Marlow Marine Prowler 375 — By Capt. Bill Pike —
You Can Go Home Again
Boatbuilder David Marlow returns to the little fishing village where he grew up—with a Panther.
I was sitting in David Marlow’s pine-paneled office a year ago, looking out the window. It’s a beautiful, park-like place, Marlow Marine, with royal palms, one of the oldest buttonwood trees on Florida’s west coast, cracker-style tin roofs, and an ambiance of calm assurance. The shady, spring-fed lagoon at its center, which opens into the Manatee River, Terra Ceia Bay, and ultimately Tampa Bay, was chockful of yachts, including a sleek but husky Marlow Explorer 78 we’d just finished sea trialing for a boat test (“Sea Wolf,” July 2004).
“Before you leave, Bill,” said Marlow, motioning toward a drawing board, “Lemme show you our offering for next year’s Miami boat show.”
I got up to take a look. Labeled “Prowler—Panther Series 350 & 375,” the drawing showed a couple of boats that departed significantly from the trawlerish appearance of the Explorer Series. Marlow explained that Prowler represented the fulfillment of a dream. As a boy growing up on the docks of the nearby fishing village of Cortez, he’d admired the tough, racy vessels that smuggled Cuban rum into Florida for fun and profit. Boats like Capt. Jesse Haven’s low-slung, Cortez-built Green Lizard and others from Wheeler, Consolidated, Matthews, and Gar Wood were the superstars of Marlow’s young imagination, a world away from the stolid fishing vessels he was consigned to work on. They had fire-breathing Kermath and 12-cylinder Packard engines. They had broad-shouldered hull forms for carrying crated bottles as well as booze-friendly Monel tanks. But more, they had precisely what the colorful rogues who drove them had: style. Little wonder the ten-year-old Marlow, slaving away as “the kid” on the five-man mullet boat Jewel Ann, vowed someday, somehow, to own a vessel with as much flash, performance, and utility as the rumrunners he so admired.
I returned to Marlow Marine just after this year’s Miami International Boat Show. No longer a compilation of lines on paper, the first of the Prowler Yachts, the Panther 375, was now in the water, docked stern-to. The name on her tumblehome transom: Panther. Her hailing port: anywhere.
I was charmed. Her sheerline was subtly S-curved and highlighted by a Burmese teak toerail. Stainless steel strips gleamed brightly along her molded-in quarterguards, and a raft of huge, flush-fit, tempered-glass windows adorned the low, off-white superstructure.
Marlow was waiting. He helped get my test gear into the ample cockpit, handed me an early-morning cup of joe, and then offered our plan for the day: We’d take the boat to Cortez, do our wringout en route, and then lunchify at a Cortezian waterfront restaurant called Star Fish Company, which adjoins the A.P. Bell Fish & Ice Company, an outfit Marlow once worked for. Besides sustenance, the point of the repast was to hook up with some of Marlow’s old friends and associates, to see what they thought of Panther. But things tend to go slow in Cortez, Marlow warned, so he was thinking we should quickly tour the boat before we hit the trail. Otherwise time might run short on the other end.
We began with the engine boxes, each of which housed a 359-hp Yanmar 6LYA-STP V-drive diesel under an electrically actuated lid that doubled as a settee. I’d seen many of the niftier details inside the boxes during previous tests of Explorers. They included drip pans under the engines, a common drain system to cut back on through-hull fittings, an Awlgrip finish, and a varnished teak grating in the bilge. Other nifty details outside the boxes include a fully baffled, fire-retardant fiberglass fuel tank (gelcoated outside and inside to nix algae buildup), four 8D AGM batteries (two house and two starters) in fiberglass stowage boxes, a stainless steel potable water tank, highly polished inside to nix aftertaste, and hatch access to V-drives and CentaFlex flexible shaft couplings underneath the engines.
This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.