John martino, annapolis school of seamanship and annapolis yacht         management
The following review was written by John Martino and prepared by the marketing department of Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Mr. Martino is the founder and president of Annapolis Yacht Management and Annapolis School of Seamanship. He develops and teaches hands-on training courses for recreational boaters and professional mariners, and offers yacht delivery and onboard training services for powerboaters as well as sailors.
Meridian 441 Sedan Bridge
Length 47'2"
Beam 14'3"
Draft 3'1"
Fuel capacity 432 gals
Displacement 31,233 lb
Price as Tested $615,900

In the past few years, a proliferation of competing technologies has made close-quarters boat handling easier. Beginning with the jet-drive system standard on Hinckley powerboats since the mid 1990s and through the recent development of Volvo's IPS and Mercruiser's Zeus pod-drive systems, docking can be as simple as working a joystick. For those of us who grew up playing Asteroids and Space Invaders, joysticks are nothing new. Now it just costs more than a quarter to play.

The newest development in joystick-controlled docking systems is Meridian Yachts' aptly named Total Control system. Unlike jet-drives or pod-drives, which use different propulsion technologies to maneuver a boat, the Total Control system uses conventional twin-inboard propulsion coupled with bow and stern thrusters. A computer interprets the operator's joystick inputs and interfaces  with transmission, throttle and thruster controls to put the boat where you want it.

I tried this system while testing the Meridian 441 sedan cruiser at the Yacht Center in Grasonville, Md. Total Control seemed more responsive moving forward and aft as well as for controlling yawing movements than IPS, but less maneuverable than IPS when it came to lateral maneuvers. (I haven't tried Zeus yet.) One significant advantage I noted with Meridian's system is that the operator can turn it off and drive the boat the old-fashioned way. This is a real plus for those who feel more comfortable with conventional controls. 

Out in the open, the driver would operate the boat normally with helm and throttles. When I took the wheel, the Meridian 441 performed well. Our test boat was equipped with twin Cummins QSB 5.9 diesels rated at 480-hp each. The 441 got up on plane quickly and handled herself well through tight turns in relatively calm conditions. She was comfortable cruising around 20 knots, burning about 30 gallons per hour.

The bridge on the 441 is huge and comfortable. With the full coverage of a solid hard top, isinglass enclosure and air-conditioning, the bridge is like a three-season sun room with plenty of seating, plus a wet bar, grill, refrigerator—even a TV if you choose. Visibility is great all the way around. The controls are also well laid out and intuitive as well as ergonomic.

Access to the bridge is via a stairway from the cockpit aft. The covered cockpit offers yet another outdoor space for entertaining or lounging on the transom bench. Steps from the cockpit conceal fender storage and provide an easy path to the side decks, which are narrow to allow for larger cabin accommodations. A solid stainless steel rail leads all the way from the cockpit forward. The bow area offers a sun lounging area and an easy-to-reach compartment for ground tackle.

Down below, the Meridian really shines. I found the saloon to be exceptionally warm and inviting–like a comfortable living room. Meridian chose rich cherry woodwork for the interior. Big windows all the way around provide plenty of natural light.

The galley and dining area are forward, one step up. The raised U-shaped dinette to starboard offers a 360-degree view. The galley is port and is well equipped and laid-out. The space is roomy enough for an optional lower helm station.  Sleeping accommodations are forward and down a few steps. The 441 has two large staterooms, each with an island queen bunk and head with separate shower stall.

The Meridian 441 packs a lot into 47 feet. Whether you're looking for a dockside get away, comfortable family cruiser, or a place to entertain guests, the 441 does it with style and comfort.