By Captain Steve
As noted, there really isn't any boat on the market like the MJM Yachts 36z Downeast. The Downeast has truncated side windows and a hardtop that are very much in keeping with classic lobster boat design. On-deck she has comfortable seating for 10 people, with the ability to squeeze in 12. This makes the boat ideal for taking a load of friends out to see the start of a sailboat race, or simply for an evening harbor cruise. There is really no other day boat quite like her. Below deck there are two options: an island berth layout for a couple that would like to go cruising and stay cozy, or a wrap-around banquette with table that can comfortably seat 6 people for cocktails or light dinner. A filler cushion to make this into a large double berth is an option.
MJM Back Story -- Short Version
In 1977 life-long boaters Bob Johnstone and his naval architect brother Rod, started J-Boats, Inc., which has become the leading performance sailboat brand worldwide with over 12,500 active boats. Typically, 35% of participating boats in race weeks around America are J Boats. In 1996, Bob Johnstone decided to give his wife Mary a 40th Anniversary wedding present in the form of a Dyer 29 soft top in which they could explore around Boothbay Harbor, Maine in Spring and Fall, when not sailing. As they became familiar with this type of boating, an ideal boat started forming in Bob's mind. The result? In 2003 he founded MJM Yachts. Doug Zurn, a successful Marblehead naval architect who had designed Billy Joel's pretty Shelter Island 38, was selected to design the first MJM yacht, the 34z. Johnstone's forte is drawing on a lifetime of boating experience to conceptualize a boat, then market it successfully, teaming up with talented builders. For that he found master builder Mark Lindsey and Boston BoatWorks, a cutting-edge builder of custom racing sailboats. With Johnstone's ideas about what a practical cruising boat should be for his target market, Zurn's gifted eye for beautiful lines, and Lindsey's expertise in working with space-age materials to build the strongest and lightest boats possible, MJM Yachts was very much in business with a strong team.To date it has built over 180 yachts in four models -- 29z, 34z, 36z, and 40z.
Fuel Efficient/Low Operating Cost
Because Johnstone wanted his motorboat to be “our” boat not “my” boat, the key motivation for building strong, light and narrow was to have a boat that his wife Mary could feel comfortable operating solo. Hence the “MJM” for Mary Johnstone’s motorboat. He was appalled at the intimidating weight and awkwardness of many beamy 35 foot powerboats. To achieve his goal, he would have to carefully balance three basic elements: design, construction weight, and the propulsion system. The result was not only easier handling, but exceptional fuel efficiency.
The 36z has an 11' beam, a sharp entry to easily cut through waves and not pound, and a warped hull that ends up with an 18-degree deadrise at the transom. Johnstone was living in Charleston, SC at the time, so he wanted a Carolina bow flare to deal with steep seas in inlets to sustain high speeds running in large waves and to keep the boat dry. Then, because he has cruised New England since childhood, it is little wonder that he took his styling inspiration and the potential for fresh air convertibility from the Maine lobster boats. All MJM Yachts would have their own signature downeast style, which is covered by a US Design Patent.
The boat would have to be light, yet strong. By using modern wet, prepreg epoxy, that’s vacuum set and oven post-cured with E-glass and Kevlar, the builder was able to achieve a 60% glass-to-resin ratio instead of 50%, which is more common. Using a cored hull, deck, and bulkheads, Boston BoatWorks was able to build the boat with a half-load displacement of just 13,100-lbs. (5,955 kg.) BBW uses only epoxy in the hull which is 25% stronger and longer lasting than vinylester or polyester resin. MJM is the only production builders to do so.
MJM currently offers as standard twin Yanmar 6BY 6-cylinder 260-hp diesels with HP/ZT370 hydraulic shifting I/O drives with joystick docking.
A Gentleman's Layout
Fans of the Downeast design concept should spend some time with the MJM 36z. The hardtop offers protection from the elements, as well as creating a comfortable gathering area for the two opposing lounge seats in the pilothouse, with a Bimini shading the aft deck.
One of the most striking features of the 36z is her port and starboard side door arrangement. This makes boarding from a floating dock, or hopping off with docklines, a simpler and safer affair than climbing over gunwales. No matter which side is to, a door is there to aid in loading supplies and gear. This design also makes the boat more accessible for the elderly. Being 24" (61 cm) off the water, they are also a good height for boarding from a tender. The fact that they are fitted with heavy duty latches and are held open with strong magnets is another plus.
MJM also recognizes that their customers also operate from fixed piers, and they accommodated that as well. There are non-skid steps on the caprails both port and starboard, and two lower steps down to the deck. Thankfully, there are also grab handles on the after sides of the hardtop supports.
There's ample storage under the decks that is fully separated from the bilge area. When I say ample, I mean ample. With this boat's offshore rating, the cockpit sole storage could conceivably hold a deflated Avon tender, or an inflatable raft. Continuing on with the theme of storage, the pilothouse settees to port and starboard offer 20" x 72" x 40" (51 cm x 183 cm x 102 cm) storage lockers beneath. The fact that they're uninterrupted by cross beams means that not only can they be used for storing daily gear such as fenders, lines, a BBQ grill, but they will also accommodate the cruising requirements of the serious traveler… fishing rods, folding bicycles, scuba tanks and air compressor... or even a golf bag. Those settees will also convert to 2' x 6.5' (.6 m x 2 m) berths when the owner decides that their guests don't want to leave the boat just because it leaves the marina. That being the case, one will want to opt for the Textilene mesh sun/privacy curtain to enclose the pilothouse at night. By the way, these side curtains are mounted to the interior of the hardtop to prevent rain and dew from collecting and dumping on the boater when they are deployed. It also reduces staining.
I couldn't help notice that the storage compartments drain overboard. This is an important consideration, especially to an offshore rated yacht. But with MJM it's not just a matter of plumbing the drains to through hulls. No, that would be the easy way out. Here, the compartment drains, as well as the deck drains, and they all divert their flow to the gray water system. The gray water goes out the transom, right along with the sink and shower water. Not only does this minimize the amount of through hulls, it eliminates the stains that run down the topsides of most boats. That's a very class act move on MJM's part and speaks volumes about the dedication that they put into the design detail of their products.
Of course, being a cruising captain, I have plenty of opinions of what to look for when heading offshore with a complement of guests. And the 36z seems to deliver on a lot of my concerns.
There are dual forward facing seats, one at the helm and the other to port so my first requirement of additional eyes looking forward is met. The optional seats, which everyone goes with, are Stidds with Ultraleather upholstery that have fore and aft sliders, tilting backrests and an up/down adjustment. They can be lowered and swiveled around, facing aft at 45 degrees to form side chairs for the “summer porch” gathering.I never rely solely on electronics to navigate by, and neither should the operator of the 36z. There is storage under the seats in the form of two teak drawers per side. These drawers are large enough to hold chart kits and nav equipment. In addition, the port-side observer is not taking a passive role in the trip. There is a dedicated navigation center to port consisting of a 25" x 17" (63.5 cm x 43 cm) space for the previously mentioned chart kits, or even a laptop, 4" deep drawers, and 12v power supply for a phone or VHF radio.
The builder-installed Raymarine Nav System offers a choice of the E125 or up to the E165 touchscreen displays, a Raystar GPS, an ST-40 depth sounder, and a 4kw high definition digital color radar with closed array antenna. In the "would be nice" list is the FLIR thermal imaging night vision system, and the Raymarine autopilot.
Moving Below Decks
MJM offers two accommodation options below deck, depending on whether the boater is a dedicated cruiser, or a sporadic one. Remember this boat is designed to be used as a “day-tripper” or casual overnighter. The first layout offers a settee forward that converts to a berth with optional filler cushions. Ideal if a cruising couple desires to cruise to a destination for the day and return home at night, or perhaps to spend the weekend aboard.
The second layout offers a dedicated 78" (198 cm) berth forward with a 6" (15.2 cm) memory foam mattress. This will be great for serious cruisers that spend less time on the dock and more time cruising to remote destinations, or perhaps distant coastal cruises (think Great Loop or a long trip done the ICW and around Florida). Of course this will resign the couple, and their guests to dining on deck in the fresh air where sacrifices must be made.
The standard teak and holly sole is finished in a high-gloss clear Awlgrip. Of course there are privacy shades for portlights and overhead hatches, which when open offer natural light into the salon. Corian countertops are used in the galley, side table, and head. Wood cabinets are satin finished cherry, not laminate, with a bureau and cabinet to starboard, a wine rack and bookshelf above, and three drawers below. The head is just to starboard of the companionway, and in another feat of cleverness, the head door opens fully to block off the companionway and therefore provide privacy to the cabin without closing off the upper door. This makes for great "quick" changes into or out of a bathing suit etc.
The teak companionway steps have storage underneath, which I find ideal for tools.
The galley is to port and aft which keeps it centrally located. A polished SS sink has a removable Corian cover. MJM provides a Rubbermaid utensil organizer fully loaded with utensils. A large top-loading 5.5 cubic foot (.5 cubic meter) ice box is plumbed so that its condensate drains to the gray water sump – and not into the bilge as it does on most boats. A refrigerator, single burner cooktop and microwave come standard. I like the overhead SS grab rail.
Standard and Optional Equipment
So much for the standards, now for the options. With the dinette option, the double berth insert with Ultraleather filler cushions is usually chosen. (Note to MJM- make this standard with the lounge option.) A windlass, battery charger, and shore power system all come standard.Of course any cruising boat must have general options as well. I would surely order the 16,000 BTU A/C system. Let's face it, there are hot nights that even a fan won't fix. The Northern Lights 5 kW genset is a must as not every night is for spending on the dock. If cruising to the mid to upper latitudes then consider the 12V Wallas diesel heater. It gets vented to the pilothouse, head and salon.
As for propulsion, MJM tells us that nearly all 36zs produced to date have gone out the door with the 5-cylinder 220-hp Volvo Penta D3 sterndrives.
Her base price for 2014 is $735,000. With options we're told that most new boats sail away for about $800,000.MJM has certainly pulled all the stops in the design and implementation of the 36z. I think it is a boat that will generate pride of ownership long after the purchase due to its very practical and versatile layout, and its classic styling. With a low profile it will fit under most of the bridges (9'0" air draft) of the Great Loop, and all but two bridges in Palm Beach and most rivers and canals in Europe. Couple that to the ability to really enjoy the cruise and not just the destination and she is a remarkable boat. The MJM Yachts 36z is not for everyone. She is expensive and her missions are targeted to a very select group of experienced boaters who have sophisticated tastes and clearly-identified needs. Our guess is that because the boat is so easy to operate by one person that an owner will have it out on the water much more often than most other type of yachts. And she is very guest-friendly.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the MJM 36z (2014-) is 39.2 mph (63.1 kph), burning 24.00 gallons per hour (gph) or 90.84 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the MJM 36z (2014-) is 24.0 mph (38.6 kph), and the boat gets 2.40 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.02 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 431 miles (693.63 kilometers).
- Tested power is 2 x 220-hp Volvo Penta D3 OceanX.
Standard and Optional Features
|Washdown: Raw Water||Standard|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
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