A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Built to last

Powerboat writer Eric Sorensen was passing through my part of the world yesterday afternoon, so we met at a pub after work to kick around some future story ideas.

In the course of talking about one idea or the other, Sorensen asked whether I had seen the video of the MJM 40Z running in 5- to- 8-foot seas off Palm Beach, Fla. He was impressed by how well the boat ran in those conditions and liked the commentary by founder and CEO Bob Johnstone.

I watched the aerial video this morning (shot by Billy Black), and it does indeed show the 40-footer running smoothly and smartly through a good head and beam sea in 25 knots of wind.

That led us to another discussion on the longevity of today’s well-built boats, such as those from MJM Yachts, especially given the fact that the average powerboat and sailboat on the water now is 20 years old or older. If boats built with plywood decks and transoms are making it to the quarter-century mark, how long will the wood-free infused hulls built from vinylester last?

“They’re heirlooms,” blurted out Sorensen, who is the technical writer for Soundings and who was the founding director of J.D. Power & Associates’ marine practices. “You’ll pass them down from generation to generation. The boat you remember going out on with your grandfather — well, you can still have that boat when you’re 60.”

When it comes to the lifespan of today’s best-built boats, we are in fairly uncharted waters. I jotted down notes on a Revolutionary Ale beer coaster (the inn later brought me paper) as Sorensen forged ahead.

coaster

What might be the useful life of a boat like the one in the video? “It’s indefinite,” Sorensen says. “What’s to fail on an MJM? It’s an oven, post-cured epoxy boat. It’s as well built as a Dreamliner, as far as I can see. There’s no reason that a boat like that couldn’t be here in 100 years.” Maybe 200 years, he later added.

“What’s it mean for the industry?” I asked.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “At some point, are we going to reach saturation? Where are the good boats going to go?”

One question is, will there be a market for repowering and upgrading even today’s gems when they’re 30, 40 or 50 years old and older? If past is prologue, boats with a pedigree and boats with good bones will retain a loyal following of sorts well down the road.

To justify the costs, however, owners will have to have a long view of ownership. Repower, refurbish and rack up as many memories as possible and then hand it off to the next generation when the time comes.

“You can have the memories and the boat,” Sorensen says.

Maybe — or maybe we shouldn’t have had the second pint.

Comments

2 comments on “Built to last

  1. Bill Williamson

    Hello,
    First, I don’t know if this note is going to Bob Johnstone or Mr. Sorensen. I would appreciate it if it would be forwarded to Bob Johnstone if he isn’t the receiver.
    Bob, it was a real pleasure meeting you, plus Mark. Lindsay and his partner from Boston Boateorks several weeks ago. I had the Grady White that was in the slip right behind Zing in Vero Beach.
    Going along with Mr. Sorenson’s article, I’m not sure if you saw the article in the May issue of Power & Motoryacht entitled 2nd Time Around? The story was based on your 34Z and was extremely favorable!
    Several questions for you: first if in any of your MJM’s, if one engine is lost, is there a way to stop the rotation of the propeller in the working engine?
    Second, what is the name of the blackout material you use at night in the event that the helm area is to be used as a sleeping quarter?
    Third, are you working on a method of rolling both up and down the isinglass so you don’t have to do it manually and not getting fingerprints all over it? (Sometimes I put gloves on when doing that in my boat)
    Fourth, what product do you recommend to your customers to clean the isinglass?
    I am thinking of purchasing a used 40Z until your production of the 50 MJM is up ramped up
    Sincerely,
    Bill Williamson

  2. Larry Leach

    My e1xperiences with the MJM 40Z have made me a true fan. My wife, Nancy and I had the pleasure of running hull #31 from Vero Beach, FL to Southport CT in May 2013 and back to FL in October 2013. The trip north took six days running offshore except from Beaufort, NC to Chesapeake, VA and from NY Harbor via the East River to & from Southport. The trip south took 5 1/2 days underway with a stay in Charleston. The 40Z is as solid as a rock and behaves beautifully in sea conditions up to 8ft. and from any direction. I am certain that it would be just as manageable in higher sea conditions. It has a very broad planing speed range from 11 knots to 40 knots. The Volvo Pod Drive and IPS system make docking situations a breeze.

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