By John Martino, Chesapeak Bay Magazine's ChesapeakeBoating.net
It was one of those rare summer days on the Chesapeake Bay with the temperature in the mid 80's, low humidity and clear skies when I made my way down the dock at Eastport Yacht Center in Annapolis. At the end of the dock was "Big Daddy", a new 40-foot Downeast-style motor boat from MJM yachts. While I felt lucky just to be going out boating on one of the best days of the summer, I didn't anticipate that it would get even better.
MJM yachts was formed in 2003 when legendary boat builder Bob Johnstone, co-founder of J-Boat sailboats, decided to build a downeast style, high performance powerboat. Together with yacht designer Doug Zurn, and performance sailboat builder Mark Lindsay of Boston Boatworks, they developed the first of a series of MJM's - the 34z. (Named for Bob's wife, MJM stands for Mary Johnstone's Motorboat, and the "z" is for Zurn).
This day I was joining Ken Comerford and John Lloyd from North Point Yacht Sales to test MJM's latest model — the 40z Downeast. At first glance the 40z is eye catching. The combination of her sleek lines, flag-blue hull with gold cove stripe and tumblehome back aft make her look sharp and confident with a stylistic nod to her New England roots. Though her looks may hint at the traditional, her guts are all 21'st century technology. From her innovative design and space age construction down to the pod drive propulsion system, the MJM is in a class of her own.
On deck the 40z has an indoor / outdoor feel. By that, I mean to say that you are not really aware that you have gone "inside" when you come under her hard top. There is so much glass and isinglass surrounding the bridge area that you feel like you're outside. On those nasty days you'll be glad to be out of the elements in climate controlled comfort without giving up any visibility. On perfect days like this one, you can literally open up the entire bridge area including the front windshield and enjoy the weather. The cockpit area aft is on the same level and contiguous with the bridge. This feature makes the boat feel bigger and avoids that awkward step down to the cockpit. Down below, she has a single stateroom, galley, head with separate stall shower and a saloon / dining area.
Big Daddy is equipped with twin inboard Volvo Penta diesels with the IPS drive system. Alternatively the boat can be equipped with Cummins diesels coupled to Mercruiser's Axius stern drives for customers who need even shallower draft. Either way it is easy to maneuver the 40z around the dock using a single joystick control for close quarters maneuvering. Once you're out in the open you switch to the wheel to steer her.
From the moment we left the slip, the MJM impressed me. She is not only a joy to drive; she is also very quiet and comfortable. As soon as we were in the Severn River, I let her out and boy can she go. Before I knew it we were making 35 knots. She never lifted her bow and we never had to raise our voices to carry on a normal conversation. In turns she handled like a dream. I could crank the wheel hard over at full throttle and because of the IPS system there was no prop slip or cavitation, she just carved her turn. Moreover, she is considerable more fuel efficient than most boats in her class. She can easily maintain 1 nautical mile per gallon and I was able to get her as high as about 4 nmpg.
All the way around the MJM 40z blew me away. She is elegant, comfortable, fast, maneuverable, and pretty.
Length overall: 43'1"
Draft: 3' 3"
Displacement: 18,800 lb
Fuel: 350 gal
Water: 100 gal
Base Price: $849,000
Price as Tested: $950,000
The following review was written by John Martino and prepared by the marketing department of Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Mr. Martino is the founder and president of Annapolis Yacht Management and Annapolis School of Seamanship. He develops and teaches hands-on training courses for recreational boaters and professional mariners, and offers yacht delivery and onboard training services for powerboaters as well as sailors.