Photography by Robert Holland
In spite of a smaller footprint, the Marlow Pilot 34 has lots in common with the big, sophisticated motoryachts that Marlow Marine has been building for years.
I have a boatbuilding theory that goes something like this: At some deep (or sometimes not so deep) level, the personalities of most builders, whether collective or individual, always manifest in the boat or boats they build, not only in terms of style and design, but also in terms of equipage, performance, and mission. It’s no mistake, for example, that Bill Barry-Cotter, a steely-eyed Aussie with an obsession for ocean racing, has for years been creating stout, steely-eyed offshore-oriented speedsters. And it’s also no mistake that David Marlow, an imaginative Floridian with a positive genius for finding and exploiting the best and brightest of modern technologies, has also for years been creating big, super-sophisticated, multi-million-dollar motoryachts that he calls Marlow Explorers.
Of course, a theory’s a handy thing to have. And mine came handily to mind just a few months ago, as I hurled a Marlow Pilot 34—a highly evolved, express-type cruiser—into a tight, full-speed turn on the choppy gray wastes of Tampa Bay. Marlow was sitting in the copilot’s seat at the time, holding forth in his inimitable manner.
And I do mean inimitable. Despite the rousing pitch of the 34’s twin 260-horsepower Yanmar 6BY3-260s, and the centrifugal drama that the turn entailed, Marlow stuck steadfastly to his guns, wholly intent on explaining how he had experimentally proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, both to himself and to everyone else at his Marlow Pilot boatbuilding facility in Alachua, Florida, the total supremacy of 3M NidaCore as a coring material for the 34’s hullsides and deck.
It was a spirited pitch. The more Marlow talked, the more ardent he became, describing in lovingly brutal detail how he and some of his employees had episodically dropped a giant lead weight from “higher and higher heights” onto a variety of cored panels, pushing each panel to the point of failure.
“The NidaCore kept the damage comparatively localized,” Marlow concluded, raising his voice to be clearly heard over the Yanmar’s wail. “Damage to the other panels was more complete and catastrophic, which to me means NidaCore is the best technology for hullsides and decks. The balsa panels, by the way, just flat out exploded!”
That Big Boat Feel
Unlike his luxurious Marlow Explorers, the 34 is a mainstreamer, a sort of “everyman’s trawler,” according to Marlow, although the description addresses mostly size, as opposed to finish, quality of construction materials, and level of ancillary equipment. As I finished my turn, straightened the boat out, and began beelining southwest toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, I loosened my hold on the boat’s beefy, finger-grip-equipped Schmitt steering wheel (with Power Knob), relieved the Lenco electric tabs slightly to boost speed and efficiency, and glanced briefly down at the helm layout.
It was logically organized, driver-friendly, and studded with some of the latest in big-boat components. Near the top was a Garmin GPSMAP 8212 MFD, just a few inches below an easy-to-see-and-read Ritchie magnetic compass. To the left of the MFD was a Garmin VHF, with a molded and fiddled shelf directly beneath, an arrangement that facilitates simply tossing the mic during an emergency, rather than having to carefully slot it. Further down, to the left of the wheel, were control panels for the Garmin autopilot and the Lencos. To the right were two engine-monitoring panels and a solidly manufactured MBW Technologies binnacle-type engine control, pretty much standard-issue with Yanmar diesels.
Speeds were rousing, and the efficiency solid. Earlier in the day, I’d recorded a two-way average top end of 23.9 knots, a fairly impressive velocity considering that the boat squeezes a decent, 241-nautical-mile range from a single 280-gallon, sump-equipped, sound-dampened, welded-aluminum fuel tank, complete with a 10-percent reserve. Undoubtedly, all this was partially attributable to the bustle under the swim platform—it adds velocity-boosting waterline length and generates enough buoyancy to keep the boat’s running attitudes at or below an efficient 5 degrees. The “strut keels” that enclose and protect the props and propshafts probably figured into the equation as well, thanks to the reduction in drag that encapsulating a couple of propshaft auras tends to produce. And then the stiffness of the 34’s hull, thanks to aircraft-style construction techniques and materials, may also have helped. One way or the other, I enjoyed driving the vessel like a fast horse all the way back to the barn.
Doctor Livingstone, I Presume?
Many years ago, when Marlow introduced his first Explorer, he would sometimes, if prevailed upon, allude to the jaunts he was periodically taking through the jungles of Asia to find the top-shelf Burmese teak logs he was using to create book-matched veneers for his interiors. These stories were just a tad reminiscent of the adventures of Stanley and Livingstone, I always thought, and illustrated just how far Marlow would go to tap into first-class stuff.
Things haven’t changed much since then, I’d say, if the interior of the 34 is any indication. Shortly after stepping down into her bright and airy saloon, I noted a subtle contrast. On one hand, the scale was undeniably small boat. But on the other, the fit and finish were darn near identical to what you’ll see on the Explorers.
The U-shaped lounge to starboard was particularly classic. Teak veneers were perfectly matched to the corner stiles, the deck was laid with cherry planks, not laminate, the upholstery’s single-line stitching was tight and precise, and presiding over all this sweetness and light was a pricey, superbly nautical Danish-made Ocean Frigast lamp, a signature feature on all the big boats Marlow builds.
“Man,” I commented, “What a lovely spot to get away from it all.”
The Latest Take on Teak
While classicism is the obvious emphasis inside the 34, Marlow has added a new wrinkle to her exterior. Called SeaDek, the product is a nonskid material made from non-absorbent, closed-cell EVA foam, and it covers virtually all walkable surfaces on the 34’s after end.
“Feels softer on your feet than most other nonskid surfaces,” Marlow explained. “We get it custom cut to fit the spots where we’d otherwise use teak or one of the teak substitutes. All kinds of patterns are available, some teaky, some not.”
Another product that Marlow’s touting these days comes from HK Research Corporation, an outfit that mixes its gelcoats using computer-automation, as opposed to a manually weighed, raw-material delivery system. “The colored HK gelcoats particularly are more consistent,” Marlow told me, “which means they’re more predictable and easier for us to use.”
And there’s one final product that’s got Marlow amped up these days, although it has yet to make it into either the Marlow Explorer or the Marlow Pilot lineup—rim-driven bow and stern thrusters. “They have many advantages,” Marlow explained, as we finished up in the 34’s ER, accessed via a large, electro-hydraulically actuated cockpit hatch. “Quiet operation being probably the most important.”
“So we’ll see a rim-driven thruster on a Marlow Pilot 34 some time soon?” I asked, while still standing amid the techy mélange of beefy engine mounts, oversized Perko sea strainers, and high-falutin’ Victron Energy AGM batteries.
“Well,” Marlow replied with a smile, “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Noteworthy Options: Webasto 24,000-Btu A/C system ($8,900); 7.5-kW Gen-Tec generator ($19,800); Garmin electronics package w/ 36-mile radar ($22,500); Lewmar electric windlass ($2,400).
GENERATOR: 7.5-kW Gen-Tec, WARRANTY: 2-year prorated limited warranty on all Marlow Pilot manufactured parts; 5-year hull and bottom blister warranty.
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 77ºF; humidity: 90%; seas: 1-2'; wind: 6-12 knots.
Load During Boat Test
187 gal. fuel, 70 gal. water, 2 persons, 100 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/260-hp Yanmar 6BY3-260 diesels
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 63A; 2.5:1
- Props: 22 x 18 4-blade bronze
- Price as Tested: $389,600
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.