Meridian 580 Pilothouse Motoryacht REVIEW
When you are on a boat that has a bathroom with an actual full-sized bath, you know your previous ideas on what constitutes luxury afloat are in for modification. But while the Meridian 580 Pilothouse has plenty of luxury, it is a long way from being a poser’s boat.
The pilothouse referred to in its moniker (we Australians might call it a wheelhouse) is practicality-plus, giving top vision and enough separation from other activities to remove distraction. Perhaps part of the idea is to hide away the hired skipper? My guess is that’s not likely to happen here, as the 580 is pleasurable – and easy – to drive for an owner. As such, there will be no relinquishing of the helm.
This is also a very capable vessel, so I hope it’s not confined to the life of so many big WA-owned boats: 10 weekends at Rottnest Island each year, maybe a week at the Abrolhos Islands every second year (although, for most, the Abrolhos are for dreaming about rather than visiting).
No, a more fitting life for the 580 on our West Coast would be as a weekender on summer weekends, with a delivery trip to Dampier by a professional crew, after which the owners fly in to take up residence for couple of weeks of R&R. Or with a couple of weeks up their sleeve, there would be time for some Kimberley exploration. So perhaps a crew isn’t such a silly idea. Get them to take the boat to Broome or Derby on alternate years. Then I could volunteer for the job.
Meantime, I was on a delivery from Hillarys, north of Perth, to Mandurah, 74km to the south of the capital, for the annual boat show. At 45nm by sea, it was a longish voyage by WA standards. Further, the weather was brisk enough to test the hull and the 580’s habitability under way.
NUTS AND BOLTS
The 580’s hull and deck are built in foam-core hand-laid GRP sandwich with a vinylester skin-coat, which is another way of saying: akin to most US-built boats.” All bulkheads are glassed in place as genuine structural elements, rather than Sika-Flexed there as part of the lining.
The boat goes together in enormous pieces, with plentiful use of fibreglass, urethane and through bolts. Deck, coachroof and cockpit are one moulding, which means less chance of leaks, as well as extra stiffness. Mind you, there are some big openings in it because daylight penetration is clearly a priority.
Huge amounts of side glass give all the light you could want, controllable with blinds, and excellent vision while sitting or standing. The glass is the flush mounted, stick-on style, which Australia claims to have introduced to the marine world.
Meridians always seem to have more space in their enginerooms than most. They are probably no bigger, rather, the result of someone spending the time to get the layout right. And, take it from me, the 580 has a good deal of gear to lay out.
Main engines are the optional pair of Cummins QSM IIs rated at 715hp and using the same 10.8lt block as the standard 670hp motors. Fuel is fed to each through dual Racal filters.
The genset is a 17kW Onan, mounted in an effective sound shield. That, plus the engineroom acoustic insulation, made it as soundless as my ears could detect. Among other items, the gennie powers a five-zone, reverse-cycle air-conditioning system totalling 70,000 BTUs, and battery chargers totalling 3.1kW. The DC system is 24V, using eight 6V house batteries, and four starting batteries. A Xantrax power management system controls the genset, turning it on when voltage drops below a set level.
There is also room for a watermaker, a 76lt water heater and a macerator. Tank capacities are reasonable, although for those Kimberley trips you would have to organise fuel drops. Fuel capacity is 3028lt, freshwater 825lt, and sullage 280lt.
OUT AND ABOVE
Like most US boats, the 580 has a short cockpit. The intention is to maximise the hull for accommodation and make up for the lost outdoor space with a big flybridge.
Access to the cockpit and teak deck is great through the vast central sliding glass door. From the cockpit, teak-topped stairs lead up through a safety hatch to the flybridge, as well as along both sides to the sidedecks and down to the swim platform, which is about two-thirds the area of the cockpit and, therefore, adds to the real-estate.
But besides being a landing ground for swimmers and tenders, the swim platform has plenty of room for operating a barbecue, and will take a few deck chairs for anglers. Optional underwater lights add to its appeal at night, for a swim if there aren’t sharks lurking, otherwise to watch the marine life.
The sidedecks are wide enough for moving forward without a struggle, although I would have been happier if the cabin-side grabrails had been full length rather than stopping at the pilothouse windows. There is plenty of useable foredeck area for walking on, a coachroof for sitting on, and a double sunbaking pad mid-roof.
A sliding door, hefty enough to be near-bulletproof, gives alternate access inside via the pilothouse. From here, three steps lead down to the saloon, there’s a semi-spiral staircase to the forward accommodation, and an internal stairway up to the flybridge.
The flybridge is huge and well equipped. A standard 680kg hydraulic lift and slew davit lives on its aft end. Some of the bridge area is consumed by a stowed tender, but there is still a lot of upper deck to entertain guests and, once you reach the anchorage, you can deploy the tender and let the party sprawl out.
There are twin helm chairs before the wheel, a second spread of engine controls and displays, lounges big enough to hold another seven guests, with space left for some deckchairs. Elsewhere I found a lunch table with fiddle to keep bottles and glasses contained, a serious wet bar with fridge, sink and lockers, and shade courtesy of a bimini. All told, a great socialising space.
The mahogany decked saloon has a sitting area aft, a dinette forward and starboard, and a galley opposite. All of these spaces are large examples of their types, with a lot of leather, dark cherry timber and veneer, and excellent joinery. The interior is kept clean with the boat’s ducted vacuum cleaner.
The galley is huge, with more gear than the average shoreside kitchen. Try granite bench tops, dishwasher, coffee maker and electric oven, as well as the more usual microwave, four-plate stove, domestic fridge and freezer, and so on. There is also an abundance of storage for anything and everything related to eating and drinking.
A Bose theatre system was linked to a 78cm LCD TV screen, offering surround sound and different indoor and outdoor music zones. This will keep everyone happy at the various entertaining areas on the boat.
The 580 has a three-cabin, six-berth layout. For weekends or overnighting, you can add a number of casual sleeping options. But for serious cruising, there’s space for six to live together indefinitely without encroaching on personal space. The master suite, particularly, operates as an independent apartment to mollycoddle the owners.
Located below the raised pilothouse deck, the stateroom uses the 5.3m beam to good effect. The bed is queen-size and the TV screen accordingly grand. There are cedar-lined wardrobes, a vanity with washbasin and dressing table, and then the door to the bathroom that takes some beating.
Perhaps if it were real top line luxury, there would be a separate shower stall – but that is nit picking. The bath is the real McCoy, calling from inside its glass enclosure, and with a standard issue watermaker you can soak daily if you desire. The toilet is vacuum flushed, while the floor is tiled in granite.
The forward double cabin or VIP guest’s cabin isn’t much smaller, with a door to the shared bathroom that is huge by most mariners’ standards (no bath though). The bed is an island queen up against the collision bulkhead. At anchor, the motion and noise will be greater here than in the stateroom, but a trial sprawl on the bed proved it was supremely comfortable even while travelling in the sloppy conditions. And I could detect virtually no sound at all coming through the hull, a credit to its rigid structure.
The third cabin is aft of the double with a transverse bunk partially over the fore and aft bunk. A corner excised from this cabin, accessible from the companionway, houses the washing machine and dryer.
The fit-out of the accommodation uses the same materials in the saloon and pilothouse, only the mahogany joinery appears darker downstairs. As such, I was interested to listen to people’s comments at the Mandurah Boat Show. Proving that personal taste is just that, plenty of would-be buyers commented on the timber’s attractiveness and its stately appearance. Back to the drive.
On our breezy day, the pilothouse was far more attractive than the open-air flybridge and it offered much better vision than the usual run-of-the-mill lower station. It was also removed from distractions, through I had no reason to be lonely. The saloon was in clear view astern and a nearby settee held friends alongside. The excellent helm seat was in the right position for handling all the controls and viewing all the displays without having to crane your neck or get out of the seat.
A pair of E120 Raymarines and a SmartCraft display provided comprehensive information – radar, plotter, sounder and detailed engine data – an autopilot made life even easier, and analogue gauges relayed engine functions. But I also had Total Command. What’s that, you ask? Ah-ha. See the box hereabouts.
After decamping from the pen at Hillarys with aplomb, it was full bore into the delivery. The first half of the trip gave us shelter behind Rottnest and Garden Islands, but by the time we reached open water the sou’wester had piped up to around 20kts. That’s insignificant enough by 58-footer standards, but pretty much the top end of what pleasure boaters choose to be out in.
We took some spray, coped with by the triple wipers and screen washers, and the bow went up and down a bit. But that was pretty much it. Nothing sudden, no jolting or harsh noise; it was gentleman’s progress at 15kts, because we had time in hand and no reason to squander fuel.
But we tried a bit of full throttle to see how the 580 Pilothouse performs with her upgraded twin 715hp Cummins. Twenty-seven knots is the first part of the answer, and staying comfortable describes how she behaves at high speed, too. Fast or slow, one sweet-running cruiser.
At the time of review, the asking price of $2.2 million seemed more than reasonable. But within a blink of the eye, the Australian dollar went volatile, and future prices are subject to adjustment, almost certainly upwards. Leaving aside the sensitive issue of cost, though, the Meridian 580 looks most attractive to my eyes and a lot of others.
The 580’s great great profile is matched by a very well thought-out, practical interior for entertaining and cruising, open air entertaining space, and the pleasure of the pilothouse. It is also good fun to drive and I find a lot of boats are barely that.
Put it all together and this is the boat that has everything except for a tender, which you get to choose from a wide world of duckies. But even with a duckie up top, you will be loath to leave the Meridian 580 Pilothouse. As I said, my previous ideas about what constitutes luxury afloat are in for modification. Time for a tub.
Earlier Meridians have always boasted something called Docking on Command, which links bow and sternthrusters via computer to a joystick. But Total Command on the new flagship 580 Pilothouse goes further. It includes the main engines in the equation.
The degree of vessel control that this new system gives the skipper is class leading and akin to what Volvo Penta’s IPS or other pod drives achieve. Only Total Command doesn’t need expensive and more vulnerable appendages to gain its amazing manoeuvrability. Just a few silicon chips. Twist the joystick and you spin the Meridian 580 on its length. Push the joystick forwards, backwards or sideways and that is where the boat goes. Suffice to say, it was a piece of cake getting out of the pen at Hillarys and into the berth at Mandurah Boat Show, even despite the wind really piping up as it does in the Wild West.
We reckon Total Command is a great addition to the Meridian 580 Pilothouse, as it removes a lot of the worry of owning a big boat and, in particular, takes the knee knockign out of docking. Give it a whirl.
- Attractive profile
- Airy upper deck layout
- Plenty of natural light
- The Total Command system
- Excellent vision from pilothouse
- Spacious flybridge
- Gracious living
- Dark timber made the sleeping accommodation a bit gloomy
- Cockpit on the small side
|MERIDIAN 580 PILOTHOUSE|
|Price as tested: $2.2 million (future boats subject to change due to fluctuating exchange rate)|
|Options fitted: Engine upgrade, underwater lighting, Bose and more|
|Length overall: 18.24m|
|Holding tank: 280lt|
|Make/model: Twin Cummins QSM II diesels|
|Type: Six-cylinder direct injection|
|Rated HP/kW: 715/526 (each)|