Everything from A to Z: Appealing design, zippy outboard performance… the new MJM 35z is even more impressive than her award-winning predecessors.
Even before I stepped on board the new MJM 35z in Newport, Rhode Island, early this summer, I expected to be impressed. After all, I have tested other MJM models over the years and always wanted to stay for more. But now, heading down Narragansett Bay at 39 knots in a three-foot chop, I knew I was on something truly special.
Zinnia, hull No. 1 of the MJM 35z series, powered by twin 300-hp Mercury Verado outboards, is a combination of an unusually soft ride, snappy outboard performance, classic good looks, and a lot of user-friendly touches designed to make life easy and comfortable for everyone on board.
At the dock or underway, it’s hard not to notice this new, blue-hulled Downeast beauty with its low profile, long sheer and gentle tumblehome. Like all MJMs, the 35z was designed by Doug Zurn (the “Z” in the model number), the Marblehead, Massachusetts, a designer who specializes in narrow-beam, lightweight, high-performing boats that also happen to be head-turners.
True to form, the 35z has a low center of gravity, a slender 3.5:1 waterline length-to-beam ratio and a slippery hull with 19.5 degrees of deadrise at the transom. As I found out, all this adds up to a great ride. “Lots of outboard boats pound in these conditions,” said Bob Johnstone, the founder of MJM Yachts (and J/Boats before that), as we sped down the bay. “But this boat just slices through the water.”
A few minutes later when I was driving, I realized that steering the 35z, with its 24-inch Edson destroyer wheel with varnished teak trim, couldn’t be easier. I aimed at the wake thrown up by a big cruise liner, and Zinnia did, indeed, just slice through. I put her into sharp turns at 30 knots-plus, and the boat simply carved through them, not missing a beat.
Throughout the speed range, the Verados were almost instantly responsive to the throttles, and visibility from the helm was excellent all around. In short, the MJM 35z is a treat to drive. It’s also comfortable. Johnstone put the boat beam-to the waves to demonstrate the dampening effect of the Seakeeper 3 gyrostabilizer, mounted low in the hull under a midship hatch. The boat rocked gently, certainly not enough to bother even the most squeamish of passengers.
Johnstone said the decision to power the new 35z with outboards was easy. The trend to outboard power, even on larger boats, has been growing lately, with three or four outboards mounted on 40-foot-plus center consoles and cruising boats. Johnstone tested some center consoles last year and was greatly impressed by their performance, but he was not impressed by their ride. “What we needed was the performance of an outboard with the soft ride and luxury of an MJM,” he said.
Meanwhile, owners in the Carolinas and Florida told him they wanted outboard power, particularly in areas with thin water. Outboards also have the advantage of less damage from grounding or snagging pots or debris. They’re easier to work on and maintain, easier to replace and open up a lot of space inside the boat.
The 35z is a joint effort of Johnstone, Zurn and Mark Lindsay of Boston BoatWorks in Charlestown, Massachusetts, which specializes in high-tech racing sailboats. The model is laid up with pre-preg epoxy, Kevlar/Eglass/Core-Cell composite construction. It has an ISO-certified B Offshore rating for stability and seaworthiness, and its air height of just nine feet makes it attractive for sliding under bridges.
The 35z is also a user-friendly craft. You don’t actually climb on the boat. Instead, you simply walk through a door on the side of the hull that’s the same level as the floating dock and enter the cockpit. The side doors, Johnstone explained, are part of his “honor-your-elders” philosophy, meaning he recognized that when boaters get older they really don’t enjoy climbing over a coaming or twisting an ankle jumping into the boat from a dock. That idea is carried out once you’re on board; the teak-and-holly sole is all on one level from the swim platform to the helm.
A bench aft in the cockpit seats three adults; it’s on a pod that lifts, revealing a large lazarette. A socket in the sole in front of the seat holds the stainless steel pedestal for a varnished teak, double-leaf table that opens to 24-by-36 inches. In the cockpit forward, a serving bar on the port side is big enough to accommodate an electric grill (the boat has a 3.5kW gas genset), baitwell, sink, icemaker, or fridge. To starboard is an aft-facing seat with a locker and portable cooler. An optional Bimini covers the cockpit.
Walking forward, the bridge deck is protected by a hardtop, roll-up Strataglass sides and aft door. Matching settees on each side convert to full-length berths at night that can be surrounded by a privacy curtain. There’s massive storage under the settees. For ventilation, two opening hatches overhead let in plenty of fresh air, the side windows forward slide apart, and the boat’s windshield fully opens at the touch of a button.
At the helm, the teak joystick is under your left hand. When we left the dock, Johnstone simply walked the boat sideways. In addition to the joystick, the 35z has Skyhook, autopilot and automatic trim for the 300-hp Verados. (Twin 350-hp Verados are optional, but Johnstone says they only add about 4 knots of speed.)
The Mercury throttles are under your right hand, while the Mercury engine display and a large Raymarine gS165 HybridTouch chartplotter are in front and easy to read. The VHF is mounted overhead. Driving is comfortable, sitting in (or standing in front of) an adjustable Stidd Admiral helm seat with a teak footrest; a matching Stidd is across to port.
Below-decks, the 35z has a V-berth forward (a filler is optional), a galley to port (with a Corian counter with a sink, Princess single ceramic cooktop, microwave, and fridge), and head to starboard. The cabin is designed in a salty, Herreshoff style with cherry-trimmed, off-white panels and a teak-and-holly sole. I was surprised by the amount of standing headroom here, considering Zurn’s low profile for the boat. I’m almost 6-foot-2, and I had room to spare.
This new MJM clearly was designed for the way most people use boats today: as a day boat or weekend cruiser, with the possibility for occasional longer stays on board. That seems to be a winning formula. Indeed, Johnstone said MJM already has 22 orders, and those came in well before any fall boat show.
LOA: 35′ 6″
Draft: 2′ 8″
Weight: 11,695 lbs.
Fuel/Water: 250/58 U.S. gals.
Power: 2x 300-hp
Mercury Verado outboards
Optional Power: 2x 350-hp
Mercury Verado outboards
Cruise/Top Speed: 30/39 knots
Range: 233 nm @ 28.6 knots
Contact: MJM Yachts
39 Washington St., Newport, RI
By Peter A. Janssen, Southern Boating September 2017