Simple designs captivate us quickly and hold our affection for a long period of time. A concert of perfect lines forming perfect shapes in perfect harmony appeals to our sense of order; it makes us feel comfortable. Any structure that relies on geegaws to snare admirers is doomed over the long haul. Take a look at a 1958 Buick Roadmaster, and you’ll see what I mean.
More than a decade ago, Bob Johnstone, of J/Boats fame, conceived a design for a midsize powerboat that he and his wife, Mary, could handle easily together and, more important, that Mary could handle solo. Johnstone commissioned Doug Zurn to turn his concept into the MJM 34z. (MJM stands for Mary Johnstone’s motorboat.) The 35z is the latest model from MJM Yachts.
LOA: 35 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 11 feet DRAFT (engines down): 32 inches TRANSOM DEADRISE: 20 degrees POWER: twin 300-hp outboards DISPLACEMENT: 11,695 pounds (half load) TANKAGE: 250 gallons fuel, 58 gallons water BASE PRICE: $595,000 (with 300-hp Mercury Verados, Joystick Piloting, Raymarine gS165 plotter and Stidd Seats) RANGE: 350 miles (33 knots) CONTACT: MJM Yachts, Boston, (401) 862-4367. mjmyachts.com
The catchphrase “keep it simple” defines the MJM line, but simple in no way means easy. Abandoning the use of adornment for its own sake forced Zurn to get everything else right — that is, within reason. Reason in this case dictates the height of the 35z’s deckhouse, as standing headroom
is a must. Her overall length and relatively narrow beam limit interior volume, so to make the most of what’s available the 35z requires an upright house defined by straight lines and flat surfaces. The structure’s aesthetic appeal comes from its lobster-boat roots: practical vessels that don’t have to apologize for anything.
Concessions to pleasure-boat design appear in the tall, crowned trunk cabin, the delicate sheer line and the subtle tumblehome at the transom. The height and overall shape of the trunk cabin provide more than adequate headroom below, and they fit well with the no-nonsense styling of the house.
In the plan view, the 35z has the shape of a fish — cod’s head, mackerel’s tail, as the old-timers put it. Runabouts from the early to mid-20th century had similar proportions, and this treatment literally reduces bulk (and weight). The shape also adds a bit of elegance to the overall appearance. You’d think that this tapering would waste a lot of space in the cockpit, but not aboard the 35z. The side decks narrow significantly abaft the house, leaving the cockpit sole close to the same width from the helm to the transom.
MJM boats get their speed and great handling from lightweight construction and Zurn’s interpretation of the deep-vee bottom. This boat has 42 degrees of deadrise at the cutwater, transitioning to about 20 degrees at the transom. We can expect the 35z to be as seakindly as the rest of the line because she’s narrow for her length, with a beam/length ratio of 3.5-to-1. Lifting strakes and chine flats redirect wave and wake energy into stabilizing forces, increasing stability as the boat gains speed.
Outboard power opens usable space throughout the boat, especially beneath the cabin sole. These boats are easy to maintain, quiet and economical to run — perfect for the 35z’s mission.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue.