Max and Patricia Tucker discovered boating just four years ago, a lot later in life than most people. They had retired, although Max says that he has never really retired from the family business. He admits, though, that Patricia hadn’t been that keen on the water.
That soon changed when they bought their first boat. It was a Bayliner 285. A bigger Sea Ray sports cruiser soon followed. And then they discovered a Meridian 341. But it didn’t take long for this 34-footer to become too small as well, especially when the grandkids arrived for a day out, so they stepped up to a bigger Meridian 391 Sedan.
Meridians are manufactured by the giant Brunswick Corporation, which lays claim to being the biggest pleasure boat manufacturer in the world with brands that include Bayliner, Sea Ray, Boston Whaler and Hatteras. The Meridian 391 is easy to spot on the water: it’s quite distinctive with its large cabin windows and sleek lines, which are very different to most of the 40-footers out there.
This Meridian, named Patricia-Ann, is the Gold Coast couple’s ‘home away from home’. “When we’re not at home, this is our home,” says Max. And it feels like a home when you step across the good-size cockpit and into the main cabin. The furnishings and cherrywood fittings are warm and inviting, but there is something else. It has the ambience of stepping into someone’s lounge room, because that’s exactly what it is.
The lounge area consists of an L-shaped lounge with a very distinctive coffee table, the style of which is normally found in bigger boats. Opposite are two occasional chairs separated by a small cabinet and a mounted lamp. The addition of venetian blinds on the big windows softens the light and still lets people see out. The dinette is set up from the lounge area with a semi-circular lounge that gives a panoramic view out the cabin windows. It’s the best water view in town.
The height of the cabin also adds to the feeling of spaciousness. It’s a full 1.96m. The inlaid wood highlight in the roof lining adds a nice touch.
A downstairs helm station is not needed on this boat; it’s replaced by the dinette. Set opposite the galley, it’s easy for the hostess to pass plates up to the guests when dining. And speaking of plates, all the plates onboard are hand-painted by Patricia. She loves painting and has monogrammed the chinaware with the boat’s name. Even the towels are monogrammed. There’s evidence of her artistic bent throughout the boat and this is what makes it so homely and friendly. And of course it isn’t long before Max is offering a beer from one of his well-stocked fridges.
Max and Patricia have certainly stamped their personalities on the boat.
The galley comes equipped with a microwave, side-by-side refrigerator, double-burner cooktop and a large stainless steel sink. There is also a very necessary coffee maker sitting on top of the microwave. The cooktop hasn’t been used yet, they prefer to use the microwave or the barbecue on the swim platform. Storage includes two large cabinets below the cooktop and sink. Meridian includes lazy susans in the galley lockers and there is a large underfloor locker as well.
The sleeping accommodation consists of two separate cabins, the owner’s cabin with a double island berth up front and another cabin under the dinette, which also has a double island berth. There are not many 40-footers about with two double cabins. To fit the cabins in, Meridian has separated the toilet and the shower. The shower and toilet spaces are opposite each other, each with a vanity and sink.
The interior design is laid out so that the living spaces blend together and there is a feeling that this is a much bigger boat than it is.
It’s up top, like all flybridges, where most of the time will be spent on the water. But this flybridge is different. It is accessed by a set of moulded steps that, incidentally, lift up to reveal another set of steps down into the engine room. The first reaction from most people when they emerge through the wide hatch onto the flybridge is: “This is nice.” It’s different, too. Again, the layout is very much the style of a bigger boat.
There is a full sun lounge down one side with a curved lounge across the back, under the targa arch, and another lounge up front next to the driver. A fridge and a wet bar complete the amenities. The curved helm is set forward on the starboard side and wraps around the driver with all the gauges and switches easy to read and well positioned in woodgrain panel highlights. A Northstar navigation package had been added, along with Cummins electronic controls and readouts. Max said that it took a little getting used to the electronic controls at first, but they are no longer a problem for him or Patricia.
The flybridge, covered by an optional bimini and clears, is where Patricia and Max spend most of their time on the boat. When not driving, Patricia paints and listens to her MP3 player. Max just sits back and relaxes with a cold one. It’s not hard to see where the grandkids spend their time on the boat, either. The upholstery on the flybridge has been wisely covered with a kid-proof material to catch any unexpected spills.
Performance & Handling
The Meridian 391 is powered by a couple of Cummins 380hp QSBs. These are the top-of-the-range optional engines for the boat and they do the job well. The boat weighs in at around 11,340kg dry weight and will cruise comfortably and quietly between 16-18 knots at 2400-2500rpm. It’s not a fast boat; it’s not meant to be. It was very stable and smooth on the Broadwater and an ocean passage wouldn’t be a problem, provided you chose the right weather. The underwater exhausts also help to keep the boat quiet. We recorded a GPS top speed of 26.3 knots at 2900rpm, so with a full tank of 1325lt of fuel it would have a good coastal cruising range.
The Meridian 391 will sleep six to eight people at a pinch and offers a complete package for a couple who want to cruise and entertain their guests, or have fun on the water with the family.
The base boat is well priced for what it offers and starts at $620,000.00. “The boat has given us a new lease of life,” Max says.