I’ll never forget the Marlow Explorer I sea trialed a decade or so ago, out in the Atlantic Ocean, with the Miami Beach skyline off in the distance. The day was a doozy, characterized by 6- to 8- footers, a wintery north wind and, at least at first, nary another boat in sight. Eventually, though, as the morning wore on and I finished recording all the necessary test data, a couple of fairly large, diesel-type cruisers exited the jetties at the bitter end of Government Cut and started what appeared to be an après-Miami-boat-show run up the coast toward Ft. Lauderdale.
Now, whether it was David Marlow who then hatched the idea or myself I can’t remember, but one of us decided to see if our test boat could literally drive rings around the cruisers as they plowed resolutely north into the weather, sending uproarious plumes of spray into the air. And what made what subsequently ensued so memorable, I suppose, is that we did indeed circle each big cruiser not once, but a couple of times, thereby confirming, albeit with lots of good-natured fun thrown in, the real-world seaworthiness of the Explorer’s semi-displacement hullform.
During a Marlow Marine party at the Ft. Lauderdale boat show this cheeky little episode came to mind, as it often does during this particular annual event. Marlow, at the time, was introducing an updated version of one of the first four-stateroom boats he’d ever put on the market: the Explorer 70. And truth to tell, as I slipped away from the festivities and went aboard the newbie towering in the darkness—the 70 MK II Command Bridge, she was called—I had a hard time remembering whether it was a 70-footer, an 82-footer or a 66-footer we’d had so much fun with so many years before. But it didn’t much matter, I suppose.
There is, after all, a certain uniformity to the Explorers that Marlow builds at his dedicated facility in Xiamen, China. Highlights always include proprietary Full Stack-infused construction; exceptionally high levels of fit and finish (not only in the accommodation areas but in his operating-room-clean engine rooms); solid engineering (with schematically-laid-out electrical and plumbing runs, duplex Racors, through-hull-nixing seachests and fully baffled, sight-gauge-equipped fiberglass fuel tanks); top-shelf hardware from the likes of Seaway, Ocean Frigast and Schwepper; and straight-shaft, strut-keel powerplants.
I saw features on the new boat, however, that I’d never before seen on an Explorer, the most noticeable of the lot being a “Captain’s Cabin” at the rear of her Command Bridge. A sort of private apartment, it was fitted out with its own nav desk (with electronics display), plush seating, refreshment center and an ample, stall-shower-equipped head. And then, in addition to the matched set of 1,150-hp Caterpillar C18 diesels in the boat’s engine room, I spotted a separate, sound-insulated machinery space for two 27.5-kW gensets, pumps and transformers, a “Mate’s Cabin” with a head (and stall shower), tempered-glass viewing ports (to keep tabs on mechanicals) and, in a see-through Lexan enclosure, a Seakeeper 26 gyrostabilizer.
Hanging out for a few moments in the new Marlow Explorer 70 MK II Command Bridge’s machinery spaces took me back a few years, to a sporty afternoon when a vessel very much like herself had run rings around a couple of big, diesel-powered competitors. Would history someday repeat itself? I fell to wondering. ‘Twas a cheery prospect, I must say. —Capt. Bill Pike
Displ.: 110,000 lbs.
Fuel: 3,000 gal.
Water: 400 gal.
Standard Power: 2/715-hp Cummins QSM11
Cruise Speed: 11 knots
Top Speed: 31 knots
Cruising Range: 1,511 miles