Strolling along the docks at the Miami International Boat Show, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the myriad of choices. There are center consoles, performance catamarans, cabin cruisers, sport fishermen, ski boats, luxury yachts — you name it — the options seem endless. I usually leave the world's largest boat show, held each February, drained and a little confused. But this year was different. I was ready to call it a day when I spotted a crowd gathered around a boat that looked like it had been transported through a time tunnel from 1962. The 34-foot pocket motoryacht appeared vaguely familiar. I closed my eyes and pictured a young John F. Kennedy cruising off Hyannis, Mass., in this classic craft. "Is this an antique?" I asked the salesman. "No," Rick Grajirena said. "It is brand new."
Bob Johnstone is well known in the sailing community for his J Boats, one of the best-selling one-design sailboats in offshore racing.
"They have sold thousands of those over the years," said Grajirena, a former competitive sailor who now sells powerboats. "The J-24 is probably one of the most popular keelboats ever built."
Mark Lindsay of Boston Boat Works had a long and lucrative career building custom, one-of-a-kind racing yachts. "He knows how to build a fast boat," Grajirena said.
Doug Zurn has always been known for his style and flair. He designed one of the prettiest boats ever built, the Shelter Island 38, for pop singer and boat lover Billy Joel.
"These are the three great minds behind the MJM34," said Grajirena, relating the boat's background. "I don't know of another boat on the market that had so much talent go into it."
New England charm
As Johnstone eased into his 70s, he and wife Mary found they spent more time on their small powerboat than they did on their sailboat.
"But she wanted something a little bigger so they could take the grandkids," Grajirena said. "But there was no boat on the market that she really liked. So she asked her husband to build her one."
After several years of research, design and testing, the result is the MJM34. The name stands for "Mary Johnstone's Motorboat." The classic New England design is reminiscent of the Downeast lobster boat. "The problem with lobster boats is that they are not known for their comfort or their speed," Grajirena said. "That's not the case with MJM34."
The MJM34 may look like it was built in the 1930s, but the materials are straight out of the 21st century.
The kevlar-epoxy construction exceeds the requirements for a Class A ocean-going yacht, so the MJM34 is built to take a pounding.
"It is rated to do 50 knots in 20-foot seas," Grajirena said. "Of course, no human being could take a beating like that, but nonetheless, that is what it can handle."
With a single prop and 480-horsepower Yanmar diesel engine, the MJM can cruise at 28 knots at 3,000 rpms, burning 15.8 gallons of fuel per hour. The fuel efficiency appeals to boaters who are switching from sail to power.
The range and a pilothouse that seats six adults comfortably by day converts to a pair of 6-foot-6 berths at night.
Grant Thornbrough, 61, grew up boating on the Great Lakes. He estimates that he has more than 50 years of boating experience.
A landscape architect in Boca Raton, Thornbrough has owned a variety of boats. But when he came across an ad in a magazine called Maine Boat & Harbors, he knew he had found his dream boat.
"We went to the Fort Lauderdale boat show and ordered one on the spot," he said. "We were sold as soon as we saw it. We have hull No. 5."
Avid anglers, he and his wife just returned from a two-week trip through the Bahamas.
"We cruised for 16 days, on 270 gallons of fuel," Thornbrough said. "We probably covered about 600 miles. We wouldn't trade that boat for anything."
James B. Foley, a dentist from Sarasota, has had his MJM34 for 21/2 years. The father of two small children, he takes his boat everywhere. "I've already put 700 hours on the engine," Foley said. "It is light enough that I can store it in my backyard, yet durable enough that it will go through anything."