Explorer 78 — By Capt. Bill Pike —
|The Wolf Himself|
I recently spent an evening with David Marlow at his home in Snead Island, Florida, a gorgeously restored, palm-fringed, tin-roofed, cracker-style house on the banks of the Manatee River. While the interior resonated with a boatbuilder’s touch throughout, most notably due to the abundance of teak doors, inlaid stairways, and louvered cabinets (all crafted by carpenters at Marlow’s boatbuilding facility in China), it was the area behind the house, with its sheds and barns chock-a-block with “junk,” that was flat-out astounding.
Forget the gasoline-powered pogo stick Marlow invented some years ago and the 50-mph golf cart. And forget the pristine Chevy Belair under canvas, the mint-condition Mack truck, and the jury-rigged rudder that once saw him and the crew of a damaged offshore racing sailboat some 700 NM to safety in Nassau.
What really caught my eye was the humble artifact inhabiting a shed where stacks of teak planks are stowed: a crusty, rough-hewn hull model that inspired the creation of the first Marlow Explorer. Cast up on an old, paint-besmirched workbench, it seemed at first glance little more than a three-foot chunk of boat-shape foam and wood scraps fitted with two triangular-shape skegs, the precursors to Marlow’s performance-enhancing Velocijet Strut Keels.
“Doesn’t look like much, does it?” grinned Marlow, nodding toward the model with characteristic modesty. “But when I pulled that little thing behind my Boston Whaler that day, I knew I was really onto something.” The comment elicited a momentary vision. Marlow had been a retired boatyard operator living with his wife on the coast of Maine when he first began tinkering with strut-type keels and their application to cruising boats, tweaking shapes and positions, and then testing the results with the wide-eyed curiosity of a Florida-born-and-bred Galileo. For a moment I could almost see him back then, towing his model across some Downeast seascape with boyish enthusiasm, a huge smile on his face.
“Eventually, I got it so the darn thing tracked like it was on rails, Bill,” Marlow marveled, slapping me on the back, “I mean... like it was on rails.” —B.P.
This article originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.