I had the pleasure to spend a few hours on a new MJM 35z, a thoroughly modern and shining example of high-tech design and system integration. The owners just took delivery of the boat and were learning all the systems. The technology incorporated into this cruising boat is simply WOW.
The Doug Zurn-designed hull is slippery, super strong, and uses the latest cutting edge construction. Powered by the optional Mercury 350-hp outboards, the boat can top 50 mph. And as we see outboard power crossing over to cruising boats, there is no engine room taking up valuable space, no need for rudders, seacocks, raw water strainers, stuffing boxes, cutless bearings, and all the gear and plumbing that comes with inboard power. Unlike pod drives, the outboards can be lifted out of the water at the end of the day, eliminating yet another source of maintenance and corrosion headaches.
For a couple looking for a smaller cruising boat capable of no-hassle, let's-go-for-a-boat-ride cocktail cruises as well as shorter cruises, this would be quite a boat. Unlike its larger sisterships, the boat lacks a dedicated master stateroom, nor does it have a separate shower. Its galley is complete if minimal, and the saloon and sleeping accommodations are in the same space. But it is not intended as a liveaboard, full time cruiser, and most people will spend their time aboard at the helm level where there is a comfortable salon and cockpit.
For those looking to move up from a pocket cruiser or center console, or down from a larger boat, the MJM 35z should appeal. It would certainly work for me for local and long weekends. A trip to New England would probably include use of marina facilities, and I would not bother with a flat screen TV or watermaker or other complexities of larger boats. It is not what this boat is about, at least to me.
Being able to cruise at 30+ knots opens up the potential to make short work of weather windows, and with the forecast apps we use today, knowing you have three or four hours of calm conditions makes all the difference.
When we did the Pokie Run back in PMM days, having a boat that could leave West Palm after breakfast and arrive at West End for lunch removed the fear of a Gulf Stream crossing normally associated with slow boats. With the MJM 35z, you can do the often-dreaded New Jersey coast in half a day or less, which I believe offers a significant safety margin to match speed to weather and sea conditions. Get an early start and cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca before the afternoon winds come up. Get those daily miles done early translates into more time exploring ashore the rest of the day, instead of planning to arrive before the fuel dock closes at sunset. That is much more appealing to me these days.
I never intended nor was I asked to do a boat tour from my short time on the boat, but what I want to share is the practical side of the MJM experience and its clever use of technology. As we cruised up the Severn River, the owner brought us up to speed, and the Imtra Zipwake "dynamic boat trim control system" managed the transition from displacement speed to full plane to 40+ mph without the drama associated with coming up on plane. Speeding along on flat water was effortless, and the Seakeeper gyro stabilizer took out the roll associated with passing wakes. A Westerbeke genset is required to power the Seakeeper, but the gyro unit is said to eliminate the majority of normal rolling under way or at the dock.
Later, we returned to Annapolis and explored Spa Creek, passing by the Naval Academy. When we got just off the Annapolis Yacht Club docks, where we saw a claret-colored MJM 29 tied up, the owner hit the Skyhook button on the joystick control and the boat instantly became geostationary. The two outboards worked in unison to maintain our position, a quirky thing to watch, the control unit interfaced with GPS to maintain our position as the owner swiveled his helm Stidd chair around to join the rest of us for a delicious assortment of sandwiches and side dishes. I kept looking around at reference points, and the boat really did stay put, the idling outboards moving around, integrated to overcome the effects of current and wind that might push or pull us in a direction. It was quite amazing.
Just think how this technology would alter your cruising routine. Approaching a bridge where there is an hourly opening, you just hang around and relax. Imagine coming up to a crowded fuel dock to wait your turn. Or reaching your final destination for the day, short handed, and you use Skyhook to get a few minutes to set the fenders and dock lines, with hardly a second thought. And when you are ready to move into your slip, disengage the Skyhook and use the joystick for total control down the fairway. According to the owner, this joystick system does not use the bow thruster, although the boat has one, instead relying entirely on the two outboards connected to an electronic control unit that make it all happen. Fly by wire? You bet.
The fit and finish of this boat is outstanding, with tons of storage in a boat that comes with ISO Certification for Category B Offshore (the larger MJMs are Category A Offshore and this boat is built to the same standards).
Overall I am most impressed by what Bob Johnstone has created with his MJM line of cruising boats. The MJM 35z represents what boating can be like when you embrace and integrate new technology from innovative manufacturers. Once familiar and able to use everything to full potential, the boat will really simplify the boating experience.
I wish Jim and Ann the best of luck with their new boat. Now I wonder how to retrofit any of this technology to my own Blue Angel? Or am I already creating a wish list for my next boat?
I include as a final scene a typical scene on Spa Creek during the summer that we came across. A paddleboard race/cruise of the busy creek in downtown Annapolis.