Marlow Marine Prowler 375 — By Capt. Bill Pike —
You Can Go Home Again
Part 2: Within the confines of this prosaic configuration, Marlow had added some poetry. The level of finish was striking.
As for her interior, our test boat’s layout was typical of most “sleeps two comfortably and three in a pinch” weekenders, meaning the owner’s suite, with convertible dinette and head, was below decks, and the galley, helm station, and sunning areas were above. However, within the confines of this prosaic configuration, Marlow had added some poetry. The level of finish was striking. The stainless steel wheel, for example, was literally coated with numerous exquisitely joined teak pieces, and all drawers onboard were dovetail-cornered with ball-bearing-type stainless steel slides. Door hardware and faucets were premium grade. And the amount of elbowroom, especially below decks, was tremendous, thanks in large part to the boat’s longitudinally framed, monocoque-type construction, which replaces a profusion of stringers and transversals with exceptionally intricate tooling and high-tech composite sandwiches.
I fired up Panther’s engines and, despite the proximity of other vessels in the crowded lagoon, smoothly maneuvered away from the dock, negotiated some narrow, rock-sided canals, and headed for open water. Close-quarters handling was easy; the boat’s low profile cut windage, and there was enough bite in the props to pivot the boat efficaciously. No bow thruster was installed, and none was needed.
Handling offshore was fun, although bow rise coming out of the hole briefly obscured my vision forward, and maintaining good sightlines in that direction once we were on plane entailed stretching my neck a bit. Top speed in two- to four-foot seas was 40.6 mph, which was impressive considering our high rpm readings, probably due to underpitched props. Turning was sporty, and Panther tracked like she was sent for. The only foibles I noticed were a tendency to take water over the bow occasionally when charging up-sea and sound levels that were high, most likely because our boat was a prototype with virtually no sound insulation.
We hit Cortez at noon with Marlow at the controls. Local knowledge, he’d advised when we first sighted the place, was necessary in these parts. The bottom near the shoreline was rife with old, uncharted, broken-off pilings lurking below the water’s surface. Since the last thing I wanted to do at the time was tangle our props up with a chunk of waterlogged wood, I handed the helm over.
It was a savvy move. Despite our slithery 2'3" draft, we pulled a long trail of mud into the lee of Star Fish Company’s front porch, which was just a tad overrun with tourists when we arrived. Marlow and I went ashore to sample the Cortez Fish Chowder, which was superb. We also kept an eye peeled for some of Marlow’s friends.
“Cortezians are numerous here and they all have nicknames,” Marlow noted, “Trigger Mora, Bub Bell, his brother Calvin, Popeye Lewis, Burr Lewis, Farmer Capo. Somebody’ll be along.”
He was right. Calvin Bell fell by, an old but exceptionally well-preserved gentleman who’s one of the owners of the A.P. Bell Fish & Ice Company. He’d known Marlow for years. A sea story or two ensued. Just a sample:
“You remember the time my brother Grady and I were fishin’ together,” Marlow queried, raising an eyebrow, “and we hit a log off the ol’ Tides Hotel in the middle of the night and stove a hole in the boat?”
“Sure ‘nough do,” enthused Bell.
“And I was sleepin’ below and Grady come down and yelled, ‘David! Either you’re gonna drown or I’m gonna drown ya…but yer jumpin’ over the side and stuffin’ that mattress in the hole!’”
“An’ you gotta realize, young fellah,” Bell added as an aside to me, “them boys’d been fishin’ all night, and there was sharks all over the place.”
“I didn’t want to jump…but I did,” Marlow laughed. “Grady’s a big boy…bigger ‘n me…with arms like that!”
We left Cortez that evening in pea-soup fog. Since Marlow had a better handle on safely navigating the local waters, we decided he’d drive back, with me as lookout. Another savvy move? Yeah, but it didn’t alter the fact that both of us were a bit dispirited. While Bell, arguably the most lively interview of the afternoon, had treated us to local lore galore, he had to return to work before producing what we’d come for—an official, home-grown opinion of Panther.
A fish-house employee saved the day, though, a kid with a besmirched white apron, leaning on an old, beat-up, square-ended shovel. Just as we pulled away, he gave us a long look that both Marlow and I easily interpreted.
“Hey Mister,” it said, “that sure is a pretty boat.”
Marlow Prowler Yachts ( (800) 362-2657. www.prowleryachts.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.