The latest launch from Merritt’s Boat & Engine Works is a spectacular, open-bridge 86-footer powered by twin MTU M-94 2,600 hp diesels. It is a perfect example of an owner and builder putting together their best efforts to create a first-class sport-fishing boat. Although calling it a boat is purely an oversimplification — she is 100 percent yacht-grade.
I had a great coach as a kid, who would tell us all the time, “Do the little things right and the big things will fall in place.” It was his way of getting us to focus on the details; if we each did our job and put forth our best effort, we would win games. It’s quite easy to see at first glance after walking on this new Merritt that the folks at the storied yard are very focused on the details.
She is unmistakably Merritt, with her gentle unbroken shear, proportioned house and bridge as well as the trademark mezzanine deck and brightwork featuring a varnished cap rail, half round toe rail and cockpit bulkhead.
Her size is deceiving. She doesn’t look that big on the water, yet the feel of her volume inside is huge — which is a good indicator that her proportions are right. Her interior layout is totally functional and blends large spaces, impeccable woodwork joinery, and a finely decorated interior with tasteful soft goods, hardware and accessories with equal measure. Mechanically, the 86 is assembled with robust equipment that is installed with maintenance and long-term service in mind. There’s nothing dainty about her systems — the boys at Merritt’s oversize almost everything in an effort to prevent failures.
Her expansive salon has a leather L-shaped settee to starboard with a pullout sleeper and storage under along with a custom teak table with inlays. Forward of the settee is a large six-person dinette and table. In the port aft corner is the TV and media cabinet with an ice maker underneath. Along the port side are three large under-counter storage cabinets, housing the bar, glasses, service dishes and more.
Her galley is forward, with a walk-around island with stone countertop, stainless sink, four Sub-Zero pullout drawer refrigerators and heaps of storage underneath. The forward galley bulkhead has over-counter cabinets with a microwave oven and drawer storage behind teak cabinet doors. A cooktop stove is under a lift-up panel on the forward counter, and the Bosch oven is under the counter along with the Miele dishwasher and refrigerator/freezer Sub-Zero drawers. Along the aft counter of the island are three Merritt custom-made teak swivel bar stools with hand-carved blue marlin on the back.
Behind the galley forward bulkhead is a huge pantry area with massive storage in two framed cabinets that have at least 10 pullout drawers. There is great access to all three salon AC handlers behind easily removed panels to clean the filters. The top of the aft cabinet houses a network printer, scanner, copier and other shipboard items, including seven satellite TV receivers.
The electrical distribution panel is in a cabinet to starboard forward of the dinette. Because the 86 has so many systems, she is equipped with a pair of 38 kW Northern Lights generators as well as a pair of 100-amp shore service cords. Merritt’s installed a power transfer system built by A-Sea, which gives her seamless power switching, enabling her to switch online to generator operation in 15 seconds after a power outage. The system will also bring the second generator online and distribute the load if anchored out and using a lot of power, which can occur when running both 5-ton chilled air systems and all the handlers while people are cooking and showering and using blow-dryers and the like.
The A-Sea system can also be manipulated manually to change over from shore to ship and distribute power and vice versa.
The entrance to below is along the starboard side and leads down to her five-stateroom layout. The crew quarters entrance is at the bottom of the stairs to starboard and is a full-width stateroom under the galley. The crews’ quarters features two over/under berths along the port hull side that are 6 feet 8 inches long and 39 inches wide that each have a 22-inch high-definition (HD) TV with headphones for privacy.
A third bunk can easily be added along the forward bulkhead where the two large hanging lockers and underneath pullout drawers are. There is a full head with shower, stone countertop vanity and high-gloss finished teak floor. There is a full watertight walk-in entrance to the engine room on the aft bulkhead as well.
Walking forward in the companionway, there are several storage cabinets to starboard as well as a washer/dryer, while to port is the master stateroom. The master is well appointed with an island king berth that lies against the aft bulkhead with nightstands on either side, a large full-length cedar-lined storage closet to starboard, and two along the port hull side that are on either side of a built-in desk with drawers and mirrors over. A 52-inch flat-screen TV is in a cabinet on the forward bulkhead with five massive drawers underneath. The head is to port and features a large shower with seats, a spacious vanity with storage and drawers underneath, mirrored storage over and glossy finished burl wood floor.
Forward of the laundry cabinet along the starboard side is a large stateroom with queen berth, a 22-inch HD TV with DVD player, a hanging locker and storage galore, as well as private access to the full head and shower that is just forward of it. The starboard head can also be accessed from the hallway. Just to port of the companionway is a double-bunk stateroom with drawer storage, a 22-inch HD TV, a cedar-lined hanging closet and private head with shower, vanity and teak floor.
All the way forward, this 86 has a huge VIP stateroom featuring an island queen berth with storage under, two huge drawers, a pair of cedar-lined hanging lockers, a 22-inch HD TV with DVD player, and a private head aft of the bunk to starboard with stone countertops, tile backsplash and burl wood floor.
With the full-width crew quarters, there is no pump room, so all the equipment normally housed in the pump room is mounted throughout the engine room. You would think that the engine space would be crowded with all that gear; however, the boat is so big that there is excellent access to all pumps, chilled air systems, the watermaker, generators, cockpit refrigeration/freezer compressors and everything else.
Her bridge is open and incredibly spacious, with excellent visibility from the helm of the bow and aft corners. She has a helm chair and two companion helm chairs on either side. Her console has a large dash that holds a slew of electronics; there are also lift-up hatches for compartments on either side of the helm that contain the controls for many of her systems, including fuel transfer and gauges, trim tabs, navigation and courtesy light controls, VHF radios, engine start/stops and control panel, as well as autopilot, night vision and searchlight controllers. She has an aft-facing seat to port of the console with storage under.
Forward of the console, she has an L-shaped bench seat with rod storage underneath and a drink box to port at the forward end of the bench. There is a high/low table that angles in toward the seat for dining, as well as a storage bin with water outlets along the forward starboard bridge side.
The cockpit of the 86 is massive, with her raised mezzanine deck with bench seating and drink box, refrigerated drink box underdeck and two large refrigerated boxes that can double as freezers as needed underdeck. She has storage under each gunwale, a cavernous lazarette with basement-size storage, and enough room for several anglers to move around the cockpit while hooked up at the same time.
She holds 3,850 gallons of fuel, 550 gallons of water, 22 gallons of reserve oil and is just a beast of a boat, capable of making top speeds in excess of 38 knots, while loping along at an 1,800 rpm cruise, she makes 29 knots burning 130 gph. Those are incredibly efficient numbers for a rig this large, and she was underwheeled, so her performance will improve as tweaks to her props are made. She is a fine riding rig as well, with her deep forefoot entry making her ride soft and remarkably dry.
I remember when captains used to say that a 55-footer was too big to catch fish — make no mistake, the 86-footer is as agile and functional a fishing platform as you can ask for, and she has the range and accommodations to really travel in comfort and style.
Fuel: 3,850 gallons
Water: 550 gallons
Power: 2,600 hp MTU M-94 diesels
Merritt’s Boat & Engine Works / Pompano Beach, FL / www.merrittboat.com