When I was starting out in yacht design a seasoned boatbuilder offered me a bit of advice. "Laddy," he said, "if you build a boat the same way twice you haven't learned a damn thing." Over the years I have learned that this fellow was absolutely right: Most of the truly great boats that I have had the pleasure of testing evolved from really good boats that had come before. For the latest example, I offer the 2005 Bertram 450.
To appreciate the refinements of the new 450 it is important to understand her bloodline. The 450's DNA can be traced to the mid-1980s when Bertram created a fleet of extremely successful new designs from 37 to 60 feet. Bertram's foundation was built on the so-called deep-V that it had helped pioneer. Just the same, as its products grew in length Bertram engineers realized that the constant section, deep deadrise (20 degrees or more) designs that worked well on the racecourse were not necessarily the best choice for larger convertibles.
The Bertram 43 reflected this new thinking and featured a relatively fine entry, a shallow keel and a transom deadrise of 18 degrees. I was impressed with the 43 during a sea trial I did in the early 1990s. Equipped with a pair of 550 hp Detroit Diesel 6V92TAs she could cruise at 25 knots and had a maximum speed of 28 knots. She was, however, beamy for her length (14 feet, 11 inches) and while not a fault, this provided Bertram an opportunity when it decided to update the line.
The 43's hull form would be used as the platform for a new model, the 450, originally introduced after the Ferretti Group's purchase of the builder in 1998. Along with updated styling and a new interior layout, the boat grew in length. Adding a bit of length to a planing hull without adding significant weight will often improve performance. Just to be sure, Bertram added a bit of horsepower as well. During a sea trial I did of the 450 in 2000, she was fitted with a pair of 660 hp Caterpillars. She could cruise easily at more than 27 knots and had a maximum speed of 30 knots.
The 450 was popular. Yet Bertram sensed more potential and went back to the drawing board last year. The result is what I believe to be one of the most refined Bertram products in years. The 450's evolution has always kept her just ahead of the market in terms of performance and this remains the case. I tested hull number one of the new 450 in Miami on a rainy, windy day in March. It was the sort of day most boats stay at the dock-the sort of day Bertrams have always weathered well!
With a pair of 800 hp MANs she is, as they say in Italian, "forte." Heading into the confused seas of the inlet most would have slowed down-we sped up. The 450 handled it gracefully. In addition to her favorable beam/length ratio, the added weight of the MANs compared to lesser engine packages seems a benefit. She has the stout feel of a boat her size (weighing 46,305 pounds) and the dry, comfortable ride I have come to expect from contemporary Bertram designs. Heading into the sea, running down sea or cutting a quartering sea did not alter her predictable behavior-she is a pleasure to command.
For the sake of accuracy, we chose to perform our speed runs in the calmer water of Biscayne Bay. The 450 responded quickly to the throttle and reached a maximum speed of 32.8 knots in less than 20 seconds. With the throttle set at 2100 rpm I recorded a speed of 29 knots. For a boat of her size and speed, every extra knot is dear and very tangible. While the 450 is offered with lesser horsepower as standard, I would definitely opt for the MANs. She wears them well.
For 2005 the 450's superstructure tooling remains essentially unchanged. However, Bertram has fiddled a bit with her appearance and the result is very pleasing. To maximize interior volume the 450's house is biased further forward than some, but her new clean (stripe-free) look seems to add balance. The contrast between her Bahama Blue hull and Bertram White superstructure draws the eye along the pleasant sweep of her sheerline. Molded-in transom corner exhausts and her stylish hullside air intakes add subtle accent.
Her 120-square-foot cockpit is laid out with an in-sole fishbox, a bait-prep center, a freezer and a live well. A molded-in receiver for a Glendinning Cablemaster makes it a worthwhile option. The flybridge has helm and companion seating and a fiberglass tournament-style helm pod. While our test boat was fitted with standard binnacle-style single-lever controls, custom side-mount controls can be fitted and seem appropriate. A pop-up electronics console is also available and there is a U-shaped seating area forward where a fiberglass table can be fitted.
While the 450 of my sea trial in 2000 had an all-new two-stateroom arrangement and an upgraded interior fit and finish, the layout was frankly not one of my favorites. Bowing to European influence, upper and lower berths were abandoned in favor of two single berths, which were tucked under a portion of the saloon. The raised portion of the saloon was originally arranged as a bar area and later as a small dinette area. While the design was indeed clever, it was a bit out of step with what Americans expected in a convertible.
With volumes of feedback from dealers and customers, Bertram returned to the drawing board and in my view achieved something of a coup. Not only did they develop a layout that will please the American market, they managed to add a stateroom. What's more, the three-stateroom 450 seems to have more space than the original two-stateroom design. Satin and high-gloss finished cherry interiors are offered together with a variety of interior décor packages.
The saloon offers conventional convertible fare with an L-shaped settee, an open galley area and a L-shaped dinette. There is under-counter refrigeration and a separate freezer above the dinette area. A starboard stateroom has two single berths and private access to a head. A portside stateroom has upper and lower berths and is home to a combo washer/dryer that is hidden in the cabinetwork. The forward stateroom has a queen island berth and a private head.
The 450 is a product of the same Miami facility where the original 43 was built. Her construction and systems design reflect Bertram's long history of innovation as well as the fresh input that was offered when the company joined the Ferretti Group. As is the case with the arrangement, the meshing of these two worlds has clicked on the 450. Her hull and superstructure are laminated with stitched multidirectional reinforcements. The bottom is a solid laminate supported by a network of fiberglass stringers and web frames. The hull topsides are stiffened with Divinycell. Foam coring is also used to stiffen the bulkheads, the superstructure and the decks. The 450's gelcoat finish is near perfect, a reflection of the Ferretti Group's investment in high-quality tooling.
The machinery space is divided and access is from the cockpit. The engines reside more or less alone, which simplifies access. Auxiliary systems, including the air-conditioning and a generator, are immediately aft. Fuel is carried in a single fiberglass tank positioned forward in the engineroom, relatively close to the longitudinal center of buoyancy. This reduces the effect of varying fuel loads on trim and the need to balance with fuel. Bertram has thoughtfully provided machinery removal hatches over both compartments. Systems appear hearty in traditional Bertram fashion and the high-gloss finish in the machinery compartment(s) and bilges is in keeping with competitive practice in the convertible market.
The 450's base price with the 700 hp Caterpillar engine package is $932,500. Our MAN-equipped test boat with electronics, a half-tower and the most desirable options totaled around $1,000,000-a fair price for a boat with the 450's performance and pedigree. Contact: Bertram Yacht, (305) 633-8011; www.bertram.com.