When Italian Norberto Ferretti purchased Bertram Yacht in 1998, there was at least one clear attraction the all-American nameplate held for one of Europe's most respected yacht builders. The hallmark of Ferretti's empire is performance, the same foundation on which Bertram was built. Lee Dana, a retired 30-year veteran of Bertram engineering, summed it up by saying, "In heavy seas, a Ferretti feels more like Bertram than a Bertram."
Dana's comments crossed my mind as I tested Bertram's 450 Convertible, the second new model Ferretti has introduced since taking charge of the Miami, Florida-based builder. Like those on the 510 Convertible ("New Attitude," July 2000), the 450's exterior lines and interior layout represent a change in direction. However, the core of her being-her hull form-is all Bertram.
Bertram and Ferretti engineers started with a proven winner when they extended the hull lines of the Bertram 43 Convertible to create the 450. Introduced in 1988, the 43 proved a solid performer, capable of a 25-knot cruising speed and a 28-knot top speed with a pair of 550 hp Detroit Diesel 6V92TAs. Extending the hull to a beam of 14 feet, 11 inches improved performance by adding a bit more lift aft but no significant weight. With 110 hp more per side than the 43, the 450 has a top speed of 30 knots and a cruising speed of 27 knots, according to our sea trial data.
Ferretti engineers centralized the 450's major consumable weight (fuel) forward in the machinery space. By locating fuel closer to the center of buoyancy, its burn-off has less effect on longitudinal trim. This allowed designers to fine-tune the 450's running trim (about 4 degrees) at the factory. While I agree with this logic, I still like the option of fiddling with trim that a split-tank (fore and aft) arrangement allows.
Cockpit access to the 450's machinery space is built into the bait prep center. The engines are segregated, with the 10kW generator and auxiliary systems in a connected compartment aft, beneath the cockpit. This is a good arrangement that feels uncluttered and makes systems more accessible. It is also a significant improvement compared with most 43s, in which the generator withered away in the dank lazarette.
Hatches over the 450's auxiliary machinery and main engines are provided in case of major problems. Many builders have foolishly done away with this feature. Fit and finish in the bilge areas are good, and systems and hardware are hearty, in the Bertram tradition.
The 450's hull and superstructure are built in female tooling and assembled in the same facility where Bertram's legendary 31-footer was produced during the 1960s and '70s. Seat-of-the-pants fiberglass engineering, common in those pioneering days, is gone. Ferretti and Bertram embraced new technologies and materials early in the game, so the melding of the companies in terms of engineering came naturally. Stitched multi-directional fiberglass reinforcements and polyester resin are used in the hull and superstructure, and closed-cell foam coring is used in the topsides, superstructure and decks. The use of foam is an improvement over the balsa coring used at Bertram in the past, as balsa will rot if exposed to water.
Also good are the foam-cored fiberglass bulkheads now used instead of plywood for the same reason. A longitudinal fiberglass stringer system supports the bottom and serves as a foundation for the engines. A single 618-gallon fuel tank is built of fiberglass with fire-retardant resin.
While Bertram has used fiberglass interior liners in the past, Ferretti made a significant investment in their use in the 450. The entire belowdecks area is defined this way, making the structure stiffer and simplifying construction. In European fashion, cabinetwork is built and finished off-site by a subcontractor.
The most significant change in Bertram's product since Ferretti's acquisition is the most dramatic. Italians take pride in their eye for styling and interior design, and the 450 heralds a new look for Bertram that is intended to have international appeal.
Zuccon International, the same firm responsible for Ferretti's line of motoryachts, penned the 450's sweeping exterior lines and unique interior arrangement. She is identifiable as a Bertram, but she has a European flavor different from Bertrams of the past. This was a risky step, as Bertram's core market, sport fishermen, are notoriously conservative in their tastes. That said, the 450's styling is appealing and her exterior arrangement incorporates features serious fishermen will appreciate.
The cockpit has a molded-in prep center with a sink, a cutting board and tackle drawers. A freezer and live well can be added. Hatches over the stowage/fishboxes beneath the cockpit sole have positive locks, and reinforcement for a fighting chair is provided.
The flying bridge is laid out with helm and companion seating that allow an excellent cockpit view. The helm console has space for a typical collection of electronics and includes a dedicated 12/24-volt DC sub-panel. A U-shape lounge is forward, with liferaft stowage beneath.
Interior volume benefits from the 450's deckhouse, which is longer than those on recent Bertrams. The saloon includes an L-shape settee, an entertainment center and an L-shape dinette that seats two comfortably. A unique raised section of the saloon sole to starboard creates headroom in the guest stateroom below and serves as a bar area or an optional interior helm. The mid-level galley, to port, has under-counter refrigeration, a cooktop, a microwave and a sink.
Accommodations forward include a guest stateroom with side-by-side berths and a private head with second-door access. The master stateroom, forward, has an island berth and a private head. A locker in the passageway accommodates a washer-and-dryer unit.
High-gloss cherry wood interior finish can be accented with a variety of décor packages. Base price with Caterpillar power, generator and chilled-water air conditioning is $824,945.
Contact: Bertram Yacht, (305) 633-8011; fax (305) 635-1388; www.bertramfactory.com.