By Tom Thompson
Marlow 61 Explorer: Sea Trial
Marlow 61 Explorer is a unique, go-anywhere yacht that is the result of one man's dream.
It is difficult to separate David Marlow from the boats that he builds. Each is interrelated. Marlow loves his work, and there is much of him in his latest creation: the Marlow 61 Explorer.
David Marlow has a long background in boating, and in the boating industry. He built his first boat, a wooden canoe, on the Gulf Coast of his native Florida when he was 12.
In the 1990s, after his career path took him through numerous facets of the marine industry (including retirement), he decided to try his hand at boat building again. This time, he wanted to create the ideal long-distance cruiser.
Following several years of planning the design and searching for the right place to build, Marlow settled on a shipyard in Taiwan. His first launch, in 2001, was a 65-foot long-range passage-maker. Other sizes soon joined the lineup, including the 61.
Demand for these cruiseworthy boats has been so brisk that Marlow Yachts recently built a second yard — in Mainland China — from the ground up.
Building the Perfect Boat
Marlow is a perfectionist, although that aspect of his personality is not immediately apparent. You need to look closely at the 61 Explorer to see how driven he is in his pursuit of perfection.
Marlow isn’t content to purchase lumber on the open market for his boats’ interiors. He travels to the jungles of Burma to purchase entire trees, so the woodgrain in the interior cabinetry and paneling can be perfectly aligned and book matched throughout the boat.
Decking in the main saloon of the 61 Explorer we tested was comprised of single-length quarter-sawn strips, extending fore to aft. There was not a butt joint to be found.
Cabinet doors were painstakingly crafted works of art, in the way the grain lines flowed across their surfaces.
The 61 Explorer is available in two hull styles: the “E” version, with a sloped transom and an integrated swim platform; and the “C” version, without those features. We tested a 61E.
The 61E’s flybridge featured a large seating area behind the centerline helm and an entertainment center with an electric barbecue grill. There was deck space aft for a tender and a davit, although Marlow can also install a transom lift system to handle the dinghy.
You can get down to the main deck either from a stairway aft, which leads to the cockpit; or another in the forward port corner that takes you to the main saloon.
The main deck has wide teak-planked sidedecks that lead to the boat’s Portuguese bridge, forward of the pilothouse. The foredeck leads to a platform at the bow, for working lines and ground tackle.
The cockpit is partially under cover from the flybridge overhang. It features a bench seat along the transom.
While you’re traversing the decks, you’ll notice one of the many unique Marlow touches. Handholds and railings aren’t the round stainless steel tubing you find on most boats — they’re oval shaped: all the better to fit the natural shape of your hand, explained David Marlow.
The fuel fill is located on the cabin bulkhead, inboard of the sidedeck. When you open the access door to the fill caps, it flips down to become a container to catch any spills. That’s just one example of Marlow’s concern for the environment.
It’s All in the Details
The main saloon of the 61 Explorer we tested was trimmed in cherry wood and had settee seating along both sides. A wet bar and a wine cooler were located forward of the portside settee, and an entertainment center was built into the forward cabinetry — the top of which was open to the galley.
As mentioned before, the artistry and craftsmanship on a Marlow are not readily apparent until you look closely. Where most builders would be satisfied with a cabinet door being constructed of one piece of wood, David Marlow wants more. On the 61 Explorer, the edges of both the door and the cabinet opening are finished with an opposing grain strip of the same wood.
Another thing worth mentioning is the fit and finish in areas that you don’t see, such as behind the television or the wine cooler. They’re finished the same way as the visible surfaces — and they are impeccable.
The pilot deck on the 61 Explorer is two steps up from the main saloon. It contains the galley, dining area and lower helm station. Entrances to the sidedecks are provided on either side.
Again, the special Marlow touches stand out. The stove is a conventional flush four-burner electric cooktop, but it has a series of custom-made brackets to keep pots and pans from sliding while under way.
There’s a metal-lined compartment in the countertop to the right of the stove, designed as a “crisper” box. David Marlow explained its use by pointing out that on a long voyage, crackers and bread lose their freshness quickly in the humid air. A trip to the crisper box will restore them.
Another of the subtle differences between the 61 Explorer and other boats is the lack of supporting bulkheads inside the cabin spaces. Marlow Yachts uses a technique that minimizes the number of molded fiberglass pieces used throughout the boat, based on the monocoque construction method used in aircraft. The boat is like an airplane skin: very rigid and extremely strong.
Other advantages of building this way are a lower center of gravity and reduced height. The 61 Explorer can go under a bridge with 19 feet of clearance.
The lower deck has a full-beam master suite amidships that can be furnished with a private entrance from the saloon. There is a head compartment, to port, with a stall shower, a vacuum-flush head and a countertop containing two sinks.
Along the starboard side of the master suite, you’ll see a vanity dressing area and a large walk-in closet-style hanging locker.
Two guest cabins, located forward, are accessible via a companionway to starboard of the lower helm station. A head with a separate stall shower serves both cabins.
A Remarkable Ride
The 61 Explorer’s mechanical spaces are in keeping with the impressive qualities of the rest of the boat. The engine room is gleaming and spotless, with generous access room around the engines on all four sides.
David Marlow emphasized the ease of access to the powerplants by sitting on a shelf with his back against the hull side and stretching his legs to just barely touch the outboard side of an engine. Marlow explained that he builds boats not just for “now,” but for how they will be cared for in the future.
Abaft the engine compartment, there’s another large space that can be used either for storage or for crew quarters. Regardless of how this area is configured, Marlow said he always likes to put a sink there, to make for convenient cleanup after working below. Another nice touch.
Our only disappointment of the day spent with David Marlow was that the weather wasn’t up to proving how well the 61 Explorer could handle under adverse conditions (yes, it is possible to have too nice a day). Given the construction, fit and finish of this boat, it logically follows that the ride in rough seas should be equally superb.
Obviously, this boat was no slouch in good weather. It offers a remarkably comfortable, stable and solid ride, along with responsive handling.
All Marlow yachts are built with a patented hull design that uses a Velocijet strut keel. The combination of a pair of molded hull appendages that enclose the propeller shafts and a centerline keel provide excellent straight-line tracking ability. They also improve stability in following seas.
The 61 Explorer has a top speed of 25 knots, when equipped with optional twin 1,520 hp Caterpillar 3406E engines, and a high cruising speed of 20 knots. With a pair of 940 hp Lugger 6125A diesels — the smallest engines available — the 61E will top out at around 20 knots.
However, long-distance passage-making is not about speed. At a typical long-range cruising speed of 8 knots, the 61 Explorer’s standard fuel capacity will yield an ocean-spanning 2,754 miles with the small-block engines — and remarkable fuel economy of 1.92 mpg.
Marlow 61 Explorer Specifications
|Dry displacement||72,000 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||1,400 gallons|
|Water capacity (drinking)||100 gallons|
|Water capacity (domestic)||400 gallons|
|Props||Custom five-blade Nibral|
|Base price with Lugger 6125A engines||$1,537,000|
|Top speed||21 knots|
|Nautical miles per gallon at 8-knot cruising speed||1.92|
|Range at 8-knot cruising speed||2754 nautical miles|
|Sound level at 8-knot cruising speed||71 dbA|
Searchlight w/electronic control; dual-trumpet Kahlenberg air horns; Maxwell windlass; Northern Lights 12 kw auxiliary generator; air conditioning and heat; stainless steel water tanks; washer/dryer; granite or Corian counters; bread crisper box; vacuum-flush heads; king-size or queen-size berth in master stateroom; stainless steel rudders; cockpit control station; bow thruster; fore and aft shore power connections.
Hull utilizes proprietary high-pressure vacuum-bagged fiberglass lamination system; engineered resin-infusion core cell foam sandwich construction throughout; Dupont Kevlar lamination fabrics.
For More Information
Marlow Explorer Yachts Ltd.
Snead Island, Fla.