The Mission of the MJM 50z
MJM's credo is to build cruising boats that can be handled by a couple or single-handed easily, be capable of entertaining a large crowd of friends around home, and also be seaworthy enough for offshore passagemaking. With the builder's new 50z, all that holds true, plus two options for an addition of a second stateroom with en suite head that gives a second couple, or kids, all of the privacy of the owners’.
The MJM 50z is long and low rather than being high and boxy. This is possible because the boat does not need large diesel engines that are so high that they can't be placed under the boat's cockpit in the stern. Placing big diesel engines in a 50' (15.24 m) boat usually means they have to go in the middle of the boat and the salon and pilothouse must go above, making the main cabin high, and to some people's nautical eye, not attractive in this size.
Because the MJM 50z is the lightest boat in class, and at 15' (4.57 m) the narrowest, she is also the easiest to push. That means she can have smaller engines that can be placed under the cockpit, allowing the boat to have either sterndrive or pod-drive propulsion, both of which are more efficient than conventional inboard rigs. All of this means that the MJM 50z can go faster than any boat in class and at the same time be more fuel efficient at cruising speeds and have greater range.
3. Choice of Triple Engines.
MJM offers a choice of twin or triple Volvo-Penta IPS pod drives. Both will deliver real "get up and go", and in our tests with the triple drives she reached a top speed of 40 knots. Fuel consumption is actually lower with these triples than with large twins. See "Comparison" below.
4. Seakeeper Gyro-Stabilizer is Standard Equipment.
The Seakeeper resists rather than reacts to the tendency of a boat to roll as it is spinning at 10000 rpm to create its stabilizing inertia. The vessel's normal roll is greatly reduced and seems smooth without a jerky motion. However, the need for such a device on the 50z is largely debatable as we found her to be stable in her own right, both underway and at rest in choppy conditions.
Several things go into comfort, one of which is the ease of getting on and off the boat and moving around once on her. The MJM 50z has a transom door as well as side access doors to port and starboard that open up to the level of a floating dock or an inflatable. Once aboard, the main deck is level from the transom to the companionway. Going below is only three steps with risers much like a staircase at home. Because the center of gravity is low and the aft 1/3 of the hull has a constant 19-degree deadrise angle, we find that the boat is stable at anchor and at slow speeds.
6. Engine Placement.
The engines are in the stern of the boat. Not under the main cabin as in most other boats in class. Not only does this permit a more efficient propulsion system, it also gets engine noise away from the primary living spaces while underway.
7. Lower Draft.
Because the 50z can be powered by twin sterndrives, she can have a draft as little as 36" (91 cm). This is important for not only cruising in skinny water in places like the Bahamas Banks, but more importantly for docking in front of the owner's house in water depth vulnerable to a moon tide.
Anyone who has done a lot of long-distance cruising or living aboard knows that it is important to have as many different living spaces aboard as possible. This allows the owners and guests to get away from the other people aboard for some quiet time by themselves.In the MJM 50z there are several private places where owners and guests can read, relax or work. The master stateroom is designed with a comfortable seat so the owner can retreat to a private cabin and have a place to sit and check emails or read. Topside, the port and starboard settees each have their level of comfort for relaxing. And aft there is a bench seat quite apart from the rest of the boat.
9. Main "Flybridge" Deck.
For those used to seeing enclosed express cruisers, at first glance the MJM 50z's open hardtop design might seem a bit odd. In fact, this concept with open sides is very much like the Maine lobster boats that inspired the whole Downeast-style boat in the first place.Onboard and sitting in the shade of the hardtop with sides completely open gives one the feeling of relaxing on a "porch" and watching the world go by. No other boat in class has anything like it and it has to be experienced to be appreciated.
The 50z we tested had a displacement of 30,545 lbs. (13,855 kgs) with 1/3 fuel, our gear and four people aboard. This is remarkably light for a boat of this type and the weight reduction was due to the reduced beam, the use of carbon fiber and Kevlar in the lamination, as well as the resin infusion vacuum system used by Boston BoatWorks.
11. CE "A" Rating.
It is easy to forget that MJM's sister company, J-Boats, makes racing and cruising sailboats from 22' to 65' (6.7 m to 19.81 m). Many of the larger J-Boats have sailed around the world, some of them several times. Little wonder, then, that MJM would build its new 50z to the demanding standards required to be certified as CE category "A" ocean rating. Only one other boat in class has this and it’s the MJM 40z.
The MJM 50z comes with a pair of 435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600s as standard propulsion. Our test boat was fitted with the optional triple IPS600s which increased the draft an additional 4” to 3’3” (.10 m to .99 m) total and provided the boat with 1305-hp. With 1/3 fuel, 1/2 water and 4 people onboard we estimated our test weight at just over 33,000 lbs. (14,969 kgs).
Why 3 Engines?
Aren't two enough? The answer is no, two are not enough nor are they particularly fuel-efficient if the owner wants to go 40 knots WOT. Why 40 knots? Because then an owner can travel the 200 miles from Boston to Bar Harbor, Maine in 5 hours, Washington D.C. to the Eastern Shore in 3.5 hours, Miami to Nassau, Bahamas in under 4 hours, Detroit to Georgian Bay in 6 hours, etc. This makes a three-day boating weekend a pleasant reality for many working people instead of something that must wait for a longer vacation.
Does the 50z with 3 IPS600s Burn More Fuel than 2 Big Diesels?
The answer is -- remarkably -- not based in our testing experience. The triple IPS600 in the 50z during our test not only went faster than similar boats with twins of even more horsepower but got better miles per gallon.
, our tests showed a top end of 40 knots.
Her lightweight combined with her 15' (4.57 m) beam and the IPS pods resulted in an economical midrange performance hovering at and around 1 nautical mile per gallon.
BoatTEST.com Mid-Range Test Numbers
At 3000 rpm she ran at 32.1 knots with a 40.5 gph fuel burn. That turned in a range of 371 nautical miles and an endurance of just over 11 ½ hours while still maintaining a 10% reserve of fuel.
What's the Rush?
When making long passages or doing delivery work we like to run about 20 knots because it is usually a fair compromise among speed, fuel consumption, and comfort. At 2250 rpm we recorded a speed of 21.6 knots, getting 1.0 nmpg for a range of 470 nautical miles and an endurance of over 21 hours, with a 10% fuel reserve.
Very Long Range Cruising.
For those lucky few people who have the time to strike out for some truly adventurous cruising where it may be necessary to cover as much as a 1,000 nmiles without a pit stop, at 7.7 knots the boat gets 2.9 nmpg and has a range of 1,366 nmiles with a 10% fuel reserve. Because of her low CG and her SeaKeeper gyrostabilizer, the 50z might be remarkably comfortable on such a voyage, possibly much more so than the triple-decked, fiberglass down island-looking recreational vessels intended for the purpose.
As for handling
, MJM yachts are like nothing else in our experience. It’s no secret that these boats share their DNA with some of the most famous sailboats on the planet and that’s where her sleek performance gets its start. Advance the throttles and she leaps to her 20 mph planing speed in just over 5 seconds. That’s on par with some runabouts and bowriders we’ve tested. She continues accelerating to 30 mph in just under 9 seconds. Remember, this is a 55’ yacht we’re talking about here.
The wheel spins freely but with 3 ½ turns from lock to lock it only takes small increments to incite a digital response. She comes around slowly, but that has more to do with the limited throw of the IPS pods at speed rather than the boat itself. At cruise speeds she’ll take 55 seconds to come around 360-degrees, leaning 8-degrees into the turns while doing so.We were slicing cleanly through waves with minimal spray. On the beam she would roll only marginally and would throw water into the wind and of course onto the boat, but a completely dry ride on any boat in winds is not possible. In a following sea she’s very stable.She responds well to trim. We brought the bow down in cruise and she sliced much better through waves thanks to presenting more of her narrow entry. In following seas we brought the trim back up and that raised the bow a bit, again, improving her ride. (Be sure to watch the video which demonstrates these maneuvers.)
Steady As She Goes
The 50z comes with a standard SeaKeeper gyro, but we kept it off during our test and frankly, saw no reason to turn it on. If we were having a cocktail party alongside a busy waterway, then perhaps we’d use it to minimize the effects of wakes on our guests, but other than that, given the fact that she has a 19-degree deadrise at the transom and a 15' beam, she is a stable boat in her own right… period. In a confused or beam sea nearly any recreational boat can be rolly, and that is really where the 50z's SeaKeeper will pay off.
Naturally, with her joystick maneuverability this is a boat that anyone can dock. She’s quite responsive to the controls and all it takes is a light touch on the stick. We used small pulses of control to maneuver her and let her momentum do most of the work. She also had Volvo Penta’s dynamic positioning system installed, which we could have used to hold her at the dock while we tied her up single-handed.
We’ll begin in the cockpit as we board from the starboard hullside door. Immediately we see MJM’s creative solutions to everyday problems -- the port and starboard hullside doors being one of those solutions. We all want bench seating across the transom but we also need an access door to the swim platform along with being able to have comfortable dining in open air.
The Main Deck… or, A Motoryacht Flying Bridge?
One of the driving concepts of the 50z is to create on the main deck all of the room, seating, and amenities normally found on the flying bridge of a 65' motoryacht. "That is where everyone hangs out on a large motoryacht, so why not just put all of that seating and entertaining space on the main deck of the 50z", asks MJM founder/owner Bob Johnstone. In fact, it has virtually everything found on a large motoryacht flying bridge except a Jacuzzi.
To Have and to Have Not.
Truth be told, many people, particularly older ones, don't like flying bridges. Stairs to them can be daunting and are always a safety hazard for everyone. Some women don't like them because they are typically more exposed to the wind which messes up their hair. There, parents must keep a sharp eye on small kids. And in a seaway they can be more uncomfortable than being lower in the boat, particularly one with a low CG.
With the hardtop covering the helm and dual couches, and with the sides being open to the elements, this space is like that of a motoryacht flying bridge. Two opposing couches create an intimate gathering area that can be protected from the elements by rolling down the curtains to either side. A table to starboard adds functionality as both a cocktail lounge and dining area.Just behind is a loveseat to starboard and to port our test boat had a bar counter with refrigerator. A cockpit grill can be added as an option.
The transition to the lower deck is immediately noticed from its more relaxed approach via the stairs. Unlike most boats, these are at an angle, and has a width that is more inline with the stairs in a home as opposed to a boat. The area we are greeted with as we come down the stairs is very much yacht-like in every detail.
First the eyes are drawn to the teak and holly deck with its high gloss shine. One may think that this deck received a painstaking set of treatments from 8 to 10 coats of marine-grade spar varnish, but that would only need to be re-done on a regular basis, and adding maintenance chores does not make a good cruising boat. Here, the perfect finish is achieved by the application of clear Awlgrip. It’s more durable and looks amazing.Secondly, the eyes are then drawn to the bulkheads with teak slats that do much to drive home the nautical flair of the MJM 50z.
Salon…or, Second Stateroom
To starboard is the salon with L-shaped seating wrapping around a solid teak table. Naturally the table is hi-lo to allow for conversion from dining, to cocktail, to making the seating area into a berth. Either a curtain can close off this area, or a clever set of removable bulkheads to create a truly private stateroom when an additional set of overnight guests is on the horizon.
We think the convertible salon/stateroom is both practical and innovative. Basically the door to the impromptu cabin and the bulkheads are stored vertically on the forward transverse bulkhead and are not even particularly noticeable. With the table down and cushions in place to make a bed, the bulkhead panels are taken from their storage location and placed into the deck and overhead to create a privacy partition bulkhead. A door finishes the project, which Johnstone tells us can all be accomplished in 10 minutes. Now, guests can change clothes and go to bed in privacy.And, because the boat has two nearly identical heads, guests have their own dedicated bathroom as well.
In Salon Mode.
Stateroom conversion aside, the dining area is a comfortable one with our cruising couple in close proximity to the galley to port. A flatscreen TV allows catching up on the news of the day while dinner is being prepared. Opening portlights to port and starboard add ventilation.
To port is the galley and this layout lends itself to preparing anything from a quick snack to a large meal, again with the focus on a cruising couple. All the usual appliances are present from the convection microwave to the refrigerated drawers. However, there are some unusual, and much appreciated features here as well.
For Example, the Sink has Two Faucets.
A large one will serve for washing hands and dishes, a smaller faucet dispenses filtered water for drinking. This water also feeds the icemaker in the freezer.
Once the dishes are done
, MJM’s solution is to have a recessed bin to set dishes, glasses, and silverware in where they can dry on their own -- no towels needed. All water from this bin drains overboard. It’s not only an extremely clever solution to a common problem, it also eliminates the need to continually store and pull out the same dishes that two people will be using over and over again.
The master is forward, as expected. It’s flooded with natural light from twin overhead hatches and opening portlights to both sides. Storage is underneath and in the sole. Bookshelves line both side bulkheads and two more are recessed into the forward bulkhead. LED reading lights are provided and both sides get a 12V fan as well.The master stateroom is sheathed in teak which makes it look like the premium yacht that she certainly is. The berth measures 6’6” (2.0 m) x 7’ (2.1 m). We like the comfortable easy chair and small desk at left.
Just abaft the berth are the usual steps leading up to the berth. A comfortable seat was placed to the port side that provides a comfortable reading spot, complete with a LED light overhead, while still allowing plenty of room for getting into the berth.
Yes, the MJM 50z was designed for a single couple cruising, but that doesn't mean the boat shouldn't have two heads. She does, and they are nearly identical. One for the lady of the vessel, and one for her consort. Johnstone reports that in actual use this arrangement comes in remarkably handy. (We should add that it also eliminates the issue about the captain sitting or standing.)When entertaining, the guest head obviously serves as the day head, keeping the owners' head off limits which should also win approval from the admiral.
Moving onto the operational aspects of the 50z, the helm has to be the heart and soul of the boat. Everything is gleaming white and while we didn’t have a glare problem, an off color may reduce it on those early or late cruises when the low sun beams in through so many windows.Dual 15” (38 cm) hybrid touchscreen displays adorned the center of the panel on our test boat. Between the two were a depth gauge and the autopilot control. Over to the right was the Volvo Penta EVC display with its selectable readouts.
, the 24" (61 cm) destroyer wheel was mounted on the vertical and spun freely. This was a nice feel, but the simple fact is that only small movements resulted in a quick response. The digital engine controls were in their usual position to starboard and our test boat was fitted with all the options offered in this model including cruise mode and Dynamic Position Keeping.
was far to the left side of the panel but still within reach and we particularly liked it being over to that side as it lends itself more to being used while standing in the center of the boat and facing aft. Both the captain and the observer get extra wide Stidd helm seats that were fully adjustable and extremely comfortable.
Now See Here…
One of the areas that stand out with MJM boats, and this 50z in particular, is the visibility. Yes, the forward windows are huge, but it’s the side windows that really got my attention. They come down well below the waist level and give a clear view of the side decks and the water just beyond. The result is a wonderful feeling of speed while watching the water pass by at the low level the helm is at. Certainly more so than would ever be achieved from a flying bridge.
Also, the three forward windows are opening. Not just a little bit, but all the way to the horizontal. Even on the hottest day, this will provide a level of breeze while underway that is sure to be refreshing. Few other manufacturers bother to make its windows open to this level and once it’s experienced, one starts to wonder why not.
As we head forward on deck, we first have to notice the wide side decks. MJM had no intention of creating the illusion of a more spacious main deck level by eliminating, or even narrowing the side decks. We can’t say it enough… this is a yacht designed for serious cruising. Side decks are an essential tool on a boat like this and thankfully they were not sacrificed. They start out at 14” (35.56 cm) wide aft and max out at 26” (66 cm) forward.
No Hull-Side Streaks.
Also, while water being shipped over the bow is of little concern, certainly rain and hose-down water are, and both will be diverted from reaching the cockpit by a raised break and overboard drains. Importantly, these drains exit at the boot stripe to keep the topsides from having the inevitable, and maddening, black streaks.
A grab handle runs along the top of the cabin
, and where that ends, the side rails take over. At their lowest they measure 35" (89 cm), far exceeding ABYC standards. Fully forward they top out at 36” (91 cm) and are slightly angled out so it’s easy to have a good view of the side of the hull from here.
Ground tackle is managed
from a windlass on top of the foredeck. Foot control switches are just alongside. Twin 12” (30.5 cm) cleats are in a position to both serve docking lines and the anchor rode. The anchor rests in a stainless anchor roller and while being retrieved, gets rinsed off with an anchor washdown spraying outward from the stem, eliminating both the stench from bottom mud and the need for a hose forward.
Storage to Spare
Being a cruising yacht, it’s imperative that she be able to handle stores for extended periods away from the dock. In the sole of the main deck there is a massive storage compartment with steps leading in. This compartment has shelves with bins to hold any number of dry goods and the open space in the center can hold larger items as needed. Basically, if it can fit in the vehicle coming from the wholesale club, it can fit in here.
Unusual Storage Capacity.
Additionally, under the bench seats is cavernous storage that can swallow up an amazing amount of items. We’ve seen one of these spaces holding a pair of bicycles, two pairs of golf clubs, a deflated Avon tender, a sealed life raft, all shore cords, cleaning buckets and mops, hoses, a compressor and all lines and fenders. And the amount of space is matched to the other side. A removable step ladder can be brought from one side to the other as needed.
In the galley, there are more cabinets than we’ve seen in much larger yachts and these are also much deeper. It would be a simple matter to store items needed for well over a week away from any grocery outlet.
Little Details that Make a Difference
With any boat, certainly the layout is important. Same goes with handling and performance. But when we drill down to the details, that’s where we separate the good, bad, and the mediocre, especially where it comes to a boat that is intended to be used for extended periods of time. Here is where MJM really excels… in the little details.
In the galley, there are rails to hold onto. But again, this is a boat designed to be underway a lot. Making a sandwich while one hand is on an overhead rail won’t do. So everything is made to be used as a handhold. Every shelf and fiddle can be grabbed without fear of ripping it off -- trust us on this. We grabbed everything we could wrap our fingers around and pulled.
When spending the night at anchor, there might be frequent checks to make sure that the ground tackle is still holding in a problematical bottom. Most times this requires a trip out of bed, up on deck, surveying the area, and then heading to the bow to physically feel that the rode is solid.
On the 50z, just stand on the berth, stick your head out the overhead hatch and the anchor rode is right there. It can even be managed from this position if rode needs to be paid out. It’s also easy to survey the surroundings to ensure that no one is getting closer from either slippage or a tide swing. And best of all, it doesn’t even require getting out of the pajamas (or putting them on).
Comparison in Class
There are not many boats in the 50' Downeast category that are intended for daytime picnics and entertaining as well as serious cruising. We compared the published performance numbers of the top four models that came quickly to mind, and here's what we discovered--
There are two driving forces behind the 50z: economy and practicality. Both were achieved quite successfully in the end product. She’s at once a boat that is among the most pleasurable to drive and she is not only quite efficient, but easy to handle in any condition we encountered. There are so many areas where attention to detail makes a difference, and that is where the main factor lies that separates the 50z from the competition.It’s easy to tell when someone that uses boats builds a boat. With a fishing boat, there are features that all fishermen need and they’re right where they need to be. With a cruising boat, these little features come together only by garnering input from someone using the boat.In the case of the MJM 50z, she’s the result of the long experience of renowned naval architect Doug Zurn and company owner, Bob Johnstone and his wife, Mary. Bob has the enviable task of driving each hull #1 through its grueling boat show circuit and living aboard with Mary along the way. With this sort of hands-on experience comes the ability to tweak every little thing that makes a good yacht into a great yacht. Bob is on the phone constantly with Doug making such changes and the result is a boat that brings to the table the accumulation of all these ideas and tweaks.As for Bob having to spend his career cruising the coasts of the country traveling between marinas and anchorages, in his own words “someone has to do it”. Thankfully, it’s someone with a keen eye for detail. For the MJM brand, it’s a symbiotic relationship.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the MJM 50z (2014-) is 46.0 mph (74 kph), burning 67.0 gallons per hour (gph) or 253.6 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the MJM 50z (2014-) is 24.9 mph (40.1 kph), and the boat gets 1.2 miles per gallon (mpg) or 0.51 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 541 miles (870.66 kilometers).
- Tested power is 3 x 435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600 D6.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
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