459 Cockpit Motoryacht
— By Capt. Bill Pike
— December 2003
|Mannerly performance, great dockside handling, and a savvy layout make this ample 45-footer a carefree cruiser.|
“Hey Bill,” a guy asked recently, “what makes a test boat good?” The question seemed to have philosophical significance, at least at first, so I waded right in. What the heck?
Aesthetics got dispensed with immediately—beauty’s the purview of beholders, not boat testers. Then I tried the wise, Socratic-type approach, a serious challenge for me, due to a lifelong propensity to blather on endlessly if given half a chance. Finally, though, I struck upon the perfect answer. I trotted out an example—a boat I tested some weeks ago in the Pacific Northwest, Meridian Yachts’ 459 Cockpit Motoryacht.
The 459’s a good boat for one, simple reason: She’s flat-out easy to use. Whether I was squeezing her big, beamy bulk out of the little boathouse she occupied on Swinomish Channel in LaConner, Washington, or guiding her ruggedly reinforced bow across deadhead-strewn Skagit Bay at full speed, the 459 responded precisely and immediately to the faintest pressure on her hydraulically actuated wheel or the subtlest adjustment to her Teleflex mechanical throttles. Moreover, never once did I have to hunt for a gauge, switch, or knob while sitting at the helm on the flying bridge. Trim tab rockers. Tachs. Compass. Chartplotter. You name it. Everything was easy to spot and readily at hand.
Let me illustrate further. Not far from LaConner, at least as the crow flies, there’s a wild and woolly, cliff-sided stretch of dark tidal water that separates Whidbey and Fidalgo islands. Called Deception Pass, it’s famous for whirlpools, standing waves, rips of incredible power, and roaring currents that routinely achieve speeds of 10 knots. Multiply the average flow of Washington State’s mighty Columbia River by a factor of eight and send it barreling through a notch that’s barely 500 feet wide, and you get a glimmer of the spectacular chaos that enlivens this place on a twice-daily basis.
Nothin’ wrong with a little adventure, I always say. So with the blessing of Meridian’s rep Bill Filip, who was sitting in the copilot’s seat, I decided to run Deception Pass in the 459. A flood tide was extant at the time, and as Filip and I approached from well out on Skagit Bay, I could see a couple of whirlpools, one about two feet deep at its yellowish center and perhaps 20 feet across. At the shadowy entrance to the pass, I dodged a bobbling tree trunk about the size of a Volkswagen Jetta and started through at half-throttle, aiming the 459’s bow straight for ol’ yeller.
What happened next was amazing. In seconds, I felt the boat hit a veritable wall of oncoming current, a sensation that spooked me a bit, then immediately encouraged me to pour on the power. Immense forces began surging abeam, jockeying to slough the boat sideways toward towering rock walls. To stay on track, I began rapidly working the wheel and throttles simultaneously, adjusting, compensating, and relying almost wholly upon my intuition and the boat’s confidence-inspiring agility. The 459 forged on, dodging, feinting, and weaving like a talented boxer in a tough fight. “Yeeeehawwwww!” yelled Filip as we finally broke free of the big whirlpool’s orbit.
Seas beyond were piddly—which was rather anticlimactic under the circumstances. However, the test numbers I subsequently recorded, and the open-water performance they represented, kept the excitement going for a bit longer, what with sweetly carved turns, superb sightlines all around, and a respectable average top speed of 28.4 mph. At one point I pulled one of our Cummins MerCruiser 330Bs out of gear—to simulate an engine problem—and discovered the boat would do at least 12 mph on one main and turn and maneuver almost like she was still operating on two. Filip noted that thanks to her transmissions and PYI dripless shaft logs, the 459 can freewheel a prop for up to 24 hours without damage. Just about anybody oughta be able to find a mechanic in that amount of time!
This article originally appeared in the November 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.