I sat at the Snead Island, Florida facility, sipped coffee and looked out over the neat-as-a-pin marina, its spring-fed harbor and beyond that, Terra Ceia Bay and its eponymous aquatic preserve. The pleasant sounds of birdsong and rustling palms was the only audible sound. I could’ve dozed off but then I heard another favorite melody—the unmistakable note of a screaming, air-cooled engine matched to a manual transmission. I looked to see the silver flash of the proprietor’s Porsche 911 buzz onto the property. David Marlow was in the house.
This was well over a decade ago and our meeting had lasted a good portion of the day. Marlow had opened Norsemen—the Fujian Province, China facility several years before. He spoke at length of what the team was capable of and then proceeded to show me with one of his boats. It was somewhat unusual to hear a boatbuilder talk about carbon capture and planting more trees than they’ll ever use, but that’s David Marlow.
Since then, Marlow Yachts has grown exponentially without losing sight of their founder’s core mission: sustainable manufacturing and proprietary, in-house engineering solutions to build a line of uncompromising craft capable of taking on the world’s oceans. “Our process from imagining Marlow Yachts was to embrace technology, first testing theory to destruction before approval for installation or incorporation,” Marlow told me. The company’s newest flagship, the 100-foot Ice looks to be a culmination of Marlow’s lifetime on the water.
A handsome, traditional profile—with hullsides that mimic wood planking, a massive flybridge with generous overhang to protect her aft deck (and house the dinghy and 4,850-pound capacity davit) and high bulwarks for safe passage on wide side decks—belie one of the most advanced private vessels on the water. The entire hull is cored and vacuum-bagged utilizing Kevlar and carbon fiber following their own Full Stack Infusion process that bonds hull and deck in one shot for an unmatched strength-to-weight ratio. A proprietary heat exchange system utilizing cupronickel pipes ensures no salt water or parasites enter the heating and cooling systems, a must for the voyager-class vessel that plans on excursions from the Arctic to the Amazon.
For a world traveler, “redundancy is the marching order,” said Marlow, with all essential systems having back-ups to the back-up, including her three steering systems and an electrical system that’s backed by a trio of transformers and in case of failure, a transfer switch, inverters, two John Deere-powered 55-kW gensets and if all goes kaput, industrial-duty 165-amp alternators on each of the mains. Combined with her bulletproof construction—there are six watertight compartments aboard Ice—the vessel has earned Bureau Veritas unrestricted navigation categorization.
Her four-stateroom layout and expansive salon equal comfort and privacy, finished in gleaming, book-matched teak. Marlow insists on buying entire trees, nearly all blow-downs or those felled by lightning strikes (eliminating the carbon-heavy logging process) so that each interior is cut and planed from one source, ensuring an exact grain match. “It allows us to unroll the life of the tree … from transom to bow pulpit,” Marlow told me. For the captain, there’s a private, en suite cabin aft of her Command Bridge, with crew’s quarters for two abaft of the engine room. Five Sub-Zero refrigerators and freezers add to the massive food storage; the boat can travel for several weeks without the need to take on sundries.
Ice’s robust fuel capacity plays a large role, as the boat carries 5,500 gallons of diesel. The builder estimates that at a slow cruise of 10 knots she’ll travel 2,900 miles and an Atlantic-crossing 4,200 miles at 8 knots. However, this boat has some giddy-up. Matched to twin 1,500-hp Baudouin diesels (“I have never seen such beautiful art in engines as those,” said Marlow), the 100-footer can cruise all day at 19 knots and top out at around 22 knots. For service, the 12-cylinder mains are designed with individual cylinder heads that weigh about 80 pounds, so they can be removed or serviced one at a time, out of port sans crane. A Marlow staple, her engine room will be finished without flaw, climate-controlled and with over 8 feet of headroom.
At press time, Ice’s wring out continues on the infamously rough Straits of Taiwan to get her ready for fall’s Ft. Lauderdale show and afterwards, her owner. “Our commitment does not end or begin with the customer,” Marlow said, “[it] resides at a higher level company-wide.” With a factory surrounded by orchards and organic farmland that in turn feed the employees, many of whom have worked for Norsemen since its onset, it seems Marlow has come full circle by following his vision.
As I drove from the Snead Island facility all those years ago, I was passed a few miles down the road by Marlow in his 911. Over the sports car’s amazing exhaust note, I believe I heard “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. Well played, Mr. Marlow. Well played.
As seen in Power and Motoryacht.