpm, and we cruised along nicely at 19.4 miles an hour while burning an even 20 gallons per hour, 10 per engine. With 350 gallons of fuel, we could keep going at that speed for 306 miles. Now, that’s the measured best cruise speed, but… if you go and look at the test numbers, you’ll see that adding speed and bringing the rpm up from 2200 to 2600, will give you another 6.7 miles per hour, while decreasing your range only 12 miles.
So look at it this way. On a calm day, run the Meridian Yachts 391 at 2600 rpm and cruise at 26.1 miles an hour. But if there’s a bit of chop, back off to 2200 and cruise at a more comfortable 19.4 miles an hour. The difference in fuel burn is not significant, but the versatility in operating is. You’ll gain almost 7 miles for every hour you run towards that distant island or remote cruising spot. And that’s largely how these boats are used.
Since the boat was rushed to completion for my visit and test, I wasn’t too surprised to find that there were some issues with some of the finishing work. Namely, there were doors that wouldn’t latch, cabinets that didn’t match up correctly, and light bulbs burned out. To be fair though, this boat came right off the factory floor and the QC team hadn’t gone through it yet. Everything I saw could easily be corrected by screwing in hinges more carefully or something of the like. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, my cryptic observation of this point was relayed to the powers that be at Meridian and I am told that a crew was dispatched after my departure to fix these details.)
All in all, I liked the boat. The more time I spent on it, and handled it, the more I liked it. I tried to put myself in the position of writing the check for it, and then asked myself if I had made a good decision. The answer was yes, I can’t see myself having buyer’s remorse over this boat. There were just too many good feelings while driving it, the designers have packed a lot of utility into the boat, she is adequately powered with the 425-hp diesel engines, “Total Command” is a dream, and perhaps most importantly, Meridian is owned by the Brunswick Corporation which takes safety and ABYC building standards seriously.
|Washdown: Fresh Water|
|Washdown: Raw Water|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc|
|Boats More Than 30 Feet|
|Oil Change System|
= Standard = Optional
|Warranties change from time to time. While BoatTEST.com has tried to ensure the most up-to-date warranty offered by each builder, it does not guarantee the accuracies of the information presented below. Please check with the boat builder or your local dealer before you buy any boat.|
|Years||10-year Structural Express Limited|
|Years||10-year Structural Express Limited|
|Years||5-year Express Limited|