On a cruise along Hong Kong’s best coastal spots, the Meridian 441, new to Asia’s boating market, offers up spacious comfort in the search for the perfect anchorage
When you step on board the Merdian 441, the first thing you notice is the headroom – there’s lots of it. The cabin headroom is listed at two metres in the 441’s spec sheets, a point that the US builder must be proud of. Production boat builders often describe the interiors of their latest releases as being “spacious”. With the 441, that’s actually true. In this 2008 launch from Meridian, Leo Wong, owner of Kingsway Marine in Hong Kong, seems to have banked on China’s boaters wanting a roomy way to unwind in private. He may be right.
Meridian is one of the Brunswick stable of brands, and Brunswick is hoping for some big things from the Asian market with a straight-up appeal to comfort rather than performance. Perhaps it's the American pedigree behind the boat that lends itself to so much roominess; after all, one wouldn’t expect a bunch of partying, middle-aged Americans to want to skimp on space.
Of course, the first question for any boat buyer is the purpose of the boat. Is this for high-speed hijinks, pure sex appeal, or gentlemanly cruising and anchoring? If you are inclined to the last item, then the 441 is a smart choice. The performance of this boat won’t set the world on fire – the model we tested didn’t have a speed gauge, though that can certainly be added. But with a boat like this, speed is hardly the point.
Similarly, the design won’t win awards either. There is enough of a rise in the sheerline from bow to forward cabin area to avoid a comparison with the 1990s, and the angular shape of the side windows lends a bit of aggresiveness to the look. But overall, the appearance is quite conventional.
Our test boat was moored up in Sai Kung’s Marina Cove, along Hong Kong’s scenic northeastern shores. As we went on board during a crisp winter day, the heating inside the saloon was amazing; it was like stepping into a warm cabin. The furnishings matched the temperature. Cream coloured carpeting and an off-white pleather ceiling set a modern but homey tone. Meridian opted to make the saloon feel as much like the living room in someone’s home as possible, and they have succeeded.
The L-shaped settee on the starboard side is set against twin plush chairs on the port side. Cherrywood furnishings and cabinetry merge with dark trims to prevent the saloon from being too cool. Moving forward, a raised step takes you to the galley area, where a good amount of space is set up on the port side for sizeable fridge/freezer unit, a twin-basin sink, three-burner electric grill and microwave oven. This is a galley unit that is meant to be used for more than just storing beer and chips.
Opposite the galley is a dining area consisting of a C-shaped settee and table. The seating is big enough for three girth-enhanced gents to relax with elbow-room to spare. In addition to being a step up from the aft-portion of the main saloon, the flooring of the galley area is in chocolate-dark wood, which gives enough of a design shift to create a distinct area without interrupting the oneness of the space.
Of course, one of the great advantages of the 441 is the fact that this 47-footer doesn’t have a helm station in the main deck. Most European models opt for dual helm stations, counting on adverse weather to force the use of a lower deck control. While this increases options in case of rough weather, the simple fact is most boaters interested in just having a good time on the water and getting the most out of Hong Kong’s varied and beautiful coastline, won’t even bother when the weather is sour. The result is a main saloon that’s roomy and usable.
Stepping forward, the stairs leading down to the cabins below deck has a solid grabrail on the left side – a great feature for the safety conscious. The 441 has two cabins, both doubles and either is suitable as master or guest cabin. The forward cabin is traditionally arranged, with the head of the bed tucked into the very full bow. The hull seems to have been unapologetically designed to get the most internal volume, and the advantage for the owner is some extra space around the base of the bed, normally a more cramped affair than on this boat. The ensuite is spare, but has all the necessities.
The guest cabin is amidships, with the length of the bed running athwartships. There is more space allocated to the guest cabin, and on the model we tested, a small TV included in the entertainment package. In both cabins, carbon monoxide alarms have been placed for added security. Nicely-placed side windows provide plenty of natural light for the cabin. An extra door accesses the dayhead, which is a spartan but functional affair.
The captain then fired up the twin Cummins 380-horsepower electric diesel engines and manoeuvred us away from the dock. The sound of the engines was noticeable, but for a 47-footer, not overwhelming, even in the lower cabin. Of course, nobody wants to spend too much time below decks, especially when cruising. So it was time to go check out the flybridge.
I loved the flybridge on the 441. As you traverse from aft cockpit area (relatively simple settee, teak decking) to the flybridge, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. There were well-placed, sturdy handholds. The steps weren’t too step and the hatchway was wide enough to accommodate even the least slender individual.
Once up on the flybridge, it’s hard to leave. The helm station is on the starboard side and offers perfect, all-around views. The extended overhang aft yields plenty of space for the C-shaped settee, which again features a table that’s big enough for serious meals to be served (or tremendous amounts of beer).
The greatest part is the very well thought out hard-top cover. It extends from the rollbar to cover everything from the helm station to the aft-most part of the rear settee. Surrounding the entire flybridge is a set of zippered sheets of Isinglass which, when taut, are as clear as glass and seem to create little glare.
These items are counted as options, but they are well worth it, which means you’ll be paying extra on the already-attractive sticker price. The alternative of having a second helm station on the main deck isn’t worth it. This is a boat that’s best enjoyed on top, so you’ll have to factor that in a few extras if you are seriously considering a purchase.
The net effect of the hard top and surrounding covers is a whole new deck. Temperature control is perfect – several vents offer air conditioning or heating depending on circumstances. The hatchway door leading down to the main deck is heavy enough that, when closed, helps keep the flybridge at desired temperature. It also nicely blocks out a lot of engine noise, and is sturdy enough that a large-ish person such as myself can stand on it without worry of falling through.
A nice feature about the hard top is the supports. In this case, the main ro
llbar supports are positioned far enough back so as not to interfere with the helmsman’s lateral field of view, which means turning doesn’t require a spotter. Stainless steel tubes at the front and back add extra support without blocking vision. The hard top also has three vents that let in air when underway to provide extra circulation.
The hard top option can also come with an in-built entertainment system. The galley-wet bar features good countertop space, a sink with fold-up faucet, an electric grill big enough for three steaks and a minifridge. In short, once you’re set up on the flybridge, you don’t need to go very far.
The flooring on the flybridge is non-slip GRP, as is the walkway leading up to the bow. Going up front to the bow sunpads from the aft cockpit area is a bit of a squeeze, owing to the fact that the main saloon makes the most of the space. However, sturdy stainless steel handholds are in the right places. Twin sunpads on the bow adequate, though a bit narrow, which is a bit strange for a boat like this. There is a handle-grabrail between the pads, presumably to help slightly-less fit people get to their feet after a good baking.