MJM 29z: A Fast, Fuel Efficient Cruiser With Downeast Flair
By Gary Reich, Boats.com
MJM Yachts, the brainchild of J Boats founder Bob Johnstone, has made a name for itself by conceiving and building high-performance, smart looking, fuel efficient Downeast cruisers such as the MJM 40z, but the boat builder’s 29z often gets left out of the discussion. That’s a shame, because even though it comes in a smaller package, it offers a high-end option for buyers who might be looking at Downeast-type boats in the 25- to 30-foot category.
Downeast or “lobster yacht” styles have not traditionally been known for being either fuel-efficient or performance-oriented, much less both. And while a lot of Downeast boats do have the reputation for being rugged and sturdy, those attributes usually come at the expense of building a boat that’s heavy. But it’s in all of these areas where the 29z’s DNA breaks completely with tradition.
So, how to you make a boat like the 29z fuel-efficient and still have a sturdy ISO Offshore Class B rating? The first thing you do is build the hull and decks using high-tech composite materials such as E-glass, Kevlar, Corecell, Airex, and epoxy resin (notice I didn’t say vinylester resin). Then you use a vacuum bag process to ensure proper resin distribution, and cure it in an oven. The result is a rugged and capable 29-foot cruiser that tips the scales at only 8,600 pounds and sips fuel at cruise speeds. Most other cruisers in this range weigh in past the 10,000-pound mark.
That fuel efficiency also comes thanks to the 29z’s standard power setup, a 240-horsepower, four-cylinder Volvo D4 turbo diesel with Duoprop sterndrive, which can push the 29z to speeds up to about 36 mph. The 29z’s most efficient cruise speeds, however, are between 22 and 27 mph, where you’ll enjoy astounding fuel consumption rates of only 5.7 to 7.3 gallons per hour. That works out to a cruising range of around 350 to 375 miles. If you feel the need for more speed, a 300-horsepower Volvo D4 turbo diesel is optional, and, you can even opt for an outboard version of this boat with twin 250 horsepower units that are capable of launching the 29z up to 58 mph—that’s serious speed for this type of boat.
Even though the 29z is set up primarily for day cruising, there’s nothing stopping a couple from doing short weekend cruises. The forward V-berth converts to a double berth with the placement of an optional filler board, and the enclosed head can be used as a shower with a pull-out nozzle at the sink. In the galley you’ll find a single-burner ceramic cook-top, refrigerator/freezer, microwave oven, and plenty of stowage for weekend provisions. Ventilation and lighting are good with two opening ports and an overhead opening hatch.
The cockpit in the 29z is meant for enjoying and being near the water. If happy hour cruising is your thing, you can easily fit 10 people in the cockpit (two at the twin, reversible Stidd captain’s chairs, three each on the port and starboard upholstered settees, and two on the aft engine box), though six to eight is a more comfortable number. There’s an optional stern wraparound seating configuration that does away with the standard the transom door, but it adds bench seating to the cockpit. MJM often refers to the cockpits on its boats as “living rooms,” and that’s an apt description. A “water taxi” enclosure is available as an option that allows you to extend this cruising into the cooler months, too. Rounding out the outside of the 29z are decks conspicuously absent of teak, plenty of custom welded stainless railing, and an expansive deck area for lounging and sun worshiping, if you so choose.
The 29z comes in three styles. The “Downeast” model has a hard top over the helm and most of the cockpit with Strataglass panels that can be rolled up in good weather. The “Express” version’s windshield wraps around and slopes back toward the stern, which means more permanent protection and less removable Strataglass. The “Outboard” model has a custom Armstrong outboard mount/integral swim platform with the Express windshield configuration.
Unfortunately, though, all of this performance and build quality comes at a price. With all the bells and whistles (and the options list is very short), a new MJM 29z will run you in the neighborhood of $375,000. That’s an awful lot of dough, but you do get one of the most capable, rugged, fuel-efficient boats available in this class today. If I had the money, it’d be near the top of my list.