Not a trawler post but lots of good responses in the past from this group.

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StuartT

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2004 381 Meridian or 1999 Tiara Express 4000

We are looking at both or these boats but clearly favor the Tiara except for one huge issue. Our whole 40 years of boating have been on fly bridge boats with up salons and galleys. We have never considered a down under, sailboat like cabin such as on the Tiara Express, and we also worry that in the PNW where this boat is somewhat of a rarity, we could make a big resale mistake (that's actually a separate question). There is just the two of us and a 70# labradoodle, so the huge space onboard the Express is overkill in a way, but the Express is very appealing and both boats are in the same price range.

I am totally unable to pull the trigger on one over the other without some guidance from some of you who might be able to share some insight with me on down cabin life. Will we feel cutoff from the world, confined, and unhappy we didn't stay in the up cabin class boats. I know the 381 well, so it's a known vs. and unknown. Not a features question, rather a livability and mood question if that make any sense.

What say you?
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We changed boats last year into an "upstairs" cabin. Completely different boats but a similar up and down choice. From 17 years in a 1965 Shepherd Express cruiser which had a cabin at keel level (somewhat sailboat like - four steps down) and a wonderful very large back deck 10 x 12 or so to a 36 GB Sedan which has a largish back deck 10 x 8 or so and a very large cabin at the same level and a small v berth for the head and bed. The light and airy feel of the main cabin with its large windows is a huge plus over the eye level smaller windows of the Shepherd. Quite a bit more space in the GB cabin, but that is not the issue. As you say the mood is quite different and we prefer the upstairs feel.

Another significant difference is view from the helm - the express cruiser had one steering station outside on the front of the back deck. Similar in height off the water as the lower helm in the GB but about ten feet toward the stern. I much prefer the option of steering from the fly bridge as you have a much better view of the water in front of you and even the lower helm in the GB has a significantly better view.
 
We have friends with that same model Tiara. I'll say that it's one of the few express cruisers I actually like. The inside spaces are definitely way down in there like a sailboat, but it's fairly well laid out, the helm area is up high enough and seems well thought out, engine access looks reasonable, access to get a dog into a dinghy is good, etc. The thing looks downright massive too, and even though it doesn't have a flybridge, don't be fooled, the helm is quite a few feet up off the water. I'd bet your seated eye height is in the ballpark of 10 feet on that boat.

I wouldn't consider either to be a mistake, it's mostly going to come down to which one you like better after looking at them.
 
Thank you for that input. Looks like 1/1 right now. I am feeling like the fully enclosed cockpit area will be a place we spend a lot of of the daytime, at anchor, at dock or underway, and down below watching TV in the evenings. Just trying to make sure I'm not fooling myself.
 
I like the layout of the tiara express. Like you say, you spend a lot of time in the upstairs/ outside. Having that comfortable and semi covered area is bonus. A removable canvas cover can keep the heat in when needed.
Downstairs is cozy, comfortable, a little private. It’s nice to be out of the public eye when on the dock.
IMO, tiara quality is hands down better as well.
 
1/2. I am feeling better about taking a positive approach to considering the Tiara. We often overthink the things we think about.
 
I think the question here is - what “type” of boating are you looking to do with this? And what constraints do you anticipate having to accommodate (e.g. air draft)? I owned express cruisers in the past and agree “down below” can be a challenge but it also depends on how much time you anticipate spending in the cabin vs in the cockpit / helm area given the boating you do. The things I would think about is will you be comfortable in rainy / foul weather and how well the creature comforts are laid out below (e.g. galley / head / shower). Those were the limiting factor for our past cruisers. All that said, I’m partial to Tiara in your circumstance. It’s a well established brand and they have built quality boats for many many years. They are a classic imo and can stand the test of time. Meridian has always struck me more as a trendy / marina-oriented boat. Just my $0.02 though.
 
I just finished what ended up being a two year search for a boat that met our needs. We had to stay under 35’ due to the size of our slip, so we did not look at those exact models. Having looked at a Meridian and a couple Tiaras, I found the fit and finish of the Tiaras much better than the Meridian. I am one of the least experienced people on this site, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I would take a Tiara over a Meridian by a pretty wide margin.
 
I agree with all of you that the Tiara is a higher quality boat. If I can get past the down cabin, I will likely go with the Express. One thing that did concern me is that we boat in Puget Sound and the Gulf Islands for the most part, with an annual run up the inside passage to Alaska. It can get pretty cold in the PNW and piloting from the aft deck would occasionally be pretty miserable.

I found out this morning that Planar diesel furnaces are still available and having installed two of them in a 5788 some years ago, they are still very reasonably priced. I could install one to heat the enclosed cockpit on this boat for about $1000, maybe a little more. They were designed in Russia and imported into the Canada market where I was first introduced to them up in Vancouver, BC. They have since expanded into the US market according to their website. They are into truck heating as well. Here is the link: Planar Diesel Furnaces

Providing heat would increase the functionality of the aft deck for daily use underway, on the hook or in port, and likely reduce some of my anxiety about the down cabin.
 
2004 381 Meridian or 1999 Tiara Express 4000
I am totally unable to pull the trigger on one over the other without some guidance from some of you who might be able to share some insight with me on down cabin life. Will we feel cutoff from the world, confined, and unhappy we didn't stay in the up cabin class boats. I know the 381 well, so it's a known vs. and unknown. Not a features question, rather a livability and mood question if that make any sense.

What say you?
__________________

We tried an express cruiser after our first flybridge boat. Partly because we had a 120-lb Pretty Good Pyrenees and a 90-lb Golden Receiver at the time, and we didn't like that they couldn't get up the ladder to the flybridge on the earlier boat.

Didn't like the express; living in cave; gak! It was a well built boat, but we just didn't take to it. Also, engine noise at helm level sucked.

So our solution was to move back to a flybridge boat... with stairs to the bridge, instead of a ladder.

I think Tiara fits and finishes a better boat than Meridian, though, so I'd probably look elsewhere.

-Chris
 
Having owned "upstairs," "downstairs," and sailboats, the one thing I would say is the new breed of enclosed helm express cruisers (ie, Tiara Sovran) make a world of difference. Messing with canvas enclosures is just a pain in the butt.
 
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The Tiaras have real windshields and a hard top typically. So enclosing the back of the helm area to allow it to be heated wouldn't be too hard. It's closer to being an outdoor pilothouse than an exposed helm.
 
I looked at the listing. It has 6CTAs in it. That is what I have in my Formula. Absolutely great engines. That would be a big positive IMO.
 
I looked at the listing. It has 6CTAs in it. That is what I have in my Formula. Absolutely great engines. That would be a big positive IMO.
Agreed, that makes the Tiara a lot more attractive. Many of those had 3208TAs in them. Not bad, but huge, so less space to work around them. And the cold start smoke with 3208s doesn't make friends in marinas.
 
Hands down when it comes to a 6CTA over a 3208. Particularly over a 3208TA. Nothing really wrong with a 3208 but they are huge and don’t have sleeves.
 
Lets,see. 1) Live in the basement & get flapped to death by the canvas in a blow 2) 900 hp with 400 gallons fuel. Sure you can refuel at port McNeil. Shearwater. Hartly Bay for$$$$$.3)100 gallons h2o so a water maker is a must. Sure the fit and finish is better on the Tiara, but the Meridian is a solidly built boat. Which hull you rather be in crossing the Dixon entrance in a 50 kt blow. That is the question.
 
I'm not sure there's a drastic difference in sea keeping ability between the hulls. I wouldn't want to be in that 50kt blow in either one, I think. And from what the owner of the local Tiara 4000 has said, it cruises just fine at trawler speed when you don't want to burn a ton of fuel.

I'd expect that boat to do just fine in terms of range. Fuel capacity should be about 440 gal. I'd figure 0.75 nmpg on plane, probably 2.5 - 3 at 7 kts. So I'd expect at least 800nm with comfortable reserves at trawler speed.
 
One things for sure. 50 kt winds in Dixon, I hang in Prince Rupert or Ketchikan. I crossed Dixon in prevailing WSW blow and it was not pleasant, and that was in a 5788. I got cocky because I had stabilizers, helped, but still damn uncomfortable.

On a different note, I suppose I should post the Meridian link for comparison. It's plusses are it has 330's, genset and reverse cycle air. 381 Meridian The Tiara is 5 years older and $10K less.
 
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I had a 6BT in a motorhome, it was 275hp. I prefer the 6CTA because it is 8.3 litres vs a 5.9. With either engine absolutely make sure the aftercoolers have been serviced regularly. If they haven’t been serviced you may end up replacing them. On my engines they cost about $5K. Mine looked like they had never been serviced but the boat was 100% freshwater boat so they can go longer. But in saltwater it is recommended to service them every 4 years or so. Tony Athens website has excellent videos on how to service them. I couldn’t get the cores out of mine, took one to a machine shop and they pressed it out with 13 tons of pressure. I ended up buying one new cooler complete and one new core. Cummins doesn’t lubricant them when new and they become correded in so the core won’t come out. I would ask for maintenance records for the engines to make sure they have been serviced regularly. If not drop the price by $10K plus labor.

My boat can certainly burn fuel if I am on plane but we can run at displacement mode and the burn rate isn’t bad. As to the seakeeping, the express will likely handle it better because it doesn’t have the weight of the flybridge up top. Also at the helm the motion will be less than on a flybridge. We are likely on our last boat, #24 since we married. So I wanted a quality boat. I only searched for a Tiara or a Formula. I looked at a 4000 Tiara and absolutely loved it. However it sold before we had put our previous boat up for sale. The one I looked at had a combo washer/dryer in the transom locker and my wife loved that.
 
One things for sure. 50 kt winds in Dixon, I hang in Prince Rupert or Ketchikan. I crossed Dixon in prevailing WSW blow and it was not pleasant, and that was in a 5788. I got cocky because I had stabilizers, helped, but still damn uncomfortable.

On a different note, I suppose I should post the Meridian link for comparison. It's plusses are it has 330's, genset and reverse cycle air. 381 Meridian The Tiara is 5 years older and $10K less.

When it comes to components, I'd prefer the 6CTAs (we had those in previous boat) over the 330s. The 450s have sleeved cylinder, could potentially be rebuilt in place given enough overhead access.

And I'd prefer a hardtop over the flybridge, not a soft bimini. Part of that is about potential snow load... when we stay home over the winter in Maryland. Also helps make our flybridge more of another whole "room" to use.

-Chris
 
I prefer a flybridge for all the reasons mentioned. I'm in south FL though and things are different than your cruising grounds. The flybridge allows you to put the dinghy up on the bow so your transom access is much better. Maybe not an issue for you.

Some express boats get quite a bit of diesel fumes recirculating in the cockpit and helm area. The flybridge cockpit can be even worse, but you aren't there when piloting and others can be inside if it's an issue. Look for good ventilation.

The negative is, I'm often up on the flybridge by myself piloting the boat while everyone else is down in the cockpit or salon. And unless you have stairs, dogs aren't going to make it up there either. It is quite warm in the cockpit so I have to run the ac all the time for the dogs.

One other thing about the dinghy. The helm supported by a pole can vibrate. Unsupported weight on the end of a stick is going to move around in any kind of slop. Someone that had one mentioned it to me and said they would add an additional support if they were going to keep it.
 
I fully realize that people prioritize certain attributes but, for me it’s hands down tiara. It’s already got a great enclosure for the cockpit/helm area, and a gorgeous salon down below. Great mechanicals too.
I don’t view the below deck salon as a cave, instead, it’s a bit of privacy when wanted, and the big upstairs area looks comfy, spacious, and gets you connected with your environment when you’re operating the boat.
That said, I can see how others might prefer the light airy feel of the meridian, over the more wooden interior of the tiara. Having the galley near the helm area can be very attractive. Can also fog up the windows on cool mornings.
 
We have had both express and flybridge models, we boat in the same area as you. We much prefer the openness of the salon in the flybridge type of boat, the PNW is gloomy enough most of the year why would you not want to be in the daylight when you can. Plus you will miss the great views of the areas that you traveled so far to be in. A dock walk will show a preponderance of flybridge or sedan type boats, both are not cave dwellers.
 
On a different note, I suppose I should post the Meridian link for comparison. It's plusses are it has 330's, genset and reverse cycle air. 381 Meridian The Tiara is 5 years older and $10K less.
Good looking boat. Consider the additional space you get with the flybridge. Not sure how the view is with the Meridian, but I rarely use the flybridge helm-I only use it in nice weather (PNW) and prefer no canvas because of the option of being below. Also I would think you would like being on the same level as your wife to socialize, eat meals, etc. as you are traveling (or not-insert smile).
 
Thinking about it, our helm and deck area is on top of the aft cabin, so up higher than an express, but generally closer to the express layout than a flybridge. Then it's stairs down to the salon (stairs are next to the helm). Our salon is higher in the boat than in the Tiara and has much bigger windows (more like a typical sedan height-wise with engines under the salon floor).

I can't say we've ever found the separation between the helm and cabin to be an issue (no lower helm on our boat). Typically when underway we're both on deck in the helm area unless one of us goes below to do something. And in our case it's a straight shot down the stairs to the galley, so going down to grab lunch and talking while one of us is in the galley isn't a big deal.

The Tiara has seating for more than 1 near the helm (plus the additional seats further aft on the deck) so there's no reason the helmsman has to be isolated when underway.
 

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