|LOA||53 ft., 10 in.|
|Beam||15 ft., 6 in.|
|Draft||4 ft., 9 in.|
|Displacement||(dry) 52,000 lbs.|
|Engines||Twin CMD QSM11-715 w/Zeus|
|Base Price||(as tested) $1,716,710|
|Cummins QSC8.3 600 hp diesels w/Zeus drive, dual engine controls, SmartCraft instrumentation, 20-gal. water heater, 3-burner recessed cooktop, Vitrofrigo stainless refrigerator and freezer w/ice-maker, convection/microwave oven, Glendinning Cablemaster dockside inlet, 4-zone air conditioning w/reverse-cycle heat, central vacuum, entertainment center in master, VacuFlush heads, innerspring mattresses, light cherry interior wood w/high-gloss finish and more.|
|Twin CMD QSM11 715 hp diesels w/Zeus drive, full bridge hardtop, bridge air conditioning, hydraulic swim platform, video monitoring system, washer/dryer combo unit, Onan 23 kw generator, underwater transom lights, Raymarine premium navigation package on the bridge, KVH Trac Vision TV system and more.|
|Meridian Yachts, Knoxville, Tenn.; meridian-yachts.com|
|West Coast Dealer|
|M&P Mercury Sales, Burnaby, B.C.; mpmercury.com; (604) 524-0311
Lake Union Sea Ray, Seattle; lakeunionsearay.com; (206) 284-3800
Trudeau’s Marina, Portland, Ore., Spokane, Wash.; trudeaus.com
Sun Country Marine, Dana Point, Calif.; suncountrymarine.com; (949) 493-1740
MarineMax San Diego; marinemax.com; (619) 294-2628
Posted: December 1, 2012 | Boat Type: Motoryacht
A more refined, feature-rich coastal cruiserTaking advantage of an extra day in Seattle after the Boats Afloat show — and a beautiful day it was — I hooked up with Lake Union Sea Ray’s Steve Thoreson to test the Meridian 541 Sedan. I’d had my eye on the 541 for a while, since seeing it at the Miami International Boat Show, and was glad to be able to test a new one.
The Meridian line has been undergoing a “Sea Ray-ification,” so to speak, evolving toward a more refined look, with nicer fabrics and hardware, upscale appliances, redone layouts and advanced power options. The 541 Sedan has a few features that stood out during my visit.
The salon is elevated, and not just a step. Three steps raise it above the dinette and galley, but it isn’t really separate, because there is no bulkhead to impede the view fore or aft. Raising the salon like that accomplished a couple of things, while still maintaining 6 feet, 5 inches of headroom. For one, it creates a space with great views out of the side windows and the windshield. Five people can sit comfortably in one chair and two love seats, which share an ottoman/coffee table (depending in which way the reversible top is flipped), and see the TV that’s built into the entertainment center on the port side. Second, raising the salon created room below for the master suite.
Something I liked and that cruisers with a penchant for entertaining will appreciate is the galley/cockpit area. The galley is aft and to port upon entering the boat from the cockpit, and a large tinted window separates it from the cockpit, unless you don’t want them separated. The electrically powered window retracts to let people in the galley mingle with people in the cockpit — a nice touch for those days when outdoor dining is on the schedule.
Two other features most buyers will want are the optional hardtop and the hydraulic swim platform, also optional. The hardtop and a full enclosure will keep you dry and warm on adverse weather days, and the hardtop looks like it belongs on the boat. It isn’t a design afterthought. The hydraulic platform is a great option if you plan to store your tender aft.
Access to the vessel is via either of the sidedecks or the large swim platform. The carpeted cockpit on our test model has an aft bench seat, a TV, stairs to the flybridge and two barstools at a counter that is shared with the galley when the window is down. Through a sliding door is the main cabin, with the L-shaped galley immediately to port and a four-person dinette to starboard. Cleverly hidden under the aft dinette bench is a dishwasher. In the galley are all the usual suspects: a recessed three-burner cooktop, a convection/microwave oven, storage and two drawer-style refrigerator/freezers. Forward and up three steps is the aforementioned salon. Those steps are also where the carpet begins. The galley/dinette area has a wood floor, but the rest of the boat, including the flybridge, is carpeted (which is different than on other 541 models, including the one pictured with this sea trial).
Belowdecks accommodations are accessed down a stairway to port, and a landing at the bottom leads to all three staterooms and both heads. The full-beam master stateroom is amidships and has a storage area/crew cabin as a buffer zone between it and the engine room — an area made possible by pod-drive technology, which allows the engines to be installed farther aft than traditional shaft-driven systems. A queen-size bed comes off the port hullside at an angle, which creates shelf/nightstand space on both sides of the berth and avoids a potential pinch-point between the corner of the bed and the entrance to the en suite head. A vanity top with a swinging stool is on the starboard side aft of the head. Two sets of hull windows, one of which opens on each side, allow in plenty of light, and if the stateroom door is open, more light comes from the windshield, which is over the companionway.
A bunk berth is to starboard between the master and the forward guest room. The forward berth includes an island bed, two cedar-lined hanging lockers, a three-drawer bureau, and overhead and reading lights. It has private access to the second head, which is shared with the bunk berth. Two overhead hatches let in air and light.
The flybridge is where most of your under way time is going to be spent, as that’s where the lone helm is (there’s an option for a lower helm), so Meridian designers made it an inviting area where passengers won’t mind spending time with the captain. An L-shaped lounge is to port of the helm, which is equipped with two Raymarine E120w hybridTouch displays; engine controls, displays and gauges; the joystick pod control; a VHF radio and other instrumentation. A larger C-shaped settee is all the way aft, and between it and the companion lounge is a wet bar with a sink and an ice-maker, for post-journey purposes. An entertainment cabinet with storage and a TV are aft of the captain’s chair. The standard arrangement calls for a Bimini top, but I can’t imagine building the boat without the hardtop, and Thoreson doesn’t know of any that have been built without it.
Once we hit the boat-friendly waters of Lake Washington — carefully making our way past the giant sections of the State Route 520 floating bridge, which is being expanded — we were able to open up the twin Cummins QSM11 diesels, 715 hp each, with Zeus drives. Thoreson said he prefers the Zeus pods for the Northwest because they are aft-facing, which can be an advantage in log-laden waters. Pods also improve a boat’s fuel efficiency by up to 30 percent, and on this boat at least, they made it handle like a sportboat, carving into hard turns with a slight lean and minimal loss of speed. Automatic trim tabs are constantly searching for the ideal trim, maximizing performance and efficiency. Power steering made it easy to transition from hard-over port to hard-over starboard with one hand. From the helm, visibility is excellent all around.
We achieved a top speed of 33.5 mph at wide-open throttle, 2540 rpm, while burning about 71 gph. On the flybridge at this speed, with the canvas and polycarbonate enclosure buttoned up, engine and outside noise were minimal, and we were able to talk without raising our voice. At 2280 rpm, we were traveling 29 mph and burning 61 gph, while 2000 rpm yielded 21 mph and 46 gph. Most people will likely find their comfort zone somewhere between those two rpm readings, making 23 to 26 mph a comfortable cruising speed for this boat. Slowing down to 1090 rpm reduced fuel burn to 10 gph and speed to 10.2 mph, while 1570 rpm propelled the boat at 12.9 mph and burned 27.5 gph. At 1790 rpm, the boat went 14.4 mph and burned 36 gph. Compare that to the 46 gph burned at 2000 rpm — barely 200 more revs but almost seven more mph — and you can see the boat comes on plane somewhere between, at about 17 mph, and starts achieving better efficiency.
Boaters with reason to wait around for a while — for locks to open or a drawbridge to raise — will like the Skyhook station-keeping feature of the Zeus system. Push a button and stay “anchored” to your spot without dropping your actual anchor.
Boat owners looking to upgrade from a one- or two-stateroom boat to the next level, or looking to step down after some time in a larger boat, will find the size and layout of the Meridian 541 Sedan to their liking. A family can easily cruise the coast for extended periods. A husband-and-wife team, or even new boaters, can handle the boat with no problem, thanks to the docking and station-keeping features of the Zeus pods.