By Tom Thompson
Meridian 580 Pilothouse: Sea Trial
Meridian 580 Pilothouse: A new boat, a new name and a whole new image.
What’s in a name? Marketing people will tell you: “everything.”
A company’s name plays an important role in how buyers perceive its products. For many years, Bayliner sold boats of widely differing sizes and price ranges under its popular logo. That sometimes made the distinctions among various models a bit confusing. For instance, a 17-foot runabout has very little in common with a 47-foot motoryacht, so why should both share the same brand name?
To remedy this situation, the parent company of Bayliner decided to delete the larger boats from the Bayliner line and start a brand-new yacht division under the Meridian name. Meridian Yachts now offers a lineup of six models, from 34 to 58 feet in length.
The Meridian 580 Pilothouse is the flagship of the new line. This model exhibits much more than a different name: It offers a significant step up in styling and amenities.
This boat is not a Bayliner. The 580 Pilothouse is an upscale production boat with customization options available to make it uniquely your own.
Style and Practicality
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Meridian 580 Pilothouse is its contemporary styling, featuring attractively flowing lines. There are large expanses of smooth surfaces accented by functional features — including walk-around decks and large bonded cabin windows that blend seamlessly into the boat’s elegant design.
Step into the boat’s interior and you’ll discover that it is equally eye-catching. The main saloon and the pilothouse are on separate levels, but they are tied together by an area to starboard that is accented by an open staircase. A generous expanse of glass brings in light from all sides.
The focal point of the main saloon is its entertainment center, which contains a 32-inch Sony flat-screen television and a DVD player — both of which are standard. There’s also a Bose audio system option.
Meridian’s generous use of designer fabrics, upholstery and carpeting create a soft feel to the space. Even the saloon’s overhead light fixture is cloth covered. Several pattern and color choices are available for each material.
Fine wood cabinetry provides an elegant accent to the soft goods. The buyer can choose either high-gloss cherry or satin-finish teak.
The settee on the port side of the saloon is actually a pair of comfortable recliners. If you prefer a more traditional convertible settee that folds out into a double berth, it is available optionally.
A wet bar is just forward of the settee, along the bulkhead that backs up to the galley. There’s also a single lounge chair and a convertible, adjustable-height table in the middle of the saloon.
Another smaller settee is positioned along the port side, and forward of it is the dining area. An optional ice-maker is conveniently located in the bulkhead between them.
The 580′s galley rivals just about anything you might find at home. Full-size appliances include a refrigerator with a lower freezer drawer, a four-burner flush-top electric stove, a self-cleaning oven, a microwave oven and a double-basin stainless steel sink.
The galley’s solid granite countertops are available in either neutral or black finish. A generous amount of storage cabinetry is also provided — including a large, double-tiered lazy Susan at the end of the counter run.
The pilothouse offers a U-shaped seating area to port with a cocktail table at its center. The captain has a commanding view from a comfortable pedestal seat that’s electrically adjustable front to back and hydraulically adjustable up and down. Deck access is available through a door to starboard.
It’s an easy stroll to get around the deck on the 580 Pilothouse. High, secure rails and wide sidedecks lead you to the foredeck.
Two easy steps take you from the sidedecks down to the cockpit. Here, the 580 offers a pair of large lazarette storage compartments and a swim platform that is wide enough for stowing a personal watercraft or a tender.
A Glendinning Cablemaster system is also installed at the stern, loaded with 100 feet of cable — which is especially convenient if you have to dock bow-in.
The upper and lower helm stations are nearly identical in size and configuration. They both have ample space for adding several large electronic displays.
The 580 Pilothouse comes with a standard helm package that includes electronic shift and throttle controls, along with a Mercury SmartCraft engine monitoring system for the engines, in addition to conventional analog gauges.
An optional Raymarine electronics package adds VHF radios at both stations, along with radar, a chart plotter, a fish finder and an autopilot.
There are two pedestal seats at the upper helm station. An L-shaped lounge is positioned to port and there’s a wet bar to starboard.
A deck abaft the flybridge provides ample space for keeping a tender, which can be launched and retrieved by an optional 1,500-pound-capacity davit. A Bimini top and full canvas enclosures are also available as options.
Belowdecks, the 580 Pilothouse offers three staterooms and two full heads. The master stateroom is amidships and has a queen-size berth with nightstands on both sides.
The master’s abundant stowage areas include a large hanging locker, a chest of drawers and a drawer beneath the berth. A dressing area with a vanity and mirror is also provided here.
The adjoining head compartment comes complete with a tub that extends partially under the saloon floor. The shower portion offers a surprising 6 feet, 8 inches of headroom.
The most striking feature of the forward guest stateroom is how open it feels. A pair of hatches with translucent covers floods the space with daylight. A large pedestal berth at the bow allows access from three sides.
A third stateroom is located to port, offering a pair of bunk-style berths that would be ideal for kids.
One additional convenience feature aboard the 580 is an optional washer and dryer, installed at the bottom of the stairs leading to the staterooms.
Taking a Ride
We tested the 580 Pilothouse on a winter day off Stuart, Florida. Our test boat was equipped with a pair of 635 hp Cummins MerCruiser QSM 11 diesels. Although the boat is also available with optional 660 hp engines, it handled very well with the smaller powerplants.
The 580 came on plane quickly and exhibited good midrange acceleration. Cruising speed is 22 knots, and wide-open throttle is just over 24 knots.
On the flybridge, the sound level at cruise is a respectable 76 decibels. It’s actually one decibel less than the sound level in the cabin at the same speed. The 580 has an effective Venturi windscreen that keeps noise levels down at the helm, so you can carry on a conversation without shouting.
The 580 Pilothouse we tested was equipped with Meridian’s Docking On Command option — which puts thrusters at both the bow and stern. With them, you can actually move the boat sideways — making just about any docking situation a breeze.
What a way to go.
Meridian 580 Pilothouse Specifications
|Dry weight||59,920 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||800 gallons|
|Water capacity||218 gallons|
|Propellers||32″ x 34″ four-blade|
|Base price w/twin 635-hp Cummins MerCruiser diesels||$1,109,300|
|Top speed||24 knots|
|Miles per gallon at 18-knot cruising speed||.48|
|Estimated fuel cost for 100 miles||$312.50|
|Range at 18-knot cruising speed||379 nautical miles to empty|
|Sound level at cruising speed||76 db A|
(Estimated fuel cost based on a fuel price of $1.50 per gallon.)
Mathers MicroCommander controls; innerspring mattresses in two staterooms; Sony home theater system with DVD player; 18.1 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer; Mercury SmartCraft instrumentation; 10-year limited structural hull and deck warranty; solid surface Karadon countertops; enclosed shower/tub stall.
Docking On Command bow and stern thruster system, five-zone air conditioning; 13.5 kw, 17.5 kw or 21.5 kw auxiliary generator; central vacuum system; intercom system; water-maker; Lewmar windlass; trash compactor; dishwasher; washer and dryer.
Hull and deck are hand-laid fiberglass with scored foam coring throughout; vinylester skin coat.
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