MERIDIAN 541

Boat Tests

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Meridian
  • 541
  • 2010
  • Cruiser
  • 53'10"
  • 15'6"
  • 4'1"
  • 47,739 lbs.
  • 2/600-hp Cummins MerCruiser diesels w/ Zeus drives
  • 2/715-hp Cummins-MerCruiser QSM11-715 diesel inboards w/ Zeus pod drives
  • 634 gal
  • 150 gal

STANDARD EQUIPMENT

2/600-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSC8.3-600 diesel inboards w/ Zeus pod drives
Mercury Marine DTS electronic controls
Quick windlass
Ritchie compass
SmartCraft instrumentation
Raymarine Ray240 VHF and ST60 depthsounder
Samsung 32" LCD TV
Karadon countertops
4/Vitrifrigo under-counter reefer/freezer drawers
Contoure Convection Grill
Origo cooktop
Krups coffee maker
2/VacuFlush MSDs
20-gal. Kuuma water heater
3/Groco sea strainers 12/Lifeline AGM batteries (8/Schedule 31 house, 4 Schedule 27 start) 76,000-Btu Cruisair A/C
Reverso oil-changer
2/duplex Racor 751000Max fuel/water separators
2/Glendinning CableMasters
Fire-boy auto fire extinguishing system

OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT

Onan 23-kW genset (in lieu of 21-kW model)
teak decking (cockpit, stairway, flying bridge)
wooden floor in saloon
Raymarine premium electronics package (2/E120W screens and 4-kW radar)
hardtop
flying-bridge A/C
Splendide washer/dryer
Fisher & Paykel dishwasher
desk/chair in master stateroom
hydraulic swim platform
full canvas package

TEST BOAT SPECIFICATIONS

2/600-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSC8.3-600 diesel inboards w/ Zeus drives

ZF 105S-1.2 marine gears w/ 1.2:1 ratio

Zeus M7

$1,466,708

The Numbers

2010 Meridian 541 Final Boat Test Numbers:

rpm mph (knots) gph mpg (nmpg) sm range nm range decibels trim (degrees)
1000 9.0 (7.8) 3 2.98 (2.59) 1,702 1,480 63 0.5
1500 11.0 (9.5) 10 1.10 (0.95) 625 543 71 1.5
2000 14.7 (12.8) 28.2 0.52 (0.45) 297 259 69 4
2500 25.0 (21.7) 40.1 0.62 (0.54) 355 309 71 4.5
2700 28.4 (24.7) 45.8 0.62 (0.54) 354 308 71 5
3000 33.2 (28.9) 56.4 0.59 (0.51) 336 292 73 5
3060 34.6 (30.0) 60.8 0.57 (0.49) 324 282 73 4.5
PROPULSION: 2/600-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSC8.3-600 diesel inboards w/ Zeus drives; ZF 105S-1.2 marine gears w/ 1.2:1 ratio; propsets: Zeus M7

CONDITIONS: temperature: 72F; humidity: 60%; wind: variable, light; seas: calm; load: 630 gal. fuel, 150 gal. water, 3 persons, and 800 lbs. of gear.
Speeds are two-way averages measured w/ Stalker radar gun.
GPH taken via SmartCraft fuel-monitoring system.
Range: 90% of advertised fuel capacity.
Decibels measured on A scale. 65 dB is the level of normal conversation.

OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT ON TEST BOAT

Onan 23-kW genset (in lieu of 21-kW model)
teak decking (cockpit, stairway, flying bridge)
wooden floor in saloon
Raymarine premium electronics package (2/E120W screens and 4-kW radar)
hardtop
flying-bridge A/C
Splendide washer/dryer
Fisher & Paykel dishwasher
desk/chair in master stateroom
hydraulic swim platform
full canvas package

Home Sweet Home

The Meridian 541 takes interior furnishings and layout to a uniquely residential level.

What I saw at the top of the stairway pegged my practicality meter, but not in a good way. Over the years, I’ve come aboard any number of midrange cruisers with residential furniture in the saloon, much of it either unsecured to the underlying deck or secured in questionable ways. In the majority of cases, these attempts to add style and comfort to life afloat have served only to worry me, engendering as they do, visions of spring-loaded recliners bouncing off bulkheads as the winds pipe up or maybe even leaping overboard during an equinoctial gale.

My first glance told me I might be looking at the same sort of lash-up in the saloon of the new Meridian Yachts 541 Sedan. The furnishings there—two sofas, two end tables, a chair, and an ottoman—looked about as residential and worrisome as any showroom offering you’ll find at Ethan Allen. Shapes were classically suburban, a styling statement much emphasized by Meridian’s standard usage of supple, top-stitched Brisa Distressed Ultraleather. And squat, stained American cherry legs undergirded just about everything, lending a living room familiarity to the scene. But, while these details generated plenty of visual appeal, the presence of what seemed like an entire suite of unsecured, residential furniture threatened a real ruckus, at least in my opinion, should something break lose in a seaway.

Meridian’s director of marketing, Matt Guilford, must have noticed the look of concern on my face. “This stuff isn’t what you think, Bill,” he said while kneeling down near the forward sofa. Once I’d knelt down myself, I could see what he was pointing at—a beefy, virtually invisible molded-fiberglass part that constituted the actual structure of the piece. The sofa was not a residential stand-alone at all—it only looked that way, primarily thanks to its shape, the top-stitched Brisa, and the slick addition of the aforementioned legs, which were for looks only.

“Amazing…really!” I commented, getting back up. In league with the saloon’s optional cherry-hued plank flooring, its encompassing windows and windshield panels (fabricated from the largest pieces of tempered safety glass you can buy in the United States, according to Guilford), and its cozy table lamps (securely anchored to the Karadon-topped molded-fiberglass end tables), my test vessel’s furnishings deceptively delivered all of the welcoming warmth of a waterfront home while simultaneously satisfying all possible seagoing concerns.

Further revelations arrived shortly. Once I’d descended the stairway to the bottom deck (with its three-stateroom, two-head arrangement), I began noticing additional residential highlights almost immediately. The full-beam master aft, for example, offered standing headroom of 6'5", a real queen-size island berth (not modified to fit in the boat), a shore-side mattress, and true, right-up-to-the-headboard walkaround access. Moreover, there was an en suite head with an ample shower stall and real ceramic tile underfoot, opening ports in both swoopy side windows for cross ventilation, a full-featured entertainment center, and (instead of a short sofa) an optional built-in desk and chair.

The forepeak VIP was similarly set up, offering walkaround access as well as a pillow-top innerspring mattress, plenty of ventilation (via a skylight as well as an opening hatch with OceanAir screens), and almost as many cedar-lined hanging lockers, drawers, and cabinets as the master. And the guest stateroom, just abaft the VIP and to starboard, promised an unusual level of comfort, with bunks that were each about three feet wide and therefore eminently snooze-worthy.

One remaining aspect of the 541’s interior caught my eye as Guilford and I headed topside to crank the mains and take her for a test. Because I’d entered the boat in a rush to confirm my suspicions concerning the saloon’s furniture, I’d breezed right past the galley and dinette area. So on the flip-flop, I slowed down and took a more appreciative look at both the spacious booth-style convertible dinette on the starboard side and the full-featured L-shape galley to port.

I found several especially engaging details here, including a Contoure microwave oven that’s also grill-capable, dual-tier windows that virtually blast in natural light, an aft window that lowers electro-hydraulically to create a pass-through into the cockpit, and a Karadon-topped bar and bar stools. But I was especially struck with how Meridian so cleverly—and again, rather residentially—blends this vessel’s outdoorsy cockpit living with a comfy interior and strategically positions the galley at the heart of the mixture in the process.

I thoroughly enjoyed easing the 541 away from her spot at the Miami Beach Marina via a superbly tweaked Cummins MerCruiser Zeus propulsion system. Seldom have I maneuvered a pod-type vessel that evinced such smooth responsiveness. Rotating the boat in front of her slip with the joystick, then cornering the fuel dock, and finally transiting the opening at the eastern end of the breakwater entailed absolutely no clutch clunk—I could neither hear nor feel any forward and reverse transitions as the pods did their thing. And I noted no maneuvering-related rocking motions either, despite the 541’s lofty 24-foot bridge clearance. Super-smooth, proportional hydraulics, not simple mechanics, actuate Zeus transmissions, and the result is palpable.

Driving the 541 in the open Atlantic was almost as much fun as bopping around the marina. The average top speed I recorded was 34.6 mph, a rousing number considering the test boat’s full load of fuel, water, and gear for a projected trip to the Bahamas. The captain’s chair on the flying bridge was comfortable. My test boat’s turning radius, well under three boat lengths by my estimation, was impressive. And, with the Zeus integrated tabs automatically handling trim, the running attitudes I measured were optimal (see “By the Numbers,” this story), an attribute that produced excellent and unlimited visibility over the bow, even coming out of the hole.

Predictably perhaps, offshore performance was not what I was thinking about as I drove Meridian’s 541 Sedan back to the marina though. Certainly, the big stylish cruiser was fast and fun to drive on the high seas and her dockside maneuverability was unmatched in terms of ease and smoothness. But my mind kept returning to those furnishings in the saloon: the pillow-top mattresses in the staterooms and the strategically positioned galley, complete with cockpit bar.

“Yup,” I told Guilford as we eased back through the slot in at the end of the breakwater. “We’re talkin’ home sweet home on the water here, man. No doubt about it!”

Meridian Yachts (865) 971-6313.

This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.