David Marlow began building yachts of his own in 2001. He builds luxurious pilothouse-type, long-distance cruisers from 49 to 97 feet in a state-of-the-art factory in Xiamen, China. His boats are known for blending classic lines and environmentally friendly, leading-edge technologies.
What makes an ideal cruiser?
There are a number of ways to conceptualize the ideal passagemaker. Displacement hulls are a traditional favorite, and a number of companies make them, with ballasted shapes for easy motion and single engines for modest, economical cruising speeds. Other builders address the needs of those who won’t sit still for 6- or 7-knot cruising speeds. Usually, these people are not sailors; they want the flexibility of speed and range, and they want a boat with more shoal-draft ability, one that can cruise in coastal or island waters, and anchor out in bays in 6 feet of water. Excessive draft reduces the number of places you can go.
It’s a balancing act, really, to build a passagemaker with clean lines, good balance, and a hydrodynamic shape that will let water slip by gently, and offer the ability to run long-distances at a range of speeds to satisfy personal needs and outside conditions. That shape must also house the number of people the owner wants aboard, and support all the modern conveniences—bigger engines, air conditioning, watermakers—that many people can’t live without anymore.
What are some of the features cruisers need?
Exceptional form stability is key to comfortable cruising. Most passagemakers these days are stabilized, but with good form stability, the stabilizing equipment doesn’t have to work as hard. Excess weight is not your friend. Redundancy is also key, because sooner or later, even the most precisely engineered gear or systems can suffer failure due to a number of causes.
For example, steering systems have advanced to fly-by-wire, and the mechanisms they control can be backed up with multiple components that will assume the load and function if one fails. The rudder can also react according to the command sent from the wheel—slow as it turns gradually, fast when the helmsman wants to avoid something floating in the water ahead.
Zoned electrical power helps keep voltage high and reliable in designated areas, whether the pilothouse or the master stateroom, and also takes tons of heavy power cable out of the boat. Troubleshooting the location of a failure is empirically simpler and thus quicker to fix. All of the batteries should be controlled from the helm so that the owner doesn’t need to enter the engine room; that’s especially important when a fire might be electrical or made worse by live current.
What advice do you have for comparison shoppers?
We teach our staff to promote the virtues of our yachts, without denigrating those built by the competition. More importantly, we want to know about the passages you want to make. Ask about the boat’s range at various speeds, the stability that adds comfort, and the development work that’s being done to ensure hull integrity and improve handling over the years.