Look at that," I said to myself as the RIB sidled up to Bessie, the latest MJM 40z, at the time, to join the growing fleet. As the pilot held us against the starboard side, my host, Bob Johnstone, opened the boarding gate, and I stepped into Bessie's cockpit-not up or down, mind you, but straight across. Had the boat been tied up in a slip, I would have discovered that the cockpit sole and the float were at the same level. That's a thoughtful detail, but only one of many that Johnstone and designer Doug Zurn, who joined us for the sea trial, have showered on this model.
Johnstone conceived the 40z as the biggest yacht a couple-husband and wife, in this case-could easily handle at sea, around the marina, and at the anchorage. So easy, in fact, that neither one should have to devote more than a single thought to any of the procedures. He'd also considered the burden of ownership and maintenance. For example, you won't find any varnished wood decorating the exterior. Some folks who spend the winter in warmer climates than those found in the Northeast, Midwest, or even the Northwest, prefer not to take their boats south under their own power. The 40z's beam of 12 feet reduces the expense of shipping overland. "It's ideal for dual residence," Johnstone said.
On the other hand, anyone who fancies a run along the ICW, the Mississippi, or the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, will appreciate the fuel-miserly 40z. Tests conducted by Johnstone and Volvo recorded 1.2 nautical miles to a gallon of diesel (about 23 gallons per hour) at a cruising speed of 27 knots (2800 rpm). And these figures are from the 370-horsepower Volvo IPS 500s. During my sea trial, I observed similar fuel numbers on the Volvo instrumentation.
A pound of first impressions weighs more than 16 ounces in an emotional purchase, and the 40z excels at first impressions. Among the most obvious of these is its single level from the cockpit sole to the main bulkhead at the helm. This makes the boat feel larger than it is-doubly important in a boat that's a foot or two narrower than the norm. After the observer gets beyond this impression, he realizes that eliminating steps also creates a safer environment for every guest and member of the crew, regardless of their ages.
Narrow washboards around the cockpit further add to the feeling, and reality, of spaciousness. The rail around the cockpit makes up for freeboard lost aft, in the interest of aesthetics. Such a convenient handhold in the cockpit provides an extra margin of safety for anyone boarding the boat or moving around the cockpit when she's underway.
The generator makes the 40z self-sufficient at anchor or on a mooring, and the galley is equipped well enough to accommodate a couple's short-term cruising needs between stops at a marina to refuel and replenish the stores. The two-burner electric cooktop has a pop-up potholder; the refrigerator is deep and able to swallow about a week's supply of food. Stowage under the benches at the dinette and under the cabin sole ought to absorb anything that won't fit into the cabinets and drawers in the galley.
Directly opposite the door to the head is a full-length mirror, which doubles as a door for the forward cabin. Clever. A large and comfortable island berth dominates the stateroom. Cherry ceilings and bookshelves above the head of the berth make a person want to snuggle in to read, chat, or whatever, after a long day underway or during periods of feisty weather.
None of these attractive features in the living quarters would mean much if the 40z weren't a hoot to drive. As has been typical of the smaller models in the MJM line, the 40z is light, very agile, quick, and exceptionally seakindly. During testing, the technicians from Volvo recorded a time of 9.5 seconds from rest to 30 knots. Her exemplary fuel economy is the direct result of her light weight and narrow beam. She gets her seakindliness from a steep entry, which transitions to a moderate deadrise (19 degrees) in the run.
Response to steering input is immediate and accurate, and maneuvering in close quarters is as free of drama as you can get. The IPS joystick control is idiot- proof. To further reduce the pains of docking or anchoring, the spring cleat on the starboard side is within easy reach of the helm, so one can lasso the cleat on the float without leaving the house. Want to anchor? Pushing a button at the helm deploys the ground tackle without any other human intervention.
The success, or failure, of a boat to capture buyers depends on more factors than we'll ever know, the whole process being replete with emotion. So far, the MJM 40z is doing well, in spite of the less than booming economy. It offers boating enthusiasts a unique alternative in the New England style, which is one good way to attract a fairly large and loyal following.
MJM Yachts, (617) 723-3629; www.mjmyachts.com