Boat Review: Merritt 80

Unlike most really big sport-fishers, the Merritt 80 comes out of the hole like a bat out of hell. From idle to 30 knots takes a mere 11 seconds.

It's funny how things happen in boating. The new Merritt 80's owner originally wanted a smaller boat - maybe a 68 or 70, something with a draft of less than 5 feet to fit into the shallow marinas where he hoped to fish. But then he wanted so much stuff on it that the laws of physics intervened. Roy Merritt felt it could be done in a larger boat. He had already built a 75, but "I wanted to see a little more space in a couple of areas," he says. "And that's how this design turned into 80 feet."

Merritt built the boat and, to his surprise, it exceeded all expectations. The planned top-end of 35 knots became 37. "I firmly believe that this 80-footer - at 120,000 pounds - gets better mileage than [some 54-footers]," says Roy. "My studies show that [a typical 54] burns 120 to 125 gph to run at 30 knots. This boat burns 120 gph to run at 31 knots, yet it's much larger. That's an increase in efficiency." Also unlike most really big sport-fishers, the Merritt 80 comes out of the hole like a bat out of hell. From idle to 30 knots takes a mere 11 seconds.

Merritt believes in wide-chine boats. They don't sink down into the water as much, reducing wetted area and, therefore, friction. "Sure, if you take an 80-footer and want to execute a 180-degree turn at cruising speed, it's going to take longer to do it than a 58-footer will," says Merritt. "But comparing apples to apples, wide chines offer better lift over drag and fuel economy than narrow chines."

Merritt has the honor of using some of the most advanced construction techniques of any fishing yacht builder. The new 80 boasts resin-pre-impregnated epoxy/Kevlar/E-glass on the skin and vacuum-bagging with coring throughout (even the running surface), making an all-composite hull that's both light and strong. The cabin house is wood, the bridge fiberglass.

One feature Merritt has found to be very popular is the "balcony" - a deck at the same level as the salon, but waist high when standing in the cockpit. It provides very comfortable, air-conditioned gallery seating with a refrigerated drink supply all up out of the way of those working in the cockpit. Merritt feels so strongly about this feature that unless you specifically request that it be deleted, he won't build a boat without one.
Everything aboard this boat is built-in. From the computer terminal and entertainment center in the salon to the electronics on the flybridge, you need to push a button in order to see it.

Four double staterooms and four full heads plus a large tackle locker amidship in the companionway fill the belowdecks area.
As you'd expect in any 80-footer, Merritt provides full standing headroom in the engine compartment and a separate pump room. Step down into the engine room and you find transverse bulkheads with sea doors both fore and aft. Each door sports a window so you can see into the opposite compartment before opening the door - a great safety feature.

The huge cockpit contains fish boxes and baitwells, all built into the deck. With the size and number of bait coolers and freezers aboard, you'll never need to bring additional coolers aboard again.

You'll find rod storage under most settees as well as under all the flybridge seating. Huge electronics displays and a unique, custom-wood steering wheel catch your eye immediately upon reaching the bridge. Push another button and the helmseat even raises and lowers on an electric ram. Merritt helps the crew immensely by installing freshwater outlets on the flybridge, tower and in the anchor locker as well as in the cockpit for ease of cleaning. Additionally, the flybridge has compressed air to properly clean the electronics.

It's obvious that Merritt works very hard. After touring his newest 80, it's difficult to imagine a large sport-fisherman that's laid out any smarter.
- Dean Travis Clarke