Meridian's new 441 Sedan is a major redesign of a popular model that offers lots more room - and lots more control - for better boating. Meridian 's 411 had been one of the company's most popular models, with over 300 boats sold since its introduction five years ago. Its replacement, the new 441 Sedan, has essentially the same two-stateroom layout and most of the older boat's key features, but it 's even more cruiser-friendly. The new 441 has noticeably more living and storage space, a joystick docking system and a host of features designed to make life aboard easier and more enjoyable.

The new boat is slightly larger than the original - 14 inches longer overall. This may not seem like much, but spread across the 14-foot 3-inch beam, the extra length has a big impact. On the main deck, this extra space equates to a larger galley with a big refrigerator / freezer, three-burner cooktop, microwave oven and double sinks. Large windows across the front and sides of the cabin provide lots of light and sweeping views.

Meridian 441 Test SpecsAcross from the galley, the dinette also benefits from the boat's added length, with C-shaped seating for six that converts into a double bed. An option, also new, is a slightly smaller dinette with a lower helm station. Aft of the galley, the salon benefits from large windows all around, with an L-shaped settee to starboard and a pair of chairs and a small table to port. Meridian found important ways to utilize the new boat's added length in the staterooms, which are down a short flight of stairs from the galley. The master suite, in the bow, features an island queen bed. Two full -height, cedar- lined hanging lockers, as well as drawers in the foot of the bed and additional cabinets, provide lots of storage for an extended cruise. And there's more storage under the bed. The ensuite head includes an acrylic stall shower.

The midship stateroom is as spacious and comfortable as the master, with one caveat. Because it is nestled below the galley and dinette, most of this stateroom has significantly less than standing headroom. Still, the large entranceway does offer full headroom and provides more than enough space for dressing, with a hanging locker and access to the starboard head. There is an island queen berth, nightstands, drawers and lockers, and even a vanity and seating area. This stateroom also benefits from large windows in the hull side, providing lots of natural light and a view of outside. The combination washer/ dryer is recessed behind the aft bulkhead of this state room, where it does not take up valuable living space - another improvement over the older 411 .

The relocation of the washer/ dryer brought up an interesting question: How could they fit a 24-inch-deep washer/ dryer where they only added 14 inches more boat? The answer is simple: The new boat's hull extends aft beneath an integrated stern platform, rather than the bolt-on platform of the old 411 . This allowed Meridian to push the engines and generator much farther aft (accessed through the cockpit sole), while also creating a huge storage room under the salon, where the engines were in the 411 .

On the outside, the new 441 boasts redrawn lines, borrowing the graceful curves and salon windows introduced on Meridian's 391 two years ago, but with a larger look to the bridge. This is the biggest change from the older model. There is a huge L-shaped lounge aft that converts between coffee table, dining table and large sun pad. The bridge also includes a wide bench seat next to the helm, as well as a wet bar with a refrigerator. (Meridian offers an optional hardtop.)

The new 441 also features a completely redesigned helm, with room for dual 12-inch navigation displays, radios, autopilot and other electronics. The SmartCraft Vessel View display that monitors engine and ship systems is standard. Other thoughtful additions abound. For example, the windlass is recessed in a shallow well with fresh-and saltwater washdown spigots and gull-wing doors in the deck to conceal any remaining mess. And a shallow, covered compartment in the stern platform holds dockside power, water and cable hookups beneath the deck where they won't be a tripping hazard.

Perhaps the most exciting new feature on the 441 is the debut of the new Total Command joystick control, a collaboration between Meridian and Mercury Marine to integrate the same joystick and computer of Zeus pod drives and Axius stern-drives. Here it's married to conventional running gear as well as both bow and stern thrusters . Total Command offers complete flexibility for the skipper who can choose the "old-fashioned" twin levers with an additional set of buttons that control bow and stern thrusters individually, or the joystick with computer control of engines and thrusters.

Meridian designs its yachts for people who intend to cruise. So after my review of the 441 Sedan, I was left with just one lingering question: Ho·w soon can I get one?

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MERIDIAN YACHTS CURRENTLY FOR SALE IN CALIFORNIA

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This review/article originally appeared in Motor Boating & Yachting Magazine, June 2008 and is written by Vince Daniello. For more great yacht reviews, visit their website at: https://www.mby.com