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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Meridian 391

The Brunswick Boat Group builds more pleasureboats than anyone else in the world. Twenty builders produce myriad types of vessels, from Keys-friendly skiffs to 100-foot motoryachts, under the Brunswick umbrella. Many of those companies were purchased by Brunswick, but not Meridian Yachts. Four years ago it was created to fill a niche that the corporation’s executives felt was underrepresented among its line of boats: the livability market.

When Meridian’s vice president of yachts, Paul Cherney, met me dockside in Sarasota, Florida, he was quick to explain what that meant in general and as it relates to the model I was about to test, the 391 Sedan Bridge: “Meridian’s goal is to deliver the amenities that boaters would find in their homes to their boats. Families should be able to go to their boats on a Thursday evening and have everything they need for a long weekend.” The 391 is part of the family-friendly Sedan Bridge line that also includes a 34 and 41, and many of the features that apply to this formula are obvious, most notably her galley’s stowage. There’s enough room in its cabinets and standard 7.5-cubic-foot Nova Kool ‘fridge/freezer to keep four adults well-fed for a week. Add this to the two-stateroom accommodations, split head and shower, and dinette that converts into a single berth, and you can see how the 391 meets Cherney’s criteria.

I also recognized this right away on entering the saloon (via a sliding glass door) in the placement and size of the 391’s windows: The area was awash in natural light, both from the huge forward-facing windows and two side windows, which provide the saloon with an airy, alfresco feel. When I looked in all directions from anywhere in the saloon, galley, or dinette—standing or seated—I could quickly pinpoint the horizon, something that helps me and a lot of people feel comfortable aboard.

Cherney remarked that for boaters who will retreat to their yachts for solitude, a quiet saloon is another key aspect in attaining comfort. He then led me to the cockpit and told me to look over the port side. I could see cooling water being dispersed under water from the optional 9-kW Onan genset, which spared us from the incessant splash from the typical above-water setup. A small thing but a good start, as that sound can be irritating while you’re on the hook. But the true test of her quietude would come with both engines and genset running.

So I returned to the saloon as the 391 made her way outside for the sea trial with decibel meter in hand, and my readings were impressive. I measured 66 dB-A—one dB above the level of normal conversation—at 21 mph and 2200 rpm, notable considering her optional twin 380-hp Cummins QSB5.9s were rumbling right under my feet. I learned that this was the result of four factors, three of which revealed themselves when I entered the engine room by lifting the molded fiberglass bridge stairs on their two gas-assisted struts.

The first two involved the optional, 9-kW Onan genset: It’s well aft under the cockpit, some distance from the saloon, and it’s fitted with a hushbox that comes standard with the genset. The third factor is that headliners and bulkheads have sound-attenuation panels of fire-resistant, aluminum-faced melamine foam. The last factor is the 391’s Divinycell-cored sole, which not only has a favorable strength-to-weight ratio but also sound-damping abilities. While in the engine room, I noted 21 inches between the powerplants, enough room for a mechanic and his tools, as well as easily accessible standard Racor filters, but headroom was just 4’0”, forcing me at 5’11” to crouch.

Later, I sat comfortably at the helm on the spacious flying bridge as the 391 reached her average top hop of 33.7 mph. Sightlines were excellent from the starboard-side helm in three directions, but they were somewhat limited aft; the optional transom-mounted camera should help in close-quarters maneuvering. I noticed some tenderness at idle and considerable lean in hard WOT turns—not terribly unusual in a high-profile boat of this size. But her hull proved tough: At one point, a mid-40s Downeaster zoomed past us off the port side, throwing a large wake, which the 391 cut through at WOT without fanfare, her solid fiberglass hull, full-length stringer system, and longitudinal stiffeners absorbing the blow without creaking or slamming.

Aboard the 391, livability translates into a multitude of well-planned layouts both in the saloon and on her flying bridge. Sturdy construction adapted from her sister models means a comfortable ride as well. This 39-footer will nicely bridge the gap between Meridian’s 341 and 411 Sedan Bridge models and place her owners squarely in a comfort zone of their own.

Meridian Yachts
(866) 992-2487

This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.