Down East Tradition Plus High-tech Construction Equals Amazing Performance.
By Andy Adams and John Armstrong, Canadian Yachting
Our first time aboard the MGM 50z was in the Yachts Miami Beach yacht show where we had the privilege of interviewing Bob Johnstone, founder of MJM Yachts. He created MJM to offer a focus on fuel efficiency, performance and “greener” yachting. Earlier in his distinguished career, Johnstone was the co-founder and major stockholder of J Boats, Inc, the world’s leading performance brand of sailboats. Johnstone is obviously a sailor and a racer – MJM Yachts was born of his knowledge and experience.
Johnstone partnered with noted designer Doug Zurn, who Johnstone felt had the best eye for creating beautiful fast powerboats. Zurn designed the patented signature look of the MJM brand. Then, feeling that there was no powerboat builder available with the advanced laminate construction experience needed, they turned to a custom racing sailboat master builder, Mark Lindsay and Boston BoatWorks as the builder. Mark has 30 years of experience building America’s Cup and World Championship winners. The superior structural and laminate engineering skills of Steve Burke completed the team.
For a personal walk-through with Bob Johnstone, see the Canadian Yachting video where Johnstone explains very clearly what inspired the design and features of the MJM 50z.
However, to start with the key points, the goal for the MJM 50z was to create a fuel efficient ocean powerboat that was easy to handle even for a cruising couple, featured comfortable living quarters and that used advanced epoxy construction to be both more environmentally benign than regular fiberglass yachts and also, both lighter and stronger. The MJM 50z is Certified ISO CE Category A “Ocean” by the International Marine Certification Institute (IMCI). Light weight is the key to fuel efficiency and speed.
For a detailed explanation of how the MJM Yachts are built at Boston BoatWorks, see the May issue of Canadian Yachting on page 40.
So, let’s get down to the details of the MJM 50z. This yacht is the latest in what is now a series of MJM Yachts to feature Doug Zurn’s elegant “Down East” look with classic lines, a navy blue hull and the promise of being both comfortable and seaworthy. There are five yachts in the MJM stable; the 29z, 34z, 36z, 40z and now the 50z.
From Johnstone’s background as a sailor and a racer, the MJM 50z includes a lot of the very functional design features, particularly on the topsides. The very wide side decks and the foredeck are broad and flat with grippy non-skid surfaces in warm white to be easy on the eyes. The MJM 50z has cabin roof hand rails and a very high bow rail leading forward. There is a cavernous anchor locker with chute, anchor and electric windlass.
Johnstone clearly has empathy for sailors who have reached an age where their agility benefits from a little help. The 50z includes a generous swim platform at the stern with a very substantial transom door and also side doors port and starboard, so you can just walk aboard the 50z from almost any dock. These are ideal for our four footed family members as well.
Across the transom is a big bench seat but MJM includes two chairs that can easily be relocated to any position within the spacious cockpit, to open up access for the transom door. There are also two “pouffes” included. I would call these hassocks, but the point is they are loose barrel shaped soft furniture that can be a seat, a footrest, or that can be easily stowed away. Along with the aft-facing seats by the cabin, the cockpit can be a living room for a whole group, or a great vantage point to watch the races from the shade.
Forward, the bridge deck can be left open or enclosed with clear side panels and the couches on either side are comfortable while also offering access to enormous storage spaces that extend almost down to the chines. An owner has space there for up to four mountain bikes or other large items.
When we lifted the port side floor hatch, we were greeted by a sound we had not noticed before – it was the sound of the standard equipment Seakeeper 9 Gyro-stabilizer system. This requires extremely solid construction because the Seakeeper generates huge forces. On the MJM, the Seakeeper is engineered in, not aftermarket.
The Seakeeper creates gyroscopic torque to keep the boat from rolling at any speed. The design allows the boat to ride up on waves, but stays level delivering far greater passenger comfort and making the deep vee hull design work at its best.
Also in the same portside storage area (MJM calls this a utility room) is room for a Meile washer and dryer set. This is great for extended cruising and also tells you just how big these spaces are.
The seating space on the bridge deck is very accommodating with the couches spread full width and the space is really continuous with the cockpit so you can entertain a big group. The starboard side table adjusts to become a big double berth while the port side can be a single, should you have a need. Privacy curtains add to the comfort. Cabin ceiling handrails ensure that people can move about with security underway, a feature we always appreciate.
At the helm, the MJM 50z includes a lovely wooden wheel, twin 15” Raymarine navigation screens, a well-positioned compass and the engine controls for the triple Volvo Penta IPS 600s are on the binnacle top while the joystick docking controls are near centerline to see both sides while handling the boat. For added comfort, the 50z features bridge and salon air conditioning plus electrically opening windshield sections, footrests and a pair of Stidd double seats. Up to four can sit facing forward when running. This is an important feature on the MJM 50z. Passengers want to see where they are going, especially when they are getting there this fast!
It was John Armstrong who had the pleasure of meeting with Christopher Hughes of MJM Yachts at the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club to do our sea trial on their MJM 50z. Joining them on the sea trial were renowned marine photographer Billy Black, Ana Sowers of Diaz Marine the local MJM Dealer and Kate Fincham a freelance Marine Journalist from Toronto.
The weather for the sea trial was perfect in as much as the skies were clear, there was plenty of wind which chopped up the ocean and really showed off the attributes of the 50z and how the triple Volvo Penta IPS 600’s with pod drives and the standard installation of the Seakeeper active gyro stabilizer system all worked together.
Leaving the dock, which was a tight fit, was effortless thanks to the joystick system.
We departed Biscayne Bay and headed for open waters where we were able to experience the speed and stability of the 50z.
The wind was up, the tide was running and we were in 3-5 foot seas, yet with the Seakeeper system engaged, the roll was negligible, and with the hull design there was no slapping even at the 3200 RPM (35 knots) cruising speed. The 50z was incredibly smooth and stable.
We tracked back to Biscayne Bay in a following sea at the same RPM and this stout vessel held true to form in effortlessly maintaining the same heading. Again, we refer to the video and Bob Johnstone’s explanation about the triple IPS drives but the company has tried the boat with twins and the triple IPS 600 engines allow a lower floor height for a lower centre of gravity and more comfortable ride while delivering better fuel economy too. Acceleration is very strong and the top speed is over 40 knots, a simply amazing feat for a spacious 50 footer!
While the topsides and performance are remarkable, we shouldn’t short-change the cabin areas. It’s just a few steps down to the Great Cabin Lounge and a stout hand rail makes this easy and safe even when running.
The very well-equipped galley is to port and features twin Vitrifrigo refriges, a top-down freezer, big stainless steel sink, handy trash locker and abundant storage. There is a Sharp microwave as well as Kenyon two-burner stove. Typically, sailboat galleys are laid out to really accommodate meal preparation and the MJM 50z has that same efficient layout and very complete inventory including especially deep provisions lockers and opening ports for ventilation.
Opposite and open for easiest access is the ship’s electrical panel, right beside the big steel post allowing a secure grip when checking the panel. So often we see the panels cleverly concealed but for serious cruisers, it makes sense to have this open.
The cabin is bright, high and finished with beautiful joinery in cherry wood. It’s light coloured but warm and inviting. The very adjustable dining table slides diagonally and can seat a group for dinner or make down to a big double berth that still leaves two chairs.
This area can be enclosed with a Pullman curtain and there is also a solid wall option that can be erected in just 15 minutes if you prefer. Additionally, there are optional cabin layouts to choose from to best accommodate your needs.
Helping that aspect are the two large and complete heads that include opening ports for ventilation and shower stalls with seats that are spacious enough to allow real movement. Experienced cruisers will know what I mean!
Moving forward to the master, one head can be closed off for a private cabin with an en suite and MJM has cleverly made a pocket for the door so when the cabin door is open, it does not swing or catch people as they move around the area. It’s one more example of the very clever and practical design that makes the MJM 50z so livable.
A very generous overhead hatch is above the berth, the berth itself is quite large and attractive overhead shelves are left open so big or bulky items like duffle bags can be accommodated. The shelves are so sturdy, you can use them to lift yourself out of bed and on the port side where there is a handy reading chair. The arm is easily removable so you can pass by.
The dressing table, or onboard office desk is a great feature in the master and there are abundant locker areas for clothing and personal items.
We could go on and on about this very traditional yet highly innovative yacht. It really is quite unique. As John Armstrong put it after his sea trail, the MJM 50z is built for comfort, speed, stability and economical fuel burn. It excels in all these attributes.
It was a great sea trial and an incredible experience for us to run the MJM 50z.
Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s June 2016 issue.
ENGINES: Triple Volvo Penta IPS 600, 435 hp diesel with IPS drives and joystick docking
Maximum Speed – 40.3 knots/46.4 mph
Cruising Speed – 35 knots/40.3
Length Overall: 56’0”/17.07 m
Beam: 15’0”/4.57 m
Displacement: 32,850 lbs/14900 kg
Fuel capacity: 520 gal/1,968 L
Water capacity: 150 gal/568 L
Waste capacity: 30 gal/113 L
As tested price: $1,795,000 to $2,200,000 US