Andi Robertson takes to the sea in the new Merry Fisher 855 Marlin – a real SUV for the Sea!

STORM Abigail was just past her best, but there were still 40kt squalls driving horizontal rain that would pierce body armour, the distant Bens were covered in new snow and the Largs Channel was a mass of rampaging white horses.

Thankfully it was neither a RIB nor a sailing boat we were out to test, but a smart and shiny Merry Fisher from Jeanneau. The model du jour was the Merry Fisher 855 Marlin. It is, as Jeanneau say, an SUV for the sea, writes Yachting Life boat test editor Andi Robertson.

The Merry Fisher range, as the name suggests, has its origins in fishing and family outings. They sell all over Europe as dayboats, the kind of boat which couples have in the local marina to use for everything.

Dad will take his mates fishing with a fridge full of beers, maybe pull into a local harbour for a meal.

Husband and wife will tootle out of an afternoon and go a few miles up the coast for some lunch and a snooze in the sun. Proper boating. And at the weekends they might load the grand kids on for a day trip.

Now the Merry Fisher 855 Marlin dips a toe in the RV territory with a couple of little cabins, a nice wee galley, an innovative seating arrangement inside and a toilet.

There is a great patio out back with different table and seating arrangements; a fabulous backwards facing bench seat protected by the pilothouse. It was just the ticket for this November day.

I see it as a fabulous alternative to a big RIB. It’s probably not got the load capacity of a RIB nor will be as quick, flat out, but it is year round, you can sleep in it, you can make a cup of tea and hot snacks, you can sit round the table and enjoy food completely enclosed. It handles wonderfully, has great seakeeping and really is go anywhere, anytime – within reason.

The big step forwards is outboard technology – now boasting improved fuel economy, less noise, better performance etc and that makes boats like this fun as well as functional. Of course the outboard is also easier maintained and does not take up space like an inboard diesel.

Our test boat had a beefy Suzuki 300 on the back, but often it is spec’d with twin Suzuki 150s. Most immediately impressive feature is how quiet it is. Idling at the dock in Largs Yacht Haven you had to listen carefully to know it was running at all.

In the last five years outboard engines have come a long way.

There are two versions of the 855 Marlin. The one tested is the standard model, but the offshore model is a little heavier and designed around the twin engine set up.

I loved the walk round aspect, protected by high bulwarks but with good wide sidedecks. The main cockpit aft is well protected and spacious. Seating options include setting up a big sun lounger – in +1°C on test day it was deemed unnecessary – but there are two removable tables, including a large one which allows wrap around seating for cockpit picnics and meals.

There are two options – two or three doors. Euroyachts tend to sell most two door versions – that is with port and starboard doors in the pilot house – but fishing fans also like a back door so they can step out and grab their tackle quickly.

For the money, the 755 and the 855 are sound alternatives to a larger RIB because you can be inside at the helm, fully protected and yet with the doors and sliding wheelhouse windows open, the full alfresco experience is still there.

The cockpit is self draining, no covers are needed. Lock the boat, walk away. Arrive, turn key, cast off and the world is your lobster!

There is more space, and more adaptable space than a RIB because tubes take up space. It is great for short handed manoeuvring because of the door and easy access fore and aft. You will park it yourself.

We did cast off into the teeth of a squall, but the boat handled positively at slow speeds and was nicely manoeuvrable. At moderate speeds it was quite happy to push out into the seas, looking after ourselves and the boat a bit, but once into flatter waters it was surprisingly quick and nimble for a chunky, recreational workhorse.

If you want a sports cruiser, get a sports cruiser but this will cruise at 22 or 23kts. Top speed is just on 34kts and it takes about 15 seconds to get to max speed.

We cruised around the Cumbrae environs enjoying the speed and comfort. There is great all round vision and it is supremely quiet indoors. Fuel consumption in old money is about 10 gallons per hour or 49 litres at 28kts.

In broad terms, where we were, that is about £90-100 to Tarbert and back. But you can go a little slower and it is a bit more economic. Cheaper alternatives…..sails or oars.

Meantime I’m a complete convert. A Merry Fisher am I.