Cruising goes high style on Meridian's new 391 Sedan...

Launching a new family -or couples- oriented sedan at a time when the market is rife with attractive cruising- capable designs from both sides of the Atlantic is a project not to be taken lightly. To succeed, the builders must ensure that the owners of this new yacht design must immediately feel comfortable in their new surroundings, at home with the spaces where they plan to spend time relaxing and reading, dining, listening and watching and enjoying the great outdoors. And this comfort must continue once the power cords have been disconnected and the docklines have been cast off. No one knows this better than the designers of Meridian Yachts, whose new 391 Sedan Bridge debuted late last year following careful collaboration with its customers and dealers. Based on my recent experiences with this and other Meridian yachts, the 391 may be its most livable, cruisable sedan to date.

What's livable and cruisable to one owner may not satisfy another, but in my mind the 391 Sedan Bridge succeeds in numerous ways. To my eye, it's a good-looking yacht with lines that aren't too extreme, stylish lines that should continue to satisfy an owner every time he walks down the dock. The flying bridge and deckhouse height, plus the twin-tiered side windows and the freeboard forward, hint at the volume within, but the sweptback forward windows and gently reversing sheer help to create a sleek overall profile.

With its wide, deep swim platform, boarding from floating docks should never be a problem, even for the least surefooted of crew or guests. Shore power cords and other dockside umbilicals reside in a tunnel recessed into the platform and covered with a flush hatch, as does the telescoping swim ladder, minimizing any potential tripping points. All that's missing, really, is a grab rail running across the transom above the two locker doors that access transom stowage. A single step up leads you to a spacious cockpit protected from the elements by a significant overhang, a cockpit that includes molded bench seating and a table with stowage on the inside of the transom, as well as molded steps in the forward corners that open to reveal dedicated fender stowage, and close to give ready access to the side decks.

Walking those side decks to reach the foredeck's sunpads, or to attend to anchoring or line-tending duties, requires only minor attention to foot placement and there are strong handholds on both sides to make your passage even more secure. Back in the cockpit, deck hatches open to reveal an enormous lazarette beneath the cockpit, even with the genset stored therein, while the molded stairs to starboard leading to the flying bridge raise up to allow access to the engine room-a practical solution that helps keep dirt, sound and fumes out of the yacht's interior.

EASY TO LOOK AT: Twin-tiered side windows, the sweptback forward windows and gently reversing sheer help to create a sleek overall profile.

Meridian 391 Performance SpecificationsWide and substantial, the sliding glass doors aft make a connection between the cockpit and the main saloon. Once inside, you realize that Meridian's designers have gone to great lengths to extend that connection to the outside world in every direction. The layered side windows, some of which open, offer wonderful views for those sitting on the comfortable Ultraleather-upholstered couch and Flexsteel incliners, as well as those standing or moving through the 6-feet 5-inches of headroom found there. Additionally, the front windows are engineered without the usual multipanel supports, bringing loads of light to the galley and dinette located forward of the main living space, as well as illuminating the companionway on the lower accommodations level. Chances are good that unless you live in a glass house in some remote area, these views are going to be better than the ones you enjoy at home. And at sea- lots better.

Colors are soothing and neutral, appropriate for an area that emphasizes the view. The ambiance is also very quiet- thanks to underwater exhausts for the main engines and the sound-shielded genset, which knock down noise at anchor or under way, as does the cored sole underfoot. Meridian's exclusive Ultra-Flow air-conditioning system cools the interior from well-hidden outlets with no apparent compressor or air-handler noise. Cherry wood cabinetry, used throughout the yacht's attractive interior and finished to a subdued but reflective luster, graces the portside aft corner where the well-organized electrical panel is found at eye height behind two doors. That's where you'll also find the entertainment center-anchored by a 20- inch LCD stereo TV and Sirius satellite radio.

While it's likely that your food preparation and dining areas at home aren't located on two different levels, it won't take long to realize that the slightly raised dinette and lowered galley of this design bring benefits of their own. The galley has multilevel solid-surface food preparation areas that are open to air flow yet equipped with clever stainless rails and cherry wood stowage lockers to help keep things organized. It is appropriately equipped to sustain a family for a weekend or a week (assuming a repertory of favorite home-style dishes). The raised dinette is actually only a few steps up, yet takes advantage of those great views I spoke of earlier, but this is what allows standing headroom for the guest stateroom beneath it (for which we congenital headbumpers give thanks). And if extending your season requires, an optional lower helm can also fit here.

Both the guest and master staterooms have queen-size island berths with pillow-top innerspring mattresses, cedar-lined hanging lockers and good access to the split shower and head, each with vanity. The master has private access to the head, which also has a door leading to the companionway and the shower. Both staterooms may be fitted with 15-inch LCD televisions and stereo entertainment systems.

Livability and cruisability come together on the flying bridge, which is wonderfully laid out with a forward-facing double bench to port, a swiveling bucket seat at the helm and a spacious bench with sun lounge that flows along the portside and across the aft end of the bridge extension. The resulting floor plan is spacious and comfortable for a crowd, who will be well served by a wet bar and storage locker. The helm is ergonomically sound and has plenty of room for optional Northstar multifunction electronics to go with a commanding view of the water in all directions. As with all designs having an extended overhang, the view aft when docking can be limited, but the presence of a large hatch over the stairway and an optional rear-view camera help obviate this problem. Unlike other designs, the 391 is equipped with Meridian's exclusive Docking On Command system that coordinates bow and stern thrusters for excellent maneuverability around the docks.

My time on the water with the Meridian 391 Sedan Bridge was all too short, but I can tell you that this hull turns easily and precisely, has a sharp entry for plowing through chop at cruising speeds and a modified-V shape aft that supports good planing and excellent side-to-side stability. This yacht is fun to drive, great to relax in and distinctively easy to admire.


This review/article originally appeared in Yachting Magazine, June 2006 and is written by John Woolridge. For more great yacht reviews, visit their website and subscribe at:

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