BOAT TEST MARLOW EXPLORER 65 CLASSIC

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This magnificent craft makes living at sea a pleasure

BOAT TEST MARLOW EXPLORER 65 CLASSIC
Marlow Explorer 65 Classic

Live-aboards like the Marlow Explorer 65 Classic have it all, and prefer to spend time on the ocean and not on a mooring, notes David Lockwood

There's a saying that you will never find time for anything - if you want time, you must make it. But what better excuse for taking timeout than the Marlow Explorer 65 Classic? Here's a long-range, liveaboard, self-sufficient passagemaker designed for spending weeks, no months aboard gadding about the coast. And I'm betting - dreaming, actually - that with this comfortable cruising conveyance you will finally find the time to really see all those far-away places on your wishlist.

Of course, you will need deep pockets to afford the Explorer 65C, but at $3.2 million it is actually very keenly priced compared to some of its competition, especially when you examine the inventory. And after years of collecting your pennies, you will have earned the time credits to sail off into the sunset. Needless to say, the Marlow Explorer 65C won't appreciate being tied to a big-city marina for long. Infrequent use just for Sunday picnics doesn't do it justice.

If not anchored behind a tropical island, hunkered down behind the Great Barrier Reef, or parked in the Normanby River (barra' country) north of Cooktown, then the aptly named Marlow Explorer will be most at home on the wide blue yonder cruising between exotic destinations. And, best of all, it's not a handful to master.

Decamp with the aid of the bow and sternthrusters, which are available at three helm stations including a docking remote operable from the cockpit or aft flybridge, cruise without pitching thanks to the Naiad stabilisers, and stay self-sufficient with a desalinator that produces more than 3000 litres of water per day. And that's just for starters.

Besides time and money, it pays to know something about Marlow's history to appreciate these boats. Founded by David Marlow, formerly one of the biggest-selling Grand Banks dealers in the world, Marlow is a Taiwanese (soon to be Chinese) yard on the cusp of some exciting changes. By the end of this year, all Marlow boats will be built in the Norseman Shipyard in Xiamen, China, with resin-infused hulls and decks to, among other things, save weight and improve performance.

Meantime, there are four more Marlow Explorer 65Cs still being built in the Taiwanese facility before the moulds move to China. First launched in 2001, the 65C has already undertaken a serious trimming down and weight loss in 2006, but by the end of 2008, when the resin-infused technology takes over, the boat will shed a further 1500 to 2000kg, we're told.

 

BIGGER IS BETTER

While it's not in the business of building a big numbers of boats - some 25 leave the
factory each year - Marlow appears to be building bigger and bigger boats. A new 86 was launched at this year's Miami International Boat Show (it was Marlow's 100th boat in five years) and one has just been sold here. But already a 92-footer is in the mould-making process and will be resin infused.

In Australia, there are now four Marlow motoryachts from 57 to 70-foot models moseying about the coast. Importer David Ratcliff says their owners are all into long-range cruising, living aboard and, unsurprisingly, they are retirees with, wait for it, time on their hands. With relatively low production volumes, Marlow remains a semi-custom boatbuilder that can and does offer layout options, a broad range of finishes, timber choices and all manner of accessories. And Ratcliff has now appointed preferred dealers and service people to support the product in Queensland and NSW.

Among the customisations on the demonstrator was a saloon desk per sailing identity, Stan Edward's Marlow 70E dubbed Margaret Rintoul, which is the same boat as
the 65C only the E refers to the sloping or raked Euro-style transom. Now back to the office: rather than being squirreled away below decks, the desk is located in the saloon where you can enjoy connectivity with the outside world and views out through the windows while checking the share market and/or fire-off dispatches to the family back home.

The option is for big dinette in the saloon but, says Ratcliff, that's not the Australian way. Instead, we prefer to entertain a crowd outdoors and dine al fresco. To this end, there was a big teak table destined to be fitted to the flybridge, around which six people can dine up top, and the extended bridge creates more shade in the good-sized cockpit, which is another thing demanded by local boaters. There's room on the 65C to dine on upper and lower decks, a deep swim platform with popup cleats for tying the tender, and hot handheld shower, of course.

Hull construction is impressive, too. Like all Marlows built to date, the Explorer 65C has Kevlar reinforcing, epoxy resins and Corecell foam coring in the hull and deck. The boat is built to Lloyds Germanischer (LMGBH) Class A capability for significant wave heights above 5.45m and winds of more than 40 knots. And while it wasn't quite that rough for our test, there were waves breaking across the mouth of the Gold Coast Seaway. They only added to the authenticity of our test.

The hull is a hard-chine number for planning, but with a deep forefoot and flared bow, it rides high and dry at displacement speeds. Marlow places a lot of emphasis on its twin Velocijet strut keels that protect the running gear, reduce drag, dampen roll and pitch, and improve directional stability using smaller than normal rudders, it says. The draft is just 1.372 metres. That's impressive for a boat of this size, allowing you to access skinny anchorages. Now, the engineering...

 

HEART AND SOUL

The standard of engineering helps define this long-range cruiser. Access to the engineroom is from a hatch in the cockpit that leads into the lazarette and, while the Explorer 65C remains at the upper-end of owner-driver class, there are crew quarters comprising a double berth, sink with hot/cold water, and lots of cabinetry, storage lockers and a hanging locker. I noted access panels to any and everything that might need servicing, and plenty of room for stashing stores and watersports gear. Rubber-backed non-skid adds to the practical fit and finish.

The engineroom is through a watertight door and air-conditioned - mechanics will love you for it - along with having a Delta-T fan-forced ventilation system comprising two exhaust fans and blowers. Heading the list of good gear is a seachest, which is one big communal water intake for all raw-water supplies including those for the engines, twin generators, watermaker and chilled-water air-con system. The doubly big intake is less likely to foul and, secondly, there's only one area with communal seacock to shutoff in case of an emergency.

Elsewhere, I noted redundant or twin Racor fuel filters for each motor and the twin 22kW Northern Lights generators. Incidentally, everything on the boat can be run off one generator, so the other is a spare. Should the impeller strip - as so often happens on gennies - you can switch over to the backup and effect repairs at your leisure. There was also an oil-change system with overboard plumbing back to the dock, which was reversible so you don't need to bring oil drums aboard.

The fuel system is new, with one big tank that offers greater capacity - a massive 6737lt - and more than 95 per cent is useable, I'm told. The tank also has an access hatch so you can clean it out and a sight gauge, of course. The SeaRecovery watermaker can produce 900USgal or 3400lt a day, with the boat carrying 1324lt of water for its domestic use. There is a separate 380lt stainless steel tank with filtration system for drinking only. The 240V waterpump runs off the inverter, with a backup 24V pump and twin pressure tanks. There is also 568lt black water and 473lt grey water holding tanks.

Although the boat didn't have an emergency engine-driven bilge pump, we're told Marlow is looking at fitting a remote diesel-engine driven system. The hydraulic pump I saw was for the Naiad stabilisers. The bow and sternthrusters are electric. Besides an inverter, there were 12/24/240V electrical systems (full wiring and plumbing diagrams are provided along with CAD or hardcopy drawings), a high capacity 240V saltwater pump, and Cablemaster for the Shorepower leads and intercom. Sound insulation was abundant, making for a quiet boat underway and with the generator running at anchor.

 

CREW-FRIENDLY DECKS

The navy-blue Marlow hull with high-gloss teak-capped rails, full ship-like bulwarks, and oversized fairleads and cleats looks nothing if not purposeful. Topped with high rails, the walkaround decks will please crew, too, and families with (grand)kids or pets should feel safe going forward even in a seaway.

Two steps lead up to the Portuguese bow, past the twin opening ship's doors leading back into the pilothouse, to the heavy-duty Lofrans windlass and twin stainless steel anchors attached to 100m of chain that feeds low down in the hull to reduce the COG. There are side gates and a walkthrough stern while the cockpit is big enough for entertaining and kicking back on deck chairs should you choose not use the huge bridge.

A moulded staircase leads to that bridge where twin Stidd helm seats were before a big stainless steel ship's wheel and a broad dash with Simrad DS44 radar/chartplotter/sounder and repeat engine gauges. The off-white gelcoat is kind on the eye, while the dot-pattern non-skid should be easy to keep clean. Elsewhere, you notice the elliptical stainless steel grabrails offer great grip.

The C-shaped lounge can seat six before the custom teak table yet to be fitted, while the amenities centre housed a sink, Miele fridge, Gaggenau twin-element hot-rock barbie, and storage space. Outback was an 800kg davit for hoisting a decent dory (perhaps a Boston Whaler Dauntless). Once that's dispatched, the big bridge overhang can be used as a flight deck for entertaining. Lots of outdoor space on the Explorer 65C.

 

PILOTHOUSE DESIGN

One of the great things about a pilothouse boat is that you can always find your own space and this means a lot if you are living aboard. A forest of satin teak joinery, stunningly made, and cream Ultraleather upholstery is in the main saloon, where an L-shaped lounge and two occasional chairs can seat 10 at the extendable teak table.

The AV system includes a 42in NEC flatscreen TV that pops up out of a cabinet. It's linked to a Bose Lifestyle system - in fact, the boat has five Bose zones including all cabins, plus separate remotes for the cockpit. The wetbar has a Uline fridge/icemaker, Miele wine fridge and concealed sink in a teak cabinet that doubles as a servery.

Bookcases in a nearby U-shaped area to starboard, alongside the lounge, surround the office. The boat was prewired for telephone and still needs satellite communications. A central vacuum system is supplied and the teak floors assist with easy cleanups.

But for the best views step-up to the pilothouse with a C-shaped lounge around a dinette for four - the perfect breakfast bar and/or chart table. As is de rigueur, the galley is alongside with granite benchtops, teak fiddle rails, signature bread bin and dehumidified biscuit locker, plenty of storage for provisions and a spread of Euro appliances including Miele fridge and freezer, second fridge under the galley servery, four-burner cooktop with rangehood and pot holders, microwave, dishwasher and Insinkerator.

A single, high-backed helm seat provides support as you take the reins, which are electronic shifts and timber ship's wheel, on long-distance passages. Actually, the autopilot will do most of the work. It's a Simrad AP25 next two Simrad CX54 chartplotter and radar
displays, the twin Caterpillar engine monitoring panels, wind gauge and big switch panel.

The overhead ship's plan gives at-a-glance feedback of the lighting and bilge pumps, there is a battery gauge, and water, fuel and waste-tank gauges, plus the Naiad stabiliser panel. Crack the overhead hatches or open the side doors and you have natural ventilation, though the tropical-strength air-con is hard to beat. And with wipers and freshwater washers, the views out the safety glass stay clear.

 

SLEEPING BEAUTY

Boats of the Marlow class are, of course, also made to be slept aboard and, as such, you'll
find plush beds, loads of storage and homelike heads with generous shower stalls. There were three cabins and bathrooms, all forward of the pilothouse and easily accessible in a seaway thanks to plenty of grabrails.

But, just to be different, there was light maple planking or joinery in the cabins. Wow! It looked wonderful: light, airy and, with gold bedding, austere, too. And with cabin planking, it had a traditional salty feel.

A separate washer and drier are in the foyer from where you head aft to the owner's stateroom. The full-beam cabin had a king-sized bed on the centreline flanked by opening portlights. There was a two-seater lounge, makeup table or second office with swing-out seat, lockers, and his and her bedside tables.

The owners have a separate AV system and there was an optional walk-in wardrobe in place of a second head in the en suite located behind the leather bedhead. There were marble vanity tops, Grohe bathroom fittings, floating glass wash bowls, a huge shower and excellent Headhunter loo, too.

Cocooned in the deep bow, the guest's VIP cabin features a queen-sized island berth flanked by single wing berths, each wide enough to sleep an adult. Thus, a family of four can occupy its own cabin. And there's another excellent en suite.

The second guest cabin has P-shaped single bunks, with extra head and shoulder room, and there was a third WC with shower. So, all told, you can sleep eight plus two crew in the
aft quarters. Which means the 65C is a real home-away-from-home for family holidaying.

 

TO SEA, TO SEA

Though weighing in at 48 tonnes, the 65C was no lumbering giant. With a pair of Caterpillar C18 1015hp electronic diesel engines with common rail fuel injection - smaller 815hp C15s are optional - the boat had a top speed of about 22kts and a maximum continuous cruise of 19kts. This might come in handy for bar work or a quick blatt back home from a weekend anchorage.

However, with a boat like this it's not about how fast you go but how well you proceed. And the Marlow Explorer has a dignified manner at displacement speeds, where instead of burning 300lt/h (top speed) you are sipping 50lt/h and reeling in 10.2nm per hour. That means a range in excess of 1200nm. See what I mean about making time?

At 1800rpm, it cruises at 16 to 17kts for about 200lt/h. We crossed the Seaway at displacement speeds, backing off when launching off the breaking wave faces, falling into the troughs without a thud, groan or creak, and within just a few minutes were offshore ready to turn left or right.

The run back home through the bar was at 12 to 17kts and the boat did track nice and straight thanks to its keels. Vision from the pilothouse is excellent and with docking remote, the skipper berthed the 65C without drama, standing on the flybridge hardtop where he could see the swim platform below.

Mark Twain once said: "Time and tide wait for no man." It is a pompous and self-satisfied proverb, true for a billion years, but in our day of electric wires and water-ballast we turn it around: "Man waits not for time and tide." And I reckon, with a Marlow, you can just go.

 

Specifications: Marlow Explorer 65 Classic

The Marlow Explorer 65 Classic, hull No. 33, was selling for $3.2 million as tested w/ twin Caterpillar C18 diesel motors, and options

 

OPTIONS FITTED

Engine upgrade, upgraded second 20kW generator, bow and sternthrusters, watermaker, flybridge hardtop, Aritex davit, Naiad stabilisers, and more

 

PRICED FROM

Approx $2.6 million w/ twin Caterpillar C9 550hp diesels

 

GENERAL

Material: Vacuum-bagged hull and deck with Kevlar and closed-cell foam coring

Type: Monohull with half-prop tunnels and twin strut keels

Length overall: 22.56m

Hull length: 20.07m

Waterline length: 18.34m

Beam: 5.59m

Draft: 1.37m

Weight: 48,000kg (as tested, according to spec sheet)

 

CAPACITIES

Berths: 8 + 2

Fuel: 6737lt

Water: 1324lt + 380lt
drinking water + desal

Holding tank: 473lt grey;

568lt black

 

ENGINE

Make/model: Twin Caterpillar C18s

Type: Fully electronic six-cylinder diesel w/ common rail injection, turbocharging and aftercooling

Rated HP: 1015 at 2300rpm

Displacement: 18lt

Weight: 1718kg each

Gearboxes (Make/ratio):

ZF 2.517:1

Props: Five-blade bronze

 

SUPPLIED BY

David Ratcliff,

Explorer Marine Australia,

North Narrabeen, NSW, 2101

Phone: 0408 405 065

Web: www.marlowyachts.com

Find Marlow boats for sale.

 


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