34Z — By Ben Ellison —
Mary Johnstone’s Motorboat
|Part 2: The Johnstone attention to detail is also obvious in the stainless steel handholds that are in all the right places.|
My boat gut is still not sure how it feels about the overall aesthetic of this hybrid concept, as gracefully drawn out as it was by architect Doug Zurn (the Z in 34Z). But in as much as form does follow function in a good boat, I think, the MJM appears to be sensible indeed. That porch-like house is not just practical, it’s also a wonderfully open place to drive or just hang out with friends. The flare not only results in a dry boat—dry as toast, even sitting on the stern seat at speed through Annapolis’ crazy outer harbor wakes—but also gives the forepeak table/berth area a spacious feel. Sit at that table, and you’ll notice how good-size ports fit just below the sheer at perfect eye level and can even be left open in rainy weather because of the overhang.
I’d call those ports a cherry-on-top feature, one of many, except that the real cherry is in the light, lustrous joinery work that surrounds this lovely cabin, suitable for cocktails for six or a long weekend for two. The cockpit and pilothouse are equally flexible people places, and moving anywhere, including the bow, you’ll find a well-thought-out path. It’s easy to imagine the Johnstones—after all those years of tight sailboat cockpits and spider-webbed decks—gleefully maximizing ergonomics on the 34Z. They also detailed the topside areas in a more utilitarian, low-maintenance style than some might like, but teak soles and a teak pilothouse table are available options. Otherwise, the list of standard gear is remarkably complete and well chosen.
The Johnstone attention to detail is also obvious in the stainless steel handholds that are in all the right places; huge pilothouse lockers with room enough for bikes, but also with mesh pockets for organizing small gear; and deck drains so that rain won’t stain the topsides. Notice the mate’s station with its own Stidd chair and a place for paper or laptop charting, with power and GPS hookups built in; there’s plenty of electronics power at the helm for singlehanding, but sharing navigation can be really fun in explorer mode, extra safe in fog mode.
The MJM’s combination of hull form—the flare, relatively narrow beam, and a long run of constant 18-degree planing surface—plus a super-light and super-strong construction program promise high performance (and low fuel consumption), even with modest power. The hull certainly seems bulletproof; its epoxy/Kevlar/core laminates are vacuum-bagged and oven-cured at high-tech Boston Boatworks. And the test numbers indicate an efficient, nimble craft, even though the prop—which, by the way, is pocketed to reduce draft—was still being tweaked and the Yanmar couldn’t wind up to its maximum 3300 rpm.
The 34Z did pop onto plane quickly, assuming an almost constant running trim that felt just right, with excellent visibility at the helm. Sound levels, even standing nearly atop the diesel, were not bad. Handling was tight, light, and sporty, and I sensed that the boat would continue to behave well even in serious sea conditions. Altogether, the MJM 34Z asks for, and deserves, a second look. Just don’t be shocked when you seek out your local dealer and find yourself in a forest of J Boat masts; this powerboat’s parents were sailors.
MJM Phone: (617) 723-3629. www.mjmyachts.com.
This article originally appeared in the April 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.