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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Marlow Explorer 78

Okay. I’ll admit I struggle with a tendency to exaggerate...sometimes. And I’ll admit that when a couple of New York-based PMY editors telephoned me here in Florida a few weeks ago to confirm the wave heights I’d mentioned in a recent boat test, I got defensive. “Hey,” I shot back, “It’s been honkin’ down here for days—seas were at least six foot, or I’m a monkey’s uncle!”

Heartfelt conviction is a powerful tool, of course. When I finished up, the New Yorkers were persuaded. But now, thanks to the sea trial of the Marlow Explorer 78 I did in the open Atlantic back in February, with a cold front bearing down, I’m constrained to revisit the issue, only this time with mention of sea conditions—and handling characteristics evoked by them—that are dang near unbelievable, even to me. Who knows how many calls I’ll get from the folks in the New York office on this one?!

I’m not too worried, though. The simple truth of the matter is that the height of the graybeards Marlow Marine president David Marlow and I tangled with on that tempestuous February day, a dozen miles east of the Miami sea buoy, was ten feet on average and occasionally 12 feet. Moreover, the wind was blowing between 25 and 30 mph, and there wasn’t another vessel in sight, except for a containership. And the 78 ran like a scared rabbit!

To elaborate on this phenomenon with enough oomph to do it justice, let me focus exclusively on the boat’s down-sea behavior during the sea trial. After all, it’s way more telling than any other kind of parameter, whether we’re talkin’ up-sea performance, which was generally true-tracking and steady, or even side-sea performance, which was basically solid (without excessive pitching or rolling) despite an electrical glitch that froze our Naiad stabilizers in odd positions now and then.

Whoooooeeeeee! With the compass holding a steady heading, the Northstar 6000i on the dash spitting out speed numbers between 22 and 24 mph, and the bow surging forward with juggernaut inevitability, I was able to simply take my hands off the wheel for long periods, some approaching two minutes. In fact, I ultimately came to enjoy such confidence in the boat’s unswerving forward motion that I could occasionally turn my head from the Stidd I was sitting in on the flying bridge and admire the big, blue rollers sweeping in behind us.

“Velocijet Strut Keels,” Marlow declared from the copilot’s seat at one point, emphasizing the innovative and patented aspect of the 78’s hull form that both characterizes all of the six Explorer models and plays a major role in the dead-on, down-sea tracking we were shaking our heads over. Marlow had already briefed me on the theory behind the skeg-like structures. Besides stabilizing direction (and reducing yaw) as the feathers of an arrow do, they gave top-end speed a slight boost by encasing the boat’s propeller shafts in hydrodynamically slippery foil shapes, thereby reducing drag, he said.

No matter how many roles the Velocijets play in the 78’s open-water performance, they make driving a blast. After Marlow and I had retired to the lower-helm station, where wind and sea were a bit less obtrusive, I swung the big boat through several broad arcs and several circles, marveling at her steering agility and mannerliness, qualities generated partly by Hynautic hydraulics, partly by engine-driven power-assist (with pumps mounted on both mains) and partly by what Marlow calls an “effort multiplier,” a device comprised of proprietary parts and a British-built Vickers pump that accelerates rudder response when the wheel is turned rapidly.

“Been a while since I’ve had this much fun in this kinda weather,” I said, while clearing the windshield with big, gutsy wipers and spurts of fresh water. Sightlines ahead and to the sides were superb, as was visibility aft. More to the point, the latter was so good, thanks to an accommodating window in the saloon bulkhead, that when we returned to our berth at Miami’s Rod & Reel Club after the trial, Marlow docked the boat while seated in the Stidd at the lower station, exhibiting the same sort of nonchalance I suppose he espouses when parking his black Porsche on the street.

The Rod & Reel Club’s a nifty, palm-shady little spot, just perfect for doing dockside walk-throughs. Marlow and I began with the 78’s engine room, which can be entered easily either via a scuttle-type cockpit hatch (for bad weather access) or a couple of watertight doors, one through the transom and the other through the forward bulkhead of the crew’s quarters/lazarette area. It boasts 6’4” headroom, epoxy fuel tanks mounted transversely amidships (against the forward firewall) to obviate the effects of load condition on trim, a seachest (with Lexan viewing/clean-out port), duplex fuel-water separators for both gensets and mains, and clear Lexan panels in the genset soundboxes, so an engineer can keep tabs on water pumps and hoses. Elbow room was ample and lighting excellent.

“Take a look at this,” Marlow said as we went aft through the crew’s quarters. At a spot on the swim platform, he began lifting a gasketed hatch after undogging it, slowly revealing a single 240-hp Yanmar 4LHA-STZP diesel configured (with helm station controls) to push the boat along in flat water at 9.5 knots. “It’s for rivers, the ICW, stuff like that,” explained Marlow, “where idling the mains for hours is inefficient.”

We pushed on into the 78’s interior, which offers a giant, full-beam master and three other staterooms on the lower deck (with an additional crew’s quarters astern), and a saloon, dining area, galley, and lower-helm station (with adjoining lounge) on the upper. Both the layout of our test boat and her resin-infused, vacuum-bagged, Kevlar-laminated, cored construction were highly reminiscent of the Marlow 72 I tested a year ago. In fact, the 78 is much the same vessel as the 72, except that she sports an extended, Euro-style cockpit and transom as well as a few other layout and engineering tweaks. At any rate, while examining our test boat’s accommodation spaces, I was not at all surprised to see an amalgam of nautical ambiance, high-end equipage, and sweetly crafted joinery.

Marlow and I finished the day with a simple, solid handshake, which seemed fitting. The opinion I’d formed of the Marlow Explorer 78 was just about that straightforward.

While the boat’s classical lines, state-of-the-art engineering, and high-tech construction were great, her offshore capabilities had darn near blown my socks off. Now all I had to do was field a few calls from the Big Apple.

Marlow Explorer Yachts
(800) 362-2657

This article originally appeared in the July 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.