Meridian 368 Motoryacht — By Richard Thiel —
Meridian finds its identity and imprints it on the 368 Motoryacht.
Although this is a test of Meridian’s new 368 Motoryacht, it’s impossible to talk about the boat without talking about the company that builds her. In fact, you could say this article is as much a report on the builder as it is on the boat.
Meridian was born in an unconventional manner when Brunswick, its parent company, decided to relaunch Bayliner’s motoryacht line (basically everything over 34 feet) under a new name that didn’t carry a low-price image. In August 2002 it introduced a line of Meridian flying bridge motoryachts that were indeed, with the exception of the 411 Sedan, rebadged Bayliners. Whether that was a good thing or bad depends on your opinion of Bayliner motoryachts. I thought they were a lot of boat for the money, and so did quite a few other people, especially on the West Coast.
In any case, Meridian quickly followed the 411 Sedan with two more boats, the 408 aft cabin and the 459, which was basically a 408 with a cockpit. Power & Motoryacht tested both and found them to be fine, modern cruisers. But something was missing—namely a company identity. Everyone was asking, “Who is Meridian? What does it stand for? And why should I buy one?”
Not quite two years from its birth, company representatives introduced Meridian’s fourth new boat and finally answered those questions. At a presentation in May, it unveiled a prototype of the 368 Motoryacht—a scaled-down 408—and, equally important, a mission statement for Meridian. They call it “The Meridian Difference,” and as you’d expect from any boatbuilder, it includes some hype. But there’s substance, too, in a package of features—all present in the 368—designed to make Meridians superior cruisers. Among them are a stringer system that extends all the way to the bow strakes, where the greatest loading occurs in a seaway; underwater exhaust ports that are molded in, not cut out, reducing the chance of leaks; radar arches of fiberglass, not painted aluminum; and oversized prop shafts—two-inch-diameter on the 368—with dripless PYI seals.
Also impressive are superstructures molded as a single piece, reducing the chance of squeaks and leaks, and load-bearing bulkheads glassed to the hull and deck for better rigidity. My favorite feature is The Smart Battery System, which automatically lets you draw house power from cranking batteries when you need it, but never lets them fall below the capacity necessary to start the engines. I suspect a lot of buyers will be more attracted to Meridian’s standard ten-year hull-and-deck warranty and Docking On Command system that integrates bow and stern thrusters in a single, logical control.
All those features are important here because, frankly, Meridian didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel on the 368. Which is not to criticize, for the aft master/forward VIP/elevated saloon design is proven, and with good reason—it makes maximum use of space. And the 368’s designers have added some thoughtful features to make their boat different. For example, boarding is safe and easy from the 1 1⁄2-foot-deep swim platform. Five molded-in steps protected by sturdy rails take you to the unfurnished cockpit above the aft cabin. A hardtop and wing doors that lead to generous side decks are standard; a complete enclosure is optional. High, sturdy bow and stern rails provide lots of security, except at a large gap between the two on either side where there’s no gate.
This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.