John martino, annapolis school of seamanship and annapolis yacht         management
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.
MJM 29z
Length overall  32'
Beam  10' 2"
Hull Draft  16'
Draft w/ Outdrive2'6"
Displacement 7,600 LB
Horsepower 225 HP
Fuel  125 GAL
Base Price  $269,500
Price as Tested  $336,540

Once again Bob Johnstone, founder of J Boats and more recently MJM Yachts, has pushed the envelope on yacht design. The result is the 29z, the second powerboat model to be developed by MJM and built by Boston Boatworks. Using experience and knowledge gained through decades of performance sailboat production, MJM has launched a yacht that boasts ultra low weight in a very strong hull. Among other things, that translates into a vessel that uses much less horsepower than other boats in its class to achieve truly outstanding performance. 

The 29z is powered by a single four-cylinder Volvo 225-hp turbo-diesel coupled to a Volvo outdrive with counter-rotating props. At first I was surprised that MJM chose an Inboard/Outboard for the 29z, but all things considered, this is the ideal propulsion for this boat. Moving the engine aft allows the boat to maintain her lines without adding length overall. Engine noise is greatly diminished; maneuverability, beach-ability and efficiency are substantially enhanced. Even better, the improved technology behind the new Volvo outdrives has eliminated many of the negatives (like galvanic corrosion and leaky rubber seals) that plagued earlier outdrive models.

I met with Paul Mikulski of Chesapeake Boating Center in Annapolis, Md., to review the 29z one clear summer day. At first glance, I couldn’t help but admire her lines. She has a Downeast lobster boat look with a certain “airiness” about the hard top arrangement: Shade from the top combines with a fully opening windshield to make the bridge deck area an inviting place even on a hot August day. Button her up and you’re ready to cruise into the fall. A little flair forward and slight reverse sheer transitions into lots of tumblehome aft, giving her a splash of style to go with her high-tech construction and propulsion system.

On board, I found the cockpit unusually roomy for a 29-footer. With plenty of comfortable seating, it can accommodate 10 people on settees, plus two on helm seats. There are two large cockpit lockers under the port and starboard settees. The engine is enclosed in a unique engine box that folds up and out of the way for stand-up access to the engine on three sides. Service should be a snap. The companionway hatch has a two-part arrangement that allows the top piece to convert to a standing chart table next to the helm.

Down below the accommodations are generous for a boat of this size—six-foot headroom, a small galley, head and a V-shaped dinette that converts to a double bunk with a filler cushion. Fit and finish is top quality throughout.

Heading out of the slip required a very tight 180-degree turn to port in a space no more than a boat length. She made the turn without my having to use the bow thruster (optional). Once out in the creek, I tried some more close-quarters maneuvers and tight turns. Backing down was easy with directional thrust and zero prop walk.

Out in open water the 29z was light, stiff, responsive and a blast to drive. She got up onto plane quickly with practically no bow rise. Tight turns at speed were exhilarating and controlled. We topped out at 32 knots wide open but spent most of the time cruising around 28 knots. While I didn’t have an opportunity to take her offshore, I got the sense that she would handle coastal conditions very well. Chop from Navy YP traffic was no problem at top speed. Passengers riding aft were quite comfortable and dry; with minimal engine noise conversation was easy.

All in all I found 29z to be an exceptionally fun and responsive day cruiser with good potential as a weekender.