Identifying trends in the yachting world requires an experienced eye, however, these days a landsman with a view of the waterway would surmise that "bigger is better." It was with this mantra in mind that Bertram Yachts introduced the 700 Open late last year. Given this boat's warm reception, the builder wasted no time in crafting an enclosed bridge variant. I spent a day aboard both recently to take measure of Bertram's new flagships.
In recent years the convertible equation has been biased toward comfort and capability. There was a time when a lot less was needed for a shot at a sailfish or a week's cruise in the Bahamas. Today convertible owners are venturing farther and spending more time away from the dock. Larger convertible designs like the 700 are the solution. An open bridge's unobstructed field of view typically appeals to serious fishermen while cruisers fancy enclosed bridges. Although both flavors of the 700 are capable of cruising and fishing, it is simply a matter of priorities and personal taste.
Bertram fans know that the builder has wandered these waters before with a 72-footer introduced in the 1990s. The boat's success was complicated by a fickle market and an overly ambitious embrace of technology. At the time, it was the builder's 54 and 60 that customers longed for and these two boats remained industry standards for years. By the time Ferretti Group acquired Bertram in 1999, the market was ready to move up and Ferretti had the experience in designing and building large fiberglass yachts. Instead of taking big steps, Bertram kept pace with its customers as they moved up through a fresh new line of boats capped by a 67-footer introduced in 2000. The 700 is a product of this strategic evolution.
Like all late-model Bertrams, the 700's exterior profile is the work of Italian design firm Zuccon International. The look is a step beyond a traditional tournament boat theme and the sweeping lines that define her one-piece house and bridge have become the trademark of the "new Bertram." Her sheer break is softly curved, not angular like most of her sisters. She is also the first Bertram to feature hull-side windows similar in form to the sort that proliferate in motor yacht design. They are standard but not required on the 700 Enclosed. While the 700 may not be your father's Bertram, her design has been sculpted with respect for what has come before. Fans of Bertram convertibles turned out by the builder in the 1980s should not forget that at the time these designs pushed the envelope with similar verve.
The helm-forward arrangement of the 700 Enclosed offers an excellent line of sight across the bow. For those like me who have weathered an open bridge for years, the environment is almost surreal, as the connection with the bite of salt, sea and sun are severed. Overhead hatches are provided should one wish to reconnect with nature. The layout includes helm and companion seating and an L-shape lounge. A wet bar is fitted with a sink and a refrigerator. A swing door leads aft to a teak-sole balcony with observation seating and a control station. From this position the skipper can monitor the activity in the cockpit and astern while backing down on a fish or wiggling into a slip. Those serious about angling will want to install redundant electronics for keeping an eye on fish below and the traffic ahead.
The mezzanine just above the cockpit offers seating clear of the working space below. A freezer, a livewell, and storage are tucked beneath lift-up sections of the mezzanine sole. The steps raise, allowing access to the engineroom. The cockpit is fitted with an insole fish box that can be plumbed with an ice machine. A transom fish box is integrated into the coaming. Teak covering boards are offered with fishermen in mind and a swim platform is available for those who cruise or fish casually.
By clever design both versions of the 700 share a bridge staircase that is integral with the deckhouse tooling. While the Open's staircase lands outside on the mezzanine instead of in the saloon, the interior arrangements of both boats are virtually identical. Plan A features the European style built-in look that Bertram has employed throughout its line in recent years. A partially segregated galley has upright as well as drawer-style refrigeration. A full-service bar has a sink and refrigerator. Plan B will likely appeal to those with more traditional tastes in convertible design. The open arrangement features drawer-style refrigeration in the galley and a large open sofa layout in the saloon. The galley and adjacent dinette area are a step up from the saloon in both layouts.
Belowdecks the four-stateroom, four-head arrangement has a full-beam master stateroom and master head with a stall shower. It is in the master that the topsides windows provide light and a rather unique vantage point at speed as the sea rushes by. A stateroom to port, well suited for crew or kids, has upper and lower berths. A starboard stateroom has two single berths and the forward stateroom has an island queen berth. A variety of interior wood and finish options are available. The 700 Enclosed that I inspected was finished in high-gloss mahogany while the 700 Open featured satin finished mahogany. Several décor packages are offered, as are the services of interior designer Marty A. Lowe.
The high-gloss finish and thoughtful layout of the 700's engineroom reflects Bertram's awareness of its competitors in the custom convertible market. Even with her hearty dose of horsepower, there is room to move about the engines, although access to the two generators aft is a bit tight with the optional ARG (anti-roll gyros) installed. There are soft patches in the engineroom overhead and cockpit for machinery removal-a feature too many builders seem to feel is no longer important. Fuel is carried in a single fiberglass tank that serves as a sound buffer between the engineroom and accommodations. This location is also near the center of buoyancy, so varying fuel loads have little effect on longitudinal trim.
The 700's hull is stoutly built with stitched fiberglass reinforcements. Her bottom is solid and her topsides and areas of the superstructure and decks are cored with closed-cell foam. The bottom is supported by a longitudinal stringer system and foam-cored fiberglass web frames and bulkheads. Hull colors are available in gelcoat and the excellent fit and finish suggests a healthy investment in quality tooling.
The 700 is full-shouldered with a beam just under 19 feet and a displacement of 116,404 pounds. Her 2,200-hp, MTU diesels delivered impressive performance and they would be my choice over the standard 1,825-hp MTU package. I ran the 700 Open with a full tower and a light load of fuel. I ran the 700 Enclosed topped off with fuel. Coincidently, both achieved exactly 38.8 knots (averaged in two directions). Lazing along at 2100 rpm both managed just over 33 knots. The 700 shares the same hull form as the Bertram 670, which was designed in Italy by Ferretti. Stretching a planing boat's after sections adds to the running and lifting surface, often improving efficiency. The 700 rose evenly and water broke free of her transom at about 21 knots. Leaning hard on the throttles I noted a light puff of smoke and then smooth, clean acceleration.
Sound levels on the 700 Open at maximum turns are in line with other power-packed convertibles in this class. I recorded just 74 decibels at 2100 rpm on the 700 Enclosed's bridge with the overhead hatches open-nice! There was a bit of vibration on the 700 Open, which Bertram has sorted out with a propeller change. Both models exhibited similar performance, banking predictably inboard in hard turns made in little more than two boat lengths. The 700 has a comfortable natural motion at trolling speed in a beam sea. The optional ARG system dampens this motion but adds $200,000 to the bottom line-enough for a lifetime's supply of sour-stomach remedies. I suppose for chronic sufferers it's worth it. We ran comfortably at 22 knots offshore into a breeze of 15-20 knots and short, snotty seas of four to five feet.
Seventy feet may not be as significant a measure as it once was in yachting, however, it is still big in terms of convertibles. Compromise is not uncommon when sculpting a sportfisher with large proportions-it seems little was necessary in the case of the 700. She remains true to her convertible roots and her balance of fishing and comfort features are in keeping with the current standard. Given her generous allotment of power she has the agility and response of a smaller boat. Fitted with a tower, the ARG system and a respectable electronics package, the 700 Open weighs in at $5,027,053. Add $207,665 for the enclosed bridge. If you share the "bigger is better" mantra and are interested in expanding your fishing or cruising horizons, the 700 Bertram is worth a close look.
Contact: Bertram Yacht, 305-633-8011; www.bertram.com.