For most yachts, the design process starts with the hull and deck, which are inked both for performance through the water and good looks by traditional standards, with the interior created later to fit that shell. In the case of the Meridian 459, I'd guess that the designers took the opposite route. First they assembled the features they wanted: two staterooms, a saloon, a galley, two large heads, a sundeck and a cockpit. Then they shrink-wrapped a boat around this package.
The 459 is the nautical version of the "cab forward" automobile that trades hood length for increased interior space. The 459 has interior volume in spades. This is a yacht that packs an incredible amount of living area and comfort into a surprisingly nimble package.
Dockside, the 459 is impressively tall, with side decks that loom far above head height amidships, drooping lower at the bow. The foredeck tilts forward, turning the usually horizontal sunpads into recliners, but putting the anchor roller at a reasonable height.
The 459 was developed from the year-old Meridian 408, an immensely popular two-stateroom/two-head motoryacht that will continue in production for the time being. In fact, all the likable features of the 408 remain untouched, with the 459 created by morphing on a large cockpit. Frankly, the cockpit is such a useful feature that it would be hard to live without it. First, it provides water-level access to the stern platform for swimming, boarding a tender or stepping onto a pier. It also allows a spacious under-deck compartment for the generator that, in turn, frees up space in the tight engineroom.
Most important, however, is that it creates a private patio for the master stateroom, complete with a sliding door. In the 408, the master stateroom is limited to a transom window, but the 459 has more light plus direct access to the cockpit. With a chair and table, it would be a pleasant place for 459 owners to start their day with coffee and croissants.
The saloon is expansive, with twin settees (the port couch includes two oh-so-comfortable Flexsteel recliners in stain-resistant Mirage leather) and a double row of windows that allows guests a wide-screen view of the scenery while seated. Though padded liners are used extensively, there is enough high-gloss cherry joinery and accents to warm the interior. Two hinged-up windows provide fresh air but could prove to be ankle-biters on the side decks.
Airflow throughout the 459 was carefully considered in the design process, and the overhead liner conceals the climate-control ducts and vents, with indirect airflow for draft-free cooling. The optional Marine Air air conditioning system has no exposed vents, and the standard Meridian 459 has an outside air ventilation system to refresh the cabin air.
Our test boat had the optional lower helm, which replaces the standard dinette in the forward corner of the saloon. Personally, I would save my money for options such as the master-stateroom entertainment system or the upgraded décor package. The flying bridge is so impeccably designed that it becomes an all-weather loft, negating the need for a lower station even in areas such as the Pacific Northwest. Completely protected by the optional soft enclosure, it remains open to the hardtop-covered afterdeck, which has its own enclosure. The result is airy and bright, and conversation can flow from deck to bridge.
The steps to the bridge are comfortably spaced, and the view from the helm is excellent in all directions, including the after corners when backing down or docking. Add the optional air conditioning/heating for the bridge, and you'll never miss the lower helm.
The galley is down, but just barely, since the saloon sole is at knee height. In addition to touches such as the full upright refrigerator/freezer and convection/microwave oven, it has a clever pantry beneath the sole with twin bins for stowage. Lift the steps to the saloon, and you'll find an immense stowage area, some of which can be used for the optional washer/dryer. Noticeable throughout the 459 but particularly a concern in the galley is the absence of sea rails or lips on counter surfaces.
Forward, the guest stateroom is pleasantly sized, with a double berth, two hanging lockers and a door to the large day head with shower.
The master stateroom is an absolute delight because of that slider to the cockpit. The queen innerspring berth is athwartships and, for once, rectangular, so store-bought linens will fit properly. The head is divided, with a toilet compartment aft and a separate enclosed shower forward, while a sink in a Karadon counter divides the two.
The only tight area on the 459 is the engineroom, which is reached via a lift-out panel in the saloon sole. The headroom is low, and access to the engines is improved by removing two additional sole panels, but it's acceptable for the usual checks. With the generator absented to the under-cockpit compartment, there is both more space in the engineroom than in that of the 408 and excellent access to the sound-shielded genset.
Construction is to high standards, and the tight seams between panels are the result of mirror-smooth molds created by a computer-driven, state-of-the-art milling machine. Meridian strengthens the hull with a stringer system that extends from the stern to the bow strake and carries, via aluminum cross members, the weight and torque of the engines. Unlike builders who simply tab in the bulkheads, Meridian designed the 459 with load-bearing bulkheads that create a monocoque uni-body structure for added strength. The hull/deck joint is bonded chemically with urethane and mechanically with through-bolts every five to seven inches. With vinylester resins for blister protection, Meridian offers a 10-year hull and deck warranty.
When it comes to systems, Meridian has color-coded all the wiring for easy service. Connections are made with pin connectors, rather than crimped swages, to eliminate shorts. Because Meridian knows boat owners will add and update gear in the future, wiring buses have been provided on the flying bridge to simplify the addition of components.
Our test boat had the optional 330 hp Cummins diesel inboards (370s also are available), which replaced the standard 420 hp MerCruiser 8.1L Horizon gas motors. Though they give away 180 horsepower to the gas V-8s, the 459 still cruised at 18 to 19 knots.
Under way, handling was reassuringly predictable. Cranking the wheel hard over at full chat resulted in a calm and unruffled turn as the 459 bit solidly without cavitation, leaned over comfortably and even sliced through her own wake without fuss. Of particular note is the low sound level, which reached only 74 decibels at full throttle in the saloon and just 76 decibels in the master stateroom.
The test boat also had the Meridian-exclusive Docking On Command (D.O.C.) system, which takes the sweaty palms out of close-quarters maneuvering. Linking bow- and sternthrusters through a diamond-shape helm control, the skipper can use the D.O.C. system to spin the 459, operate either the forward or after thrusters independently or, by pushing the D.O.C. control to one side, move the 459 sideways into the tightest mooring. It's a slick and worthwhile addition for novices and old pros alike, as long as they remember this: These are electric thrusters which, when used for extended periods, can overheat and shut down at an awkward moment. Nevertheless, it's definitely an option I'd check off, if only for the increased resale value to a novice.
The Meridian 459 provides a comfortably spacious and thoughtfully designed interior that is sure to delight potential buyers.
Contact: Meridian Yachts, (866) 9-YACHTS;