Market differentiators in the burgeoning cruising catamaran market can be difficult to find, yet this is what industry leader Beneteau-Lagoon has achieved with its Excess models, which deliver a livelier and more responsive range.
- The outboard option: light and quiet
- Convertible cockpit layout
- Superior agility with Mercury's digital controls
- Clever design features throughout
Most buyers contemplating a mid-sized launch face the prospect of dealing with inboard diesels. Apart from their weight and noise, these take up a fair amount of hull space. But the emergence of compact, powerful and fuel-efficient four-stroke outboards has changed all that.
French manufacturer Jeanneau has been building luxury yachts and powerboats since 1957 and owns Europe’s largest production site for cruising boats. It achieved this status through an obsession with quality and recognising trends well ahead of the pack – one of which is the availability of outboard propulsion for mid-sized launches. The Merry Fisher 1095 (LOA 10.5m) is the flagship of a range specifically designed for outboards.
She’s also a vessel that excels in space. Virtually the entire hull cavity is usable, cabin space. The clever designers have put this to good use, fitting three private cabins, an enclosed saloon and a spacious sun lounge into the 3.37m beam. There’s also a recessed walk-around side-deck running both sides of the cabin, leading to the front sundeck, and a sliding side door means the skipper can get to the bow area quickly if necessary.
This hull comes in two versions – a sedan layout with sunroof or a flybridge, and in two different cabin configurations. Both feature a large owner’s cabin but have either one or two double guest cabins. Saloon seats can also be converted into a double berth, providing an overnight capacity of up to eight people.
We had a play with the sedan version, provided by Auckland’s Orakei Marine, and she proved perfect for the changeable winter conditions. In inclement weather the big saloon area can be closed up, creating a spacious area that’s snug and warm. But when the sun’s out open the double-panel rear sliding door and retract the sun-roof above the helm position.
That saloon and helm area is luxuriously-appointed, with numerous innovations that maximise the use of space. For example, the passenger seat has a hinged backrest that allows forward-facing seating for two occupants when underway. But it can be swapped 180o to serve as a bench seat to the saloon table.
The saloon table has a hinged section that swings out of the way when not needed but locks in place when the full table size is required. The pedestal also lowers and, with an extra squab, forms the additional double berth.
Helming is supremely comfortable with a plush, padded skipper’s seat – good for hours of driving. This review boat was fitted with dual Simrad touchscreen multi-function displays, with an additional colour screen for the Simrad autopilot. A Fusion Apollo marine entertainment system, also touch-screen, and Mercury’s Vesselview engine control system, completes the futuristic black-glass helm fit-out.
The pair of 300hp Mercury Verado outboards sitting out on the transom are, of course, controlled by the latest digital-throttle-and-shift units and, with power steering, this boat is an effortless drive.
Heading forward and down a few steps into the cabin area I was again struck by the amount of space. The owner’s cabin forward features a rather unusual, circular queen-sized bed which is surprisingly practical. Large side windows provide plenty of light during the day, and discreet integrated lights in the ceiling do the business at night.
The main cabin has its own door to the shower and toilet, while the passageway has further doors to the two guest cabins as well as further access to the amenities. Each of these cabins is spacious and well-appointed, although with more conventional double berth layouts. The cabins also have side windows offering good views.
Back in the saloon, the starboard galley area is all hidden under a flush, black stone-finish countertop. Lifting out the inserts reveals a two-burner gas hob and a deep stainless sink, while a fridge nestles under the counter. Storage space is plentiful in numerous lockers below and overhead.
The double-panel sliding door opens up more than half of the saloon’s rear wall, and you step out into the cockpit area on the same level. Here another bit of transforming magic occurs: the rear saloon seat is also able to slide fore and aft.
So – an inwards-facing U-shaped arrangement, providing good seating capacity and conviviality, can be quickly swopped into an extended boarding platform area further aft for water sports or fishing. The cockpit’s covered in stylish teak decking, and a large boarding ladder facilitates swimmers getting back on board.
Hanging off the back is the pair of 300hp Mercury outboards, mounted close together. Although this sacrifices some of the manoeuvrability advantages provided by twin engines, it does make for efficient running even on one engine. Besides which, a bow thruster up front provides the pinpoint control needed for negotiating a tight berth.
Fishing rod holders are located all around the stern. If it were my boat I’d be reluctant to soil the beautiful teak deck with bait and fish blood. But there’s a simple alternative: sliding that bench forward opens up the boarding platform for a spacious and secure area for three or four anglers. And it’s easily cleaned.
We headed out of Orakei Marine on a calm, early winters day, with the big Verados purring quietly. Beyond the breakwater we opened the throttles and soon had over 30 knots on the clock.
A boat like this is not about outright speed and thrill-seeking performance, which is just as well. At 30 knots it felt like we were just cruising, the 4,680kg weight of the Merry Fisher cutting through the water smoothly. The photo boat was bouncing along – we, by contrast, could have been sipping our lattes. Top speed is in the upper 30s – but it seemed a shame to shorten the outing.
Despite our best attempts at hoon driving, she remained smooth and controlled – even in tight turns. Sitting fairly high off the water spray wasn’t an issue but the huge windscreens are both equipped with wipers. Those outboards produce hot acceleration and, positioned so far back noise level is minimal – even at full throttle. Normal conversation at the helm is a bonus – and it’s even better when the sliding cabin door is closed.
While a buyer of a boat like this is unlikely to be overly concerned by fuel consumption, those engines are fairly miserly. At a leisurely 4500rpm (around 28 knots) fuel consumption was a shade over 50 litres per hour per engine.
With twin 400-litre tanks the boat has a safe working range of around 200nm at this speed. An extended weekend’s cruising on a single fill of fuel would be no problem, and the 260-litre fresh-water capacity will keep the passengers happy as well.
Prospective buyers after a little individuality can select are numerous custom options, from the sound system and electronics package through to the colour and fabric type used for the furnishings, sunshades and awnings, additional overhead lockers, and the type and style of flooring and decking.
Other options include a number of less visual enhancements for extended cruising, such as air conditioning or diesel forced-air heating, a diesel auxiliary generator, a larger fridge, ceramic hob and microwave options. Other navigation and electronics packages are also available. This boat’s fitted with the Mercury 300 Verados but alternative powerplants can be specified.
Easing into the tight berth was a pleasure with the fingertip steering and throttle controls, all aided by the bow thruster – an effortless procedure. Like most modern outboards, the Vedados are easily fresh-water rinsed – you simply plug in a hose – no need for them to be started or tilted.
With the 1095 Jeanneau has worthy flagship for its Merry Fisher powerboat range. The build quality is excellent and, with the powerplants hanging off the back they maximise interior space – and they’re also easy to maintain. The manufacturer’s more than 60 years of boatbuilding experience is clearly reflected in every aspect of the vessel./>