2018 MJM 35z
Bob Johnstone looks behind him, then forward, and with his right hand toggles the Mercury joystick to the left. The outboards pivot, smoothly, and the MJM 35z slides, again, smoothly, to port away from his Newport, RI slip.
Newport Shipyard has been home base for Johnstone, founder and CEO of MJM Yachts, and for many of his personal MJMs. But this boat, the first outboard-powered MJM in the builder’s stable, has only been under his command for a few weeks.
“A lot of other builders are looking to make more comfortable outboard boats, some with dual consoles, but if you look at them they’re still very much fish boats,” Johnstone said. “So we said, ‘OK, we’ll give people what they’re really looking for with a luxury boat.’”
And she is luxurious. Step down from the helm and you’re in a warm and inviting interior that boasts a similar feel to her sisterships. There’s a galley to port with tons of stowage, a comfortably sized head, and a V-berth forward with a teak hi-lo table that looks like a piece of artwork. A teak-and-holly sole and teak hull liner give the feeling of being aboard a large, well-lit sailboat.
But where the MJM 35z, and indeed all MJMs, stands apart is in the cockpit: It’s one huge continuous space. The true “cockpit” has seating for three adults under a bimini top, but the main-deck ‘salon’ and helm area accommodates seven more. Enormous windows on each side complete the open look and feel of the boat. Should the weather turn snotty, our test 35 had a canvas enclosure aft.
Once clear of the no-wake zone I was able to spur the twin 300-horsepower Mercury Verados and point the boat to open water. The current was running against a stiff breeze, which made for a confused 2- to 4-foot chop. These were ideal conditions for testing the optional Seakeeper 3 beneath the sole between the helm seats. I saw a roll reduction of about 75 percent in a beam sea with the boat in neutral, according to the Seakeeper helm display.
Looking back at my notes from our test I noticed a single word I jotted down and circled in the margin beside my performance data. Smooth. That was my first and last impression of the boat as we ran through the rpm range to 38.4 knots. She was responsive at the wheel, yet stable atop her Zurn-designed hull, featuring a modified deep-V shape—19.7 degrees of deadrise at the transom—and svelte length-to-beam ratio of 3.5:1. She tracked like an arrow.
After running her at speed we turned back toward the shipyard. The harbor provided a good place to practice using the joystick. Mercury’s Joystick Piloting felt very intuitive, and when combined with the Skyhook option, “makes the boat great for single-handing,” said Johnstone.
Ever a man of his word, he grabbed the helm and as we approached his slip he engaged the Skyhook, coiled his lines neatly, hung the fenders, then tilted the joystick to the right, and the boat slid smoothly into position, as it had at the start of our trip. —Daniel Harding Jr.
DISPL.: 13,300 lb.
FUEL: 250 gal.
WATER: 58 gal.
STANDARD POWER: 2/300-hp Mercury Verados
BASE PRICE: $595,000
PRICE AS TESTED: $700,000