Jeanne Craig - Soundings Online
The MJM 4 offers a glimpse at just how stylish and smart a modern bowrider can really be.
Party guests are mingling near the docks at Sail Newport in Rhode Island as a harvest moon ascends over Brenton Cove like a deep-orange spotlight. Right on cue, the star of the show—the MJM 4—arrives to make her public debut. At 46 feet, 8 inches length overall, she has a deep-blue hull, a powerful sheerline and a pair of ice-white 600-hp Mercury Verado outboards that rumble pleasantly rather than roar.
People quickly step aboard and make a beeline for the forward end of the boat, one of four distinct social zones on the MJM 4. There’s also a cockpit sized for welcoming friends, a pilothouse with Italian leather seats, and a cabin below that’s aglow with teak. But on this night, it’s all about the bow, where guests slide into the deep, U-shaped lounge, rest their arms on the varnished wood table, and look up to enjoy the night sky.
There was a time when an open bow was relegated to the kids, their wet towels and the family dog. But that was back when bowriders were mostly small, trailerable boats. Bowriders have grown up and, in the case of the MJM 4, matured into civilized day yachts.
This is the second model in MJM’s line of day-cruising boats, a series the company says represents the future of the brand. And like many good things designed for tomorrow, this one has a foot in the past.
“You’re familiar with the boats my parents introduced,” says MJM’s CEO Peter Johnstone, referring to the express cruisers that Bob and Mary Johnstone developed when the couple founded MJM in 2002. Today, those earlier builds trade at high values because proud owners keep them in pristine condition. “When we designed this 4, we were intentional about staying true to the company’s core. In addition to looks, we focused on easy operation, comfort, low maintenance and performance.”
Johnstone credits his father for creating the MJM look. Bob—a lifelong boater who cofounded J/Boats in 1977—wanted the powder-horn sheer of a World War II Elco PT boat and an Adirondack runabout’s tumblehome. Those elements are in the MJM 4, only this boat has more S curve in the sheer and more reverse forward, among other things. The new hull profile is what the company calls a Carolina Downeast.
“MJMs used to look more like lobster yachts, but we’re coming out of the Downeast category to create our own category,” Johnstone says. “It’s an all-weather hull with a classic house and proportions. We don’t do swoopy. We just do classic.”
MJMs are built in Beaufort County, North Carolina. An MJM dealer from that state is at the 4’s coming-out party. He says the boat is in demand in his area because people want a day yacht with a cabin and reliable performance for year-round cruising. He adds that many day yacht buyers are now trading down from larger cruisers. “They’re just not spending the weekends on those boats that they imagined they would when they bought them.”
MJM buyers also come from smaller boats. That’s evident during a sea trial aboard the MJM 4 the day after the party. Among the passengers on board is a guy who wants to move up from his high-performance 38-foot center console. He’s eager to get behind the helm of the 4, where there’s an elegant ship’s wheel—a nod to the sailing roots of the Johnstone family. Before getting underway, he adjusts one of the huge opening windows that surround the house to bring the breeze and sun inside.
Moments later, the throttle is engaged and the boat simply lifts. It levels easily with no bow rise and is on plane at 11 knots. “On a heavier boat, the bow would be up in the sky and the belly would be pounding into the waves,” Johnstone says. “That’s a real problem if you have to get home in a nasty sea.”
To reduce weight, MJM uses vacuum infusion in the construction of fiberglass parts, including hulls and decks. Johnstone says MJM’s infusion process is closer to aerospace level—it begins with dry materials, rather than wet, and is executed with an epoxy resin that adds strength without too much weight. The result: This MJM has a resin-to-fiberglass ratio of 30/70 percent. “Some other builders using other layup methods have 70 percent resin in their parts,” he says. “We flipped the ratio.”
The Mercury outboards have a lot to do with the boat’s swift acceleration curve, which is why MJM is betting that twin 600s will be more popular than the triple 300-hp outboards that are also available. With the 600s on the transom, the MJM 4 should kiss 51 knots at wide-open throttle (6400 rpm) or cruise most efficiently at almost 22 knots while getting about 1.1 mpg. Those figures yield a range of 533 miles, according to sea trials by Mercury Marine. The boat can also be configured for twin 440-hp Volvo Penta diesel inboards, which allow for a full-beam swim platform.
The hull, by Doug Zurn and MJM, is new. It’s a modified deep-V with a sharper entry than the MJM 43, which the 4 replaces. It has more running surface too; the previous model had engine brackets. “We did 12 different hulls to get this one right,” says Johnstone.
The MJM 4’s layout is made for socializing. The double-wide, adjustable bench (MJM calls it “business class”) at the helm is the best seat in the pilothouse. Behind it, an L-shaped lounge is to starboard with a galley opposite, positioned for service at the pilothouse table or in the cockpit. The boat is made to entertain about 16 people for drinks, feed four at dinner and sleep a couple, with or without their children. (Accommodations include an amidships double berth, a convertible lounge forward, plus a head with separate shower compartment.) The boat’s beam is 12 feet, but the pilothouse feels roomier. That’s because the builder gave no space over to side decks. Access forward is through a corridor to port of the helm.
When Johnstone takes the wheel to drive us back to shore, passengers start heading toward the bow. I follow and tuck in beside a New Jersey couple who realized the 37-foot open sportfish boat they bought a year ago isn’t quite right for the type of cruising they want to do with their children and grandchildren. They need higher freeboard for safety, enclosed spaces for the young ones, and more spots to sit and socialize. When the stereo comes on and reggae fills the MJM 4’s bow, the couple bob their heads, tap their feet and agree their kids would like the sound system.
The boat really is all about the kids. That’s what Johnstone says he rediscovered when he and his father wrote MJM’s mission statement not too long ago. “We spent a few weeks summarizing our brand—what we are actually doing here and why we’re doing it,” he says. “And that’s simply to enable shared adventures that make family bonds stronger and lives special.”
LOA: 46’8” Beam: 12’0” Draft (engines up): 2’2” Displ.: 17,730 lbs. Fuel: 475 gals. Test power: (2) 600-hp Mercury Verados
This article was originally published in the December 2022 issue.
Draft (engines up):
(2) 600-hp Mercury Verados