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Merritt 86 | Boat Review

Composite construction yields outstanding performance from the acclaimed boatbuilder

March 1, 2021
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The Merritt Boats 86 sport-fishing boat on the water.
Perlamar on the move off Florida’s east coast. Capt. Karl Anderson

In the world of large sport-fishing boats, the 86-foot Merritt cuts a sharp profile. Sleek and fast, with a tough advanced-composite construction, an interior with expansive spaces, lavish appointments, plus a user-friendly layout and robust mechanical systems, she’s at the top of the heap of custom boats in the 80-plus-foot range. Hull No. 106, Perlamar, is the last of the 86-foot series, and she’s a head-turner.

I’ve had the opportunity to fish an 86 several times and always marvel at the boat’s performance and handling characteristics, especially for a vessel of this size. Weighing in at 155,000 pounds, with 3,600 gallons of fuel and 500 gallons of water, her twin 2,600 hp V16 MTU 2000 engines accelerate easily and push her along at a 30-knot cruise at 1,850 rpm, burning between 125 and 130 gallons per hour with an engine load of a mere 65 percent. That is remarkable efficiency compared with other sport-fishing boats in this size range. Wide open, Perlamar rolls along at a fleeting 38.5 knots.

The 86 has gained quite a reputation as a great sea boat as well. Roy Merritt worked on the bottom design to increase deadrise for a good head-sea run and overall seakeeping ability. We’ve fished some nasty days, and the 86 was smooth, comfortable and really ran in well in every direction in the slop. The pair of 12HD Seakeeper gyrostabilizers keeps her stable while trolling with minimal roll, and her maneuverability has a level of agility that few boats over 80 feet can offer.

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Watch: Learn to rig the bonito strip bait for a teaser in this video from our Rigger’s Corner department.

Cockpit and Bridge

Her expansive cockpit is well-laid-out with a ­massive mezzanine that features an L-shaped lounge with drink box, storage beneath and a high-low table to port. There’s a fully appointed day head (which doubles as a great spot to store the mezzanine cushions when not in use), custom stainless-steel spiral staircase to the bridge and a seat with storage all the way to starboard. On the mezzanine deck, there are three wide, deep freezers—two to port and one to starboard—with engine-room access on the centerline.

Under the cockpit sole is the majority of her fuel, with a dry hatch to access the lazarette—a nice setup for maintaining the many components there. Fully aft is a large athwartship fish box with Eskimo ice dump. There are undergunwale storage boxes, a walk-through transom door, and in-deck fittings to support on-deck portable livewells.

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Her flying bridge is open and roomy. Forward of the console is an L-shaped lounge to port with storage beneath, a high-low table and a drink box forward. And the brow provides plenty of storage for PFDs and a host of other items. To starboard is another drink box forward, with a fore-and-aft bench seat, storage cabinet and an aft-facing seat behind it.

The console is offset to port with the helm along the centerline, offering excellent visibility of the bow and transom corners, as well as a good view of the anglers in the cockpit. Her dash is graced with three 16-inch multifunctional screens tucked behind three clear sliding doors to keep them out of the weather but within easy reach. To port are two in-dash boxes that house key displays and switches for lighting, fuel transfer, the gyros, Humphree trim tabs, Jastram steering control and MTU engine-control panels, as well as fuel and water gauges, VHF radios and the Furuno radar control panel. There are two BlueWater helm chairs behind the ­console; the PipeWelders tower with Merritt hardtop houses teaser reels, LED lighting, and a host of electronics and controls in the tower.

The interior salon of the Merritt Boats 86 sport-fishing boat.
The boat’s interior is understated and luxurious. Capt. Karl Anderson

Interior

An electric Marine Power door opens to the interior, where the salon features traditional natural teak with a satin finish, large U-shaped leather settee to port with storage and flip-up arms. The aft starboard corner of the salon houses the entertainment center with a large flat-screen television. Forward is a built-in cabinet with bar storage and the large, angular dinette. Air conditioning is pumped into the salon and galley from overhead teak-accented beams.

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The galley is set to port and features a huge L-shaped granite countertop, complete with a 24-inch cooktop with stainless-steel liner and lift-up lid. There are four Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers and two freezer drawers, as well as a 24-inch oven. Forward of the galley is a large equipment area for air handlers, audio-visual equipment and additional storage.

Moving below, the stairway is lined with teak wainscoting along the companionway to a laundry closet with a stacked washer and dryer to starboard. The master stateroom to port features a king bed, satin teak cabinetry and closets, with a large en suite head with a full shower and solid granite vanity countertops.

The master stateroom of the Merritt Boats 86 sport-fishing boat.
The boat’s master stateroom with satin-finished teak cabinetry. Capt. Karl Anderson

To starboard is a second full stateroom with over/under bunks that shares a full head with the stateroom forward of the master on the port side of the companionway. The port stateroom has over/under bunks as well. Fully forward is the VIP cabin that features an island berth, two full-length closets, and an en suite head with vanity, granite countertops and a large shower.

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The crew quarters are beneath the galley and accessed at the base of the companionway stairs; it features full-size over/under bunks and a full head. There is access to the pump room and engine room though the watertight door. The pump room is well-laid-out with all air-conditioning chillers, a pair of Watermakers Inc. reverse-osmosis desalinators, two water heaters, a large toolbox, and full workbench with vise. There is nothing dainty about the systems’ mounting and equipment sizes—everything here is oversize and redundant.

Read Next: Meet Roy Merritt in our exclusive interview.

Engine Room and Construction

Entering the engine room through either the pump room or the cockpit watertight doors brings you to a machinery space that is extremely well-executed—it’s hard not to notice the robust, oversize mounts. Filters and engine-service access points are easily accessed all around the engines. The Kohler 40-kilowatt generators are mounted at the aft end of the engines, with complete 360-degree access for easy maintenance. The gyros are aft of the generators and also offer great access for ­maintenance and service.

The engine room of the Merritt Boats 86 sport-fishing boat.
Perlamar‘s engine room, home to her V16 MTU 2000 engines and 40-kilowatt Kohler gensets. Capt. Karl Anderson

Having the strength and weight savings of an epoxy, Kevlar, carbon-fiber, and Corecell composite hull and superstructure, the 86 Merritt is at the leading edge of technology compared with anything else in her class. She offers an efficient, excellent-riding hull with large interior spaces and modern appointments throughout. Once again, the crew at Merritt’s Boat & Engine Works has executed in the same manner we’ve come to expect from it. This 86 is yet another example of over 60 years of boatbuilding evolution that has resulted in some of the industry’s finest sport-fishing boats on the water.

Merritt 86 Boat Specs

  • LOA: 86′
  • Beam: 21′2″
  • Draft: 5′6″
  • Displ: 155,000 lb.
  • Fuel: 3,600 gal.
  • Water: 500 gal.
  • Power: Twin MTU 2,600 hp V16 2000
  • Gear/Ratio: ZF 2.75:1
  • Propellers: Michigan 7-blade
  • Paint: Topside—Imron, Sntifouling—Seahawk
  • Climate Control: Dometic
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