Bob Johnstone’s MJM Yachts: A Sailor’s Dream Boat

In 1977, Bob Johnstone and his brother Rod launched their first and now ubiquitous J/24 racing sloop; founded J/Boats, Inc.; and proceeded to build the world’s leading performance brand of sailboats, with licensed builders in the U.S., U.K., Japan, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, Italy, and France. Twenty-one of their subsequent designs received Boat-of-the-Year or Sailboat Hall of Fame honors, and today it’s not unusual for J/Boats to comprise one-third or more of all boats racing at major Race Weeks in America. With more than 40 designs featuring innumerable innovations, and 14,000 boats sailing in 35-plus countries, you’d think that Robert Johnstone would have been ready to retire, relax and go cruising years ago—but not “Bob J.”; first he had to develop the perfect boat for that.

Twenty-five years after the founding of J/Boats, Inc., and with thousands of nautical miles beneath their keels, Bob and his wife Mary sought a motorboat that would suit their needs for quality cruising time together. Their “perfect” powerboat would be beautiful, easily operated, and docked single-handedly, seat three couples in all-weather comfort, and cruise at 25 knots. Not finding their dream boat on the market, Bob founded MJM Yachts to create their own. (MJM is an acronym for Mary Johnstone’s Motorboat.) Starting in 2002 with the development of the classic 34z, then following with a 29z, 40z, and 36z, they upscaled to the 50z, then took on the outboard market with a 35z, 43z, and 53z. Each design has been lauded for its combination of great looks, performance, comfort, and versatility. The newest addition to the outboard express cruiser line is the MJM 53z: the largest, fastest, and most innovative model to date.

It was my great pleasure to ride along with Bob and Mary on their MJM 53z flagship, Breeze, during the recent 12 Metre World Championship regatta in Newport, Rhode Island, at which MJM Yachts was a sponsor. The Johnstones had generously donated the use of several MJM yachts as support boats for the event, and I was lucky enough to be stationed onboard the International Jury boat. On first impression, aside from her stunning outward appearance and impressive quad Mercury 400 Verado outboards, I was struck by the total ease of boarding with armloads of gear through a floating dock-height side door in her topsides. As a photographer, once onboard I immediately appreciated the open, flush deck layout with 360-degree visibility, including from within the fully windowed pilothouse that also contained a dining table and comfortable seating for at least 12—all protected from the weather. Stowing my gear below, I noticed a spacious contemporary galley and two generously sized master cabins, both fitted with en-suite heads, including glass-walled showers.

Once underway and clear of the harbor, we enjoyed a fast run to the racecourse on Rhode Island Sound. The MJM 53z easily achieves a speed of zero to 20 in seven seconds, with a top cruising speed of 50 mph, and yet it was surprisingly quiet in the pilothouse. Even with their racy performance stats, MJM Yachts is equally committed to environmentally responsible yachting and boat building techniques with a major focus on energy efficiency; some MJM models consume only half as much fuel as motor yachts of equal size. With the Seakeeper gyrostabilizer* engaged, the boat was remarkably balanced and without rolling, even in a choppy sea. Her sleek hull seemed to slice through the water with an ease and elegance similar to that of the 12 Metre yachts we followed around the windward-leeward racecourse. Upon consideration, it’s no surprise as this extraordinary vessel is the brainchild of one of the most accomplished and acclaimed makers of racing sloops. While cruising alongside the upwind sailing fleet, the ride was so smooth that it seemed as though the sea was merely gliding out from underneath us as we and the racing yachts on our beam were standing still.

Bob and Mary Johnstone were the most gracious of hosts, and it was both an honor and my pleasure to be a guest aboard their spectacular new creation. The MJM 53z is an absolute dreamboat, and as a sailor and yachting photographer, I am now officially spoiled for all others.