Refined Simplicity: The Marlow 49 Explorer Proves that Less is More - PassageMaker
The Marlow 49 Explorer Proves that Less is More

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Capt. Charles Marlow observed, “…yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut.” To Marlow, the meaning was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping it like a glow.

These words might also be apropos to yachtbuilder David Marlow’s philosophy in designing and building his line of luxurious Explorer motoryachts, now offered in sizes from 49 to 97 feet. The yachts are defined by his personal quest for the best in every detail, from innovative engineering to the utilization of only the finest components and equipment. If he can’t find a satisfactory solution, he is not the least bit hesitant about designing and manufacturing his own.

The Marlow 49 Explorer poised in front of the Tampa Bay Bridge in Tampa, Florida.

The Marlow 49 Explorer poised in front of the Tampa Bay Bridge in Tampa, Florida.

In 1995, Marlow left behind a successful career in marketing and servicing high-quality yachts to start his own brand from the ground up. The first, a 65-footer, quickly gained recognition as being one of the finest limited-production motoryachts in the world. Every few years a prospective owner would inquire about a larger version that would retain the key features of a Marlow, but provide more space and capacity, resulting in a full lineup of yachts, which has never strayed from the basic objectives:

  • Semi-displacement hull with a high strength-to-weight ratio
  • Proprietary Full Stack Infusion construction
  • Full standing headroom in the engine room
  • Excellent fit and finish

Perhaps the ability to achieve all of these goals in a 49-foot yacht that is easily handled by her owners was the most difficult of all due to the limitations imposed by size. As world-class architect Mies van der Rohe succinctly put it, “Less is more.”

DESIGN & BUILD

The 49 is the smallest and newest of the Marlow Explorer fleet. The design was initiated in 2013 with her first hull’s christening in 2015. Since then, 22 hulls have been delivered.

The Marlow hull is a combination of unique features. Rather than a heavy fiberglass layup, the structure is built utilizing Full Stack Infusion, whereby the entire structure is infused from the outer Kevlar skin through the inner closed-cell sandwich in a single-shot, vacuum-bagged process. This saves weight while providing a more open interior, greater strength, and increased hull performance. This results in a more easily driven hull capable of higher speeds and lower fuel consumption.

"Double spray rails at the bow insure a dry deck, as hard chines in the after portion of the hull increase initial and dynamic stability, induce planing, and resist roll."

"Double spray rails at the bow insure a dry deck, as hard chines in the after portion of the hull increase initial and dynamic stability, induce planing, and resist roll."

Double spray rails at the bow insure a dry deck, as hard chines in the after portion of the hull increase initial and dynamic stability, induce planing, and resist roll. Faired indentations abaft the bow thruster reduce drag, and underwater exhaust exits reduce engine noise. Specific indicators scribed into the waterline show the position of thrusters, stabilizers, water intakes, and rudders, making it difficult for a yard worker to place lifting slings in the wrong location.

Most important—and standard on all Marlows—is the streamlined shape of twin Velocijet Strut Keels. Their placement directly in front of the propellers directs solid water to the props and rudders, resulting in smaller rudders and less drag. The keels are structurally sound and protect the propeller and rudder in the event of a grounding. The additional draft reduces roll and provides better directional control. All of these features add up to a reduction in fuel consumption, an increase in comfort for passengers, and better overall performance.

A view of the engine room that features twin Cummins QSM11, 715-horsepower engines.

A view of the engine room that features twin Cummins QSM11, 715-horsepower engines.

On standard boats, the engine room houses twin Cummins QSM11, 715-horsepower engines, and features two sea chests accumulating all hull openings into two easily cleanable chambers. All routine service points are easily accessible, including two generators, a watermaker, central vacuum, optional Naiad #252 stabilizers, and two centrally located fiberglass fuel tanks linked by a cross feed. The tank location insures that fore-and-aft trim balance are unaffected as the fuel is consumed. The V-shape design of the tanks and their smooth gelcoated interior ensure that the fuel migrates to the bottom of the tank to the fuel pickup point, eliminating accumulation of debris or moisture inside. The tanks are cored with a medium-density foam, stopping condensation, one of the most common and destructive elements in fuel tank design typically found in metal or single-skin fiberglass tanks.

A separate lazarette accessible from the afterdeck and engine room contains the ship’s batteries, major electrical switching, and rudder hardware. Both spaces are brightly lighted, beautifully finished, and contained within a set of watertight doors.

INSIDE

A few of the saloon looking forward.

A few of the saloon looking forward.

The interior of the 49 appeared to have all the dedicated spaces cruisers expect—laundry room with separate washer and dryer, and adequate hall space between the centrally located master stateroom and guest suite. A unique feature was the open, single pilot berth located on the starboard side behind the curved staircase. The captain could bunk down on a night watch with immediate access to the deck above.

Fine woodworking detail is common aboard all Marlow yachts.

Fine woodworking detail is common aboard all Marlow yachts.

Marlow offers three layouts on the 49, any of which can be modified to meet an owner’s wishes. This particular vessel’s owner eliminated the lower helm station to provide a full-width semicircular dining settee. Most high-quality vessels built in Asia sport fine woodwork and aboard the Marlow 49, the book-matched teak veneer and joinery work was excellent. What I call “high-quality fiberglass joiner work” defined the exterior—perfectly formed joints, substantially secured stanchions, and recessed hardware. Perhaps a reflection of a boat built from only three molds.

UNDERWAY

We ran out the mouth of the Manatee River into lower Tampa Bay as the sun began to rise. From my vantage point on the photo boat, I was pleasantly surprised by the sleek lines and proportions of the 49. I had expected her abbreviated LOA to make her seem foreshortened, but she did not. I was also able to observe her stability as she made the tight turns I requested over the radio, with little or no heeling, a testament to the combination of her Naiad stabilizers and her twin Velocijet keels. No need to worry about a spilled beverage or an unhappy guest.

The Marlow 49 Explorer quickly moves from displacement to planing speed.

The Marlow 49 Explorer quickly moves from displacement to planing speed.

At the wheel, the first thing I noticed at the helm was the ease with which she accelerated from displacement speed to planing speed—no doubt a result of her weight-saving construction and hull shape. A trawler speed of about 10 knots would give her a comfortable range of 700 nautical miles and at 8 knots would take her almost 1,000 miles. A meaningful safety factor is her ability to outrun a storm at speeds up to 23 knots. Her decibel range went from 62.5 to 84.4 Db(A) at her upper helm. The owner of this particular boat specified a semi-enclosed bridge with a fixed windshield and open sides. He has yet to make a choice of adding isinglass curtains. Twin helm seats with an L-shape settee complete the seating arrangement, and a full summer kitchen and refrigerator are close at hand.

The Marlow 49 Explorer yacht from astern.

The Marlow 49 Explorer yacht from astern.

Making hard turns and cutting our own wake at speed was smooth and validated my impression while observing her from the chase boat. No heeling, shaking, or cavitation was noticeable. As we headed back into the river and I brought her down to idle speed, we did pick up a rattling sound, which came from a removable stanchion on the rear starboard quarter of the upper deck. It is removable to facilitate launching a dinghy and will be corrected.

As we approached a tight berth back at the dock, the skipper left the helm with an iPhone-size controller, giving him full control of both engines, rudders, and thrusters. He worked first from the upper deck as he brought her directly abeam of the dock, moved down the stair, and finally stepped onto the dock making fast both spring lines.

After a total of 16 hours of exposure to the Marlow 49E, and several days of reviewing my many notes, photos, and writing this report, I have a far greater understanding of what makes a Marlow special. For those fortunate enough to be in the market for a yacht of this caliber, I would suggest you take your time to understand that the beauty of a Marlow is more than skin deep. 

Marlow Yachts, (941) 729-3370, marlowyachts.com.

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