Marquis 70 Tri-DeckBy Capt. Richard Thiel Photos by Jim Raycroft
I'm not sure exactly when it was—maybe the summer of 2002—but I do remember the conversation as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. Bob Van Grunsven, president of Carver Yachts, was telling me how he needed to build something bigger than the then-flagship Carver 56 Voyager and had decided to do so by creating an entirely new brand, separate from Carver. In implementing that philosophy he'd decided that this new line would be designed not by Carver's in-house team but rather by a hot, new design firm out of Venice, Italy, called Nuvolari Lenard, which had worked for such Italian builders as CRN, Mochi Craft, and Cantieri di Sarnico. Furthermore, he'd hired Donald L. Blount and Associates to do the structural analysis and hull design, yet another break from tradition. The goal of all this, he told me in the most matter-of-fact tone you could imagine, was to end up with a line of boats that would compete throughout the world with the best vessels coming from Europe, particularly Italy.
Van Grunsven aimed to beat the Europeans at their own game.
I remember thinking, "This guy is living in a dream world!" Not only had no American builder ever accomplished such a feat, no one had even bothered to try. And especially not one with a reputation for building staid mid-priced family cruisers with styling that could perhaps best be described as cubical. I nodded as Van Grunsven waxed enthusiastic about his plans, first for a 59 and then for something in the mid-60s that would not only sell well in the United States but in Europe, too. Europe? "Oh boy," I thought. "He's in for a rude awakening."
About a year and a half later, I was at the Miami International Boat Show, standing in front the Carver-Marquis display on Collins Avenue, looking at the first Marquis 57. I had to admit, she was a beauty. And she really did look like she'd come from the other side of the Atlantic. Once inside her, I was even more impressed. The interior design and materials were truly upscale—completely different from those used in the Carver line. And the comments from everyone around me perfectly reflected my thoughts. In fact, one couple with whom I struck up a conversation on that first evening was so smitten, they ended up buying that very 57.
There were even positive comments from some Italians aboard. As I wrote in my review of the 59 ("Italian-American," May 2003), when one within earshot observed that the Marquis really looked Italian, his companion corrected him with the assertion that the boat actually was from an Italian yard; she'd just had been rebadged with an American logo. Even so, fool the Europeans though this boat might, I knew there was no way they were going to choose an American-built yacht—even one as beautiful as this—over one of theirs.
A little more than five years on, I am at the wheel of the newest Marquis, the 70 Tri-Deck, running in a three-foot chop off the coast of Florida, down Hawk Channel on the way to Little Palm Island. Much has changed. Van Grunsven did everything he said he would, and the result is an established brand with excellent sales not only in the United States, but contrary to my prediction, in Europe as well. (Indeed, Marquis has a separate Web site for European clients.) Part of that success is admittedly due to the anemic dollar. Yet even before the greenback crashed, Europeans were buying Marquis yachts. Just as Van Grunsven had envisioned, the brand had succeeded based on its own merits, namely styling, performance, and value.
Something else has changed. Although every Marquis is still built in Wisconsin, on the same campus as Carver, they are now assembled in a separate facility using a dedicated crew. (That facility was recently expanded to accommodate worldwide demand—rather unheard of in this down economy.) Carver and Marquis have evolved into two brands that are totally distinct in everything from raw materials to advertising.
But some things haven't changed. For starters the 70 is a performer, just like the 57—perhaps because both hulls are the work of Blount. In fact, for a vessel of her size, the 70's helm response is remarkable, thanks to her electro-hydraulic steering, and she tracks more like she's got Metroliner on her sides than Marquis. A top speed of 33.2 mph is all you could ask from a vessel like this (the 59 topped out at just under 35 mph), and if anything, the 70 is even quieter across the board.
Neither has construction changed. All Marquis hulls are foam-cored below the waterline and balsa-cored above and feature a lineal-span rail engine-mounting system and one-inch-thick bulkheads that are triple-bonded on all edges, creating what is essentially a series of ring frames. The superstructure-pilothouse unibody is just as burly, being balsa-cored and based on an aluminum truss system that is welded to a similar frame in the deck, after which the two fiberglass portions are bonded to each other. Such attention to structural detail explains how Marquis earned the European Union's Classification A, the most rigid of four CE categories, which indicates the ability to withstand a Force 8 (40-knot) wind and 13-foot seas.
Part of the reason for Marquis' success is the replication of such construction and other specifications in all seven models, be it the 42 or this boat. The 70 is the largest, but she feels much larger than the boat she replaces as flagship, the 65, because she's the first Marquis trideck. The pilothouse (an open-bridge version is also available) from which I am piloting her is comfortable, air-conditioned, bar-equipped, glass-enclosed, retractable-TV'd, and accessed internally from the saloon or externally from the cockpit. If there's any criticism I can muster about this sybaritic spot, it's that it's so isolated from the outside, I'm in danger of nodding off.
In fact, the pilothouse almost makes the saloon seem superfluous. The amenities, like handmade Italian Poltrona Frau leather furniture, are basically the same in both places. But of course, there's a major-league galley below, which means most meals will probably be taken on that level, at the big circular dining table. But if this boat had a dumbwaiter I bet no one would venture out of the pilothouse, except to sleep.
And for that, two plans are available. Both have a full-beam (18'4") amidships master, forepeak VIP, and port-side, double-berth guest stateroom, all with en suite heads. The difference is in the space across from the guest stateroom, which can be either a walk-in closet (standard) or a fourth stateroom with right-angle berths, as on our boat. Before you decide which you want, note that there is also another cabin all the way aft, accessed via the transom and equipped with its own head. It functions equally well as a kid's stateroom or captain's quarters.
Today, it's things like that flexibility, more than the remarkable story of Marquis' creation, that really define the brand. And that's true on both sides of the Atlantic.
For more information on Marquis Yachts, including contact information, click here.
Docking a 70-footer—even one with a deep gear reduction like our Marquis—can be a real challenge, especially when there's current, wind, or a tight slip. Or, heaven forbid, all three. This optional cockpit control station makes the job a lot easier, since it not only includes engine controls but also ties into the Marquis Docking System. This standard feature is basically a Side-Power bow and stern thruster, both big and powerful enough to really make a difference. The 13-hp units, which are enclosed in 10-inch tunnels, generate more than 500 pounds of thrust each. And if you decide you don't want the cockpit control, don't worry. A wireless remote control for the Marquis Docking System is included at no charge.—R.T.
This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.