Over the past 30 years, the boats launched at the famous Merritt boatyard in Pompano Beach, Florida, have changed considerably. The nimble, purpose-built, hard-core 37- and 43-foot game-fish boats that made the Merritt name a giant tuna-fishing legend still live on, but the trend has decidedly shifted to bigger boats.
As the needs of the owners and crews started including traveling to fish in more remote, exotic locations, Merritt boats became more technologically advanced. The use of molded, composite construction and advanced materials gave their boats the greater efficiency needed for making long trips. Merritt’s latest effort – hull number 94, a massive 86-foot enclosed-bridge sport-fisherman – focuses on removing weight anywhere possible without losing the beefy, robust and solid platform for which the company has become known.
To lighten the boat, Merritt looked at the enormous expanse of salon overhead, the foredeck, the enclosed flybridge structure and other areas where he could use carbon fiber and coring without sacrificing strength and stiffness. Certainly prior to this 86, Merritt used carbon fiber, but now, with lower materials costs due to a weak global economy, wider use of carbon fiber became much more affordable.
**Powered by a pair of 2,400 hp MTU M93 engines, the 86 obviously has more bottom to run on than its 80-foot predecessors, making its economy and speeds better as well. With a total capacity of 3,950 gallons of fuel and 525 gallons of water, we tested it 900 gallons shy of a full load, and the boat performed impressively with quick acceleration and responsive steering.
When running the boat from the well-appointed enclosed bridge, the 86 seems whisper quiet. Loping along at an 1,850 rpm cruise, the boat made 28½ knots and burned 130 gph. Remarkably, at wide-open throttle, the massive hull clips along at a two-way average of 38 knots – an impressive number considering the overall volume of the boat. It’ll burn 210 gallons an hour at that speed, but other large, enclosed-bridge boats burn near that number at cruise.
**You access the engine room via the centerline hatch in the cockpit mezzanine. The compartment is clean, providing ample room outboard, aft and in front to service the engines. A Livos Technologies ventilation system keeps salt to a minimum in the engine space, while the fuel-transfer pumps, hydraulic tanks for steering, bow thruster and the main units for the Atlas shore-power system are mounted on the forward bulkhead.
All Merritts now come with custom oil-change systems that feature quick-disconnect hoses between the engines so you can reach buckets in the engine room or drums dockside. Two 38 kW Northern Lights generators sit aft of the engines, and there is room around them for servicing, even through the nicely designed sound-dampening boxes. Some other popular manufacturers turn their soundproof housings into a nearly impenetrable maze.
The forward pump room affords plenty of room in which to work on vital ship systems. The 86 boasts a pair of Watermakers Inc. 2,000 gallon-per-day reverse-osmosis units on the aft bulkhead. All refrigeration compressors and chilled-water air-conditioning units are mounted outboard on each side of the pump room, while Merritt positioned all of the raw-water pumps outboard of the stringers along the forward bulkhead for easy maintenance and service.
**The first-class accommodations on the 86 consist of large staterooms and fully appointed heads. All staterooms feature a fine, satin-finished teak trim and select soft goods. Coming out of the forward pump-room bulkhead, you enter the large crew quarters via a private engine-room entrance. The crew gets two bunks to port with private TVs and a full head with shower and vanity to starboard.
You enter the companionway along the starboard side at the bottom of the salon steps. Moving forward, you’ll find the expansive master stateroom, which features an island berth with plenty of storage underneath and nightstands on either side. The huge head boasts teak-trimmed doors on the large shower. A stylish tiled floor and backsplash over a marble countertop set a tasteful tone for the owner’s quarters.
Another cabin to starboard holds over/under bunks and a head featuring a full-size shower, marble countertops and burled-wood floor.
The large VIP stateroom forward sports a queen-size island berth with storage underneath, a large cedar-lined hanging locker and private head with shower. Again, a teak-trimmed shower door, burled-elm flooring and marble countertops accent the head, while the satin-finish, teak-trimmed stateroom with understated soft goods matches the elegant tone of the 86.
The ample salon boasts a convenient day head tucked immediately in the port aft corner. The salon features an L-shaped leather settee to starboard with storage underneath. The galley is set to port, forward of the salon with an attached island counter featuring three bar seats.
The well-appointed galley features a four-burner cooktop hidden under a lift-up lid. The sink occupies the port corner, and under the counter you will find an ice maker, oven, dishwasher and more storage. The forward bulkhead of the galley features four under-counter Sub-Zero refrigeration drawers and two freezers. Over-the-counter storage with large slide-out drawers hides behind book-matched, teak-veneer door panels. To starboard a large dinette with leather-covered seats and fabric backrest panels seats four.
Forward of the galley is a large air-conditioned pantry with custom rack-and-bin storage, as well as the electrical distribution compartment housing the breaker panels for each leg of the AC and DC distribution panels.
**The 86’s vast cockpit is all business. One seat on the obligatory mezzanine hides the cockpit control station. A stainless-steel stairway with teak treads (looking more like a work of art than a staircase) provides access to the bridge, and a pneumatic activator opens the salon door just starboard of the stairs. To the right of the door, an armrest drink box abuts another mezzanine seat that hides two drawers and lift-up storage. Of course, as you’d expect, the mezzanine deck also houses a large freezer, a combo fridge/freezer inboard of that and another large freezer to port. More under-gunwale storage, two in-deck livewells, a titanic lazarette and an insulated, in-deck fish box round out this wonderful fishing space.
**The enclosed-bridge concept took a long time coming to Merritt. It required the right customer who wanted to build a boat large enough to make the enclosed bridge look like something other than an afterthought thrown up on top to keep you dry. If it wasn’t going to look right, then Roy wasn’t going to build it.
A nicely appointed wraparound console forward offers a good control area for the operator and an expansive dash for all manner of electronics. Two lounges on either side of the helm chair and an L-shaped settee with a table to starboard create a nice cruising space. And a counter with sink, ice maker and Sub-Zero refrigerators along the starboard side ensure that no guest goes hungry or thirsty. The aft-deck overhang of the bridge sports a third helm station to starboard. And finally, the Hopewell tuna tower is easily accessed from either side of the aft bridge deck.
Available in either enclosed- or open-bridge layouts, as well as several different belowdecks configurations, the 86 Merritt more than qualifies as a big sport-fishing platform. Yet this large vessel still performs and handles exceptionally well. With the fine appointments of a classic yacht, blended with modern technology and styling refinements, the Merritt 86 stands as a special boat for a very discerning and knowledgeable owner. Capable of fishing the world in the grandest of style, I’m sure that these new Merritt boats will enjoy just as many terrific adventures as the well-known hulls of the past.
Power……T 2,400 hp MTU M93 diesels
Merritt Boat & Engine Works / Pompano Beach, Florida / 954-941-5207 / www.merrittboat.com