Southern Boating

MJM 35z

The MJM 35z, Zinnia, cruises through the Newport waters with ease.

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.