• The Marlin range is designed for enjoyment rather than bravery.
  • The layout, features and aesthetics are family-friendly and will suit cruising exploration activities and water sports enthusiast families to a T.
  • Buyers of the Marlin aren’t after a weather-beating workboat – they become owners for the on-board attractions …
  • The build quality and rigidity are apparent when you get a chance to drive one in the kind of conditions we had.

After a bit of a lay-off for a few years, Marlin RIBs are back in the UK with a new range of models. Simon Everett visits JBT Marine to see how the new 23s shapes up.

There are various species of Marlin that roam the oceans. The most well known is the blue Marlin found in two forms, the Atlantic and the Pacific variants, but there are also black, white and striped Marlins roaming the oceans. The only one that is found in British waters, though, is of Italian origin – it is a RIB that was spawned in 1986 from the boatyard of Sergio Selva and his sons, Stefano and Cristina.

In this, their 30th anniversary year, no fewer than 10 models are available from 17ft to 38ft. We picked a representative model from the middle of the range, the venerable Marlin 23s. At 23 feet, she is a popular size for British waters and is one of the most popular of the range in other markets too. The test boat was powered by the potent V6 Yamaha rated at 300hp, a partnership that goes together as well as Prosecco and Parma ham.

In the Marlin workshops, all the research, designing of projects, product development, testing, mould building and final production are carried out in-house. By having total control over the entire process, the Marlin staff can bounce ideas off each other and work together to perfect a plan, then carry out that plan as they intended.

In the early days of Marlin, when the stepped-tube design was new on the scene, the style took a bit of getting used to and the fittings were not of the standard that they are now. In the holiday period that Marlin have had from UK sales, the production, fitting out and fittings have all been vastly improved. The style has become accepted and the brand well established as a quality product, with many happy owners throughout Europe and further afield.

The Mediterranean is the natural habitat of the Marlin, as might be expected, but that doesn’t preclude British owners from enjoying the al fresco lifestyle for which the 23s is designed; and for those who prefer inboard power, that option is available, with the associated change in layout at the stern to accommodate the MerCruiser 4.5-litre V6 turbo diesel that is the most popular choice of engine in this configuration. I didn’t get to see the inboard version; my test boat was rather more sporty, with the venerable Yamaha F300 V6 outboard mounted proudly on the transom, which creates a sensible, sporty RIB for family fun and enjoyment.

There was a time when you could tell a Marlin a mile off by the distinctive stepped-tube profile. It was quirky, but soon other RIB builders started to incorporate the same idea and now it is an accepted design that has stood the test of time. On the modern Marlins the difference isn’t as marked as on the early models; it is now more of a wiggle than a defined Z-shape, but it still provides additional freeboard forward for the high prow and extra hull volume.

The hull shape consists of a sharply defined entry with an aggressive running strake and double, overhanging chines. The complexity of the hull shape above the waterline, with clean, sharp edges, tips a wink to the quality of the mouldings. These are topped off with fittings of a similar standard, again produced in-house to complement the overall style.

As is the Italian way, the emphasis is on using high-volume tubes with a 50cm-diameter collar all around, separated into five different chambers and fitted high enough off the water not to come into play until really needed, or at rest. The rigid hull lifts high enough to take the tube off the water unless acted upon by a wave. This results in a driving experience very similar to that of a rigid boat, just with the limitation of heel due to the stabilising effect of the inflatable collar.

The build quality and rigidity are apparent when you get a chance to drive one in the kind of conditions we had. It felt secure taking on a substantial south-easterly swell; with the boat becoming airborne at times, the landing and pounding were soaked up happily and the ride was very acceptable. This isn’t meant as a boat for harsh conditions, but it is comforting to know that should you get caught out, there is a decent reserve of capability to see you back in again. To be honest, the day of the test was not one you would willingly choose to go out playing in, unless you relish the challenge. In terms of pleasure boats, we were the only motor boats out that day, just the Marlin and the photography platform. Other than the fact that there was a sea running and the wind was pretty fierce, it was a fine day that allowed the Marlin to display her comfort in less than ideal conditions.

Buyers of the Marlin aren’t after a weather-beating workboat, though – they become owners for the on-board attractions: the convertible seating at both ends that turns all bar the console and seat pod into soft sun decks; the useful stowage that is provided in three main compartments, one in the bow, another under the helm seat and the largest under the stern sun deck area; and the attraction of the privacy within the console, for comfort breaks.

The wide beam of the Marlin makes access around the boat easy, with plenty of room between the console and the 50cm-diameter Hypalon tubes. This is an aspect that some RIBs lose out on, with the walkway between the console and the tube being narrow and restrictive.

The Marlin range is designed for enjoyment rather than bravery. The layout, features and aesthetics are family-friendly and will suit cruising exploration activities and water sports enthusiast families to a T. The quality has been increased since I first saw them, and now they are definitely in the upper echelons of the RIB market.

Solid build with quality components
Generous stowage
Ease of movement around the boat

That split, moulded A-frame

RPM Speed (knots) Fuel (L/hr)
600 2.9 2.5
1000 5.2 5.3
2000 10.2 14.4
2300 12.4 16.3
3000 21.0 26.2
3500 26.1 34.8
4000 32.1 48.4
5000 39.3 81.5
5600 44.3 102.4

LOA: 6.90m
Internal length: 5.55m
Beam overall: 2.58m
Internal beam: 1.55m
Dry weight: 780kg
Fuel capacity: 200 litres
Fresh water: 40 litres
Max. passengers: 10
Max. power: 300hp
Tube diameter: 50cm
Tube material: Hypalon 1300gsm
Number of chambers: 5

As tested with the Yamaha F300 and options fitted: £84,360 (inc. VAT)
Test Boat provided by JBT Marine, Trafalgar Wharf, Hamilton Road, Portchester PO6 4PX

Telephone: 0870 908 9336


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