Meridian All-New 341 Sedan Bridge — By Capt. Bill Pike
Look Ma, Two Thrusters!
Meridian’s All-New 341 Sedan Bridge is easy to handle, easy to live on, and easy to drive.
Docking’s a big deal to me, mostly because back when my wife and I were living in Connecticut and I was struggling to learn how to dock midrange cruisers, parking the darn things scared the livin’ daylights out of me. Not that merely driving out of a slip engendered fear—I seldom experienced difficulties going straight ahead. It was close-quarters maneuvering that gave me fits. I can still recall the wicked anxiety I used to feel Sunday evenings, coming back to Milford Boat Works after a day on the water, praying nobody’d be around to see yet another docking drama. And I can still recall the intensification of the anxiety when, as invariably happened, a crowd was already gathered for the show.
Things are different today, of course. But because I can so clearly remember the way they used to be, and therefore so empathize with readers who’d love to purchase midrange cruisers if only the specter of docking them didn’t haunt their dreams, I decided to pay special attention to the subject when I tested Meridian Yachts’ All-New (so named because she replaces an existing model with the same designation but different layout) 341 Sedan Bridge.
I began at a marina in LaConner, Washington, with the test boat moored starboard-side-to, along a dock bordering a narrow fairway, with the bows and sterns of other boats protruding from the fairway’s opposite side. One brand-new motoryacht was tied up ahead, and another was tied up astern. Typical situation, actually.
I sat comfortably at the helm station on the flying bridge—no optional interior helm station on our 341—fired up the mains, and watched as a Meridian rep tossed our lines off and jumped onboard via the broad swim platform. Disregarding reliance on the standard D.O.C. (Docking On Command) dual-thruster docking system for the time being, I started walking the boat to port in the conventional manner. Specifically, since I needed to “twist” the stern away from the dock while I got the bow moving in the same direction at the same speed, I simply shifted the outboard (port) engine ahead, the inboard (starboard) engine astern, and occasionally pointed the bow of the boat-shaped plastic D.O.C. control on the instrument panel (see photo on page 97) to port, thus deploying the bow thruster only. With a little extra juice from the starboard engine to compensate for its comparative inefficiency while turning backwards, I sallied the 341 out into the fairway with no-fuss-no-bother aplomb. Once there, I gave the D.O.C. system a whole-hog workout—meaning I took the engines out of gear and used stern and bow thrusters exclusively, first to sidle back into the dock, squish our fenders, and then sidle right on back out.
In addition to being easy, satisfying, and fun, these maneuvers told me oodles. First, although our gasoline-fired powerplants were not as low-end-torquey as diesels, our test boat had maneuvering oomph up the ying-yang, thanks to a deep 2.8:1 gear ratio and props with lots of diameter and pitch. Benefit? You can easily use just the clutch levers to dock the boat—throttle levers are seldom necessary. Second, the Sidepower thrusters were powerful and far enough below the waterline not to ventilate. Benefit? No need to worry about overheating and inadvertently shutting down a thruster in the midst of a dicey docking situation. And third, D.O.C., while not necessary much of the time, makes a magnificent, bacon-saving backup. Combine the effects of both bow- and stern thrusters by pushing the D.O.C. control in the direction you want to go, and even in a tight spot, the 341 moves.
This article originally appeared in the January 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.