I have conducted at least 200 sea trials in the past 18 years while writing for Yachting and in my leisure hours logged more time fishing in foul weather than I care to remember. Just the same, when I tell you that a recent day spent fishing aboard the new Bertram 630 was epic, you might accuse me of yarning. To prove otherwise, I invite you to look at exhibit A, the photograph on the previous page by Scott Pearson. That is a 90,672-pound boat traveling at more than 20 knots in large seas and high winds.
It took less than a minute for my family to commit when asked to spend Thanksgiving aboard the 630 at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina in Stuart, Florida. We had enjoyed this same holiday exercise aboard Anhinga, my 37-foot Bertram, and in boating, bigger is usually better. After a few days of fishing, I determined this tough, fast sportfisherman is a clear indicator that Bertram has recognized the roots that catapulted the company to success more than four decades ago.
Our first day of fishing was idyllic, with bright, sunny skies, light winds and a modest chop. After four hours of fishing we returned to the dock with nine dolphin. We tidied up the boat in preparation for our photo shoot the next morning and checked the weather report. It was hard to believe the forecast: 20- to 25-knot winds, 10- to 12-foot seas, with wind and seas increasing later in the day. An eternal optimist, I hoped the prediction was askew. Based on experience, I should have known better.
Late that night, the first major cold front of the season swept across Florida. By daylight, the wind was howling, and the temperature had plunged more than 25 degrees. The report we heard as we cast off was gloomy-the only boat to leave the dock had taken a wave over the bow in the inlet and turned back. We met Pearson and the chopper on the Indian River and headed for the inlet.
In addition to my family, José Millan, Bertram's "test pilot," and my fishing pal and Bertram sales master Sean Fenniman were aboard. The tide was pouring out the Saint Lucie inlet and plowing into a steep northerly sea. The wind had overshot the seas and already clocked to the northeast. Heading directly into this mess at 20-plus knots, the 630 punched through the first wave like a freight train-without a thud, a shudder or hesitation.
Once we cleared the jetty, we turned north and engaged the seas head-on. Lightweight structures may be a benefit in terms of speed, but I can tell you that the 630's mass is a significant asset in heavy seas. Again, if you refer to the images, you will note that stout structures running at speed in heavy seas do so with significant inertia, moving mountains of water.
While trim angles of 3 to 4 degrees may be optimum in the test tank, 4 to 5 degrees and the option to apply tab is the way to go offshore. I found that the 630 trims naturally in this sweet spot. Turning south and running down-sea, we were able to increase speed safely. We managed the same running comfortably in a beam sea. Even in these challenging conditions she remained focused on where she was pointed.
Unfamiliar with my wife's passion for fishing, Millan assumed we would head back to the barn after the running shots. Nelia, however, was ready to fish. The 630's solid feel and predictable motion reminded her a bit of Anhinga's in miserable seas. The difference, of course, is that the 630 is twice the size and the sea state twice as miserable. When we pulled the lines in two hours later, the seas had built to 12 to 15 feet, and 30-knot gusts were atomizing the wave tops. Needless to say, we were all impressed with the boat and the weather.
Fortunately, we had collected sea-trial data the day before. While significant mass is difficult to stop, it requires a good bit of horsepower to get going. The 630 has plenty. Given full throttle, the 2,000 hp MTU 16V2000s produced a maximum speed of 40.4 knots in 40 seconds. This was accomplished with an almost full load of fuel, a massive PipeWelders tower and all our fishing gear aboard. At speed, the 630 handles like a sports car, so it's easy to forget her size. Pulling her back to 2100 rpm yielded a 36.4-knot cruising speed, and the MTU electronics indicated a 160-gallon-per-hour fuel burn.
At trolling speeds, the 630 provides a stable platform and is surprisingly agile for her size. I would tell you exactly how she felt dragging bait and backing down, but I was unable to pry the wheel out of Nelia's hands. Considering we had to beg her to head in for dinner, I am comfortable offering my approval.
The MTU 16V2000s are massive engines; just the same, the 630's machinery space accommodates them comfortably with standing headroom. There are a variety of engine options. While I like the MTUs, the 1,570 hp Caterpillars would be an interesting choice for those who are more conservative. Bertram estimates the 630 will hit a cruising speed of 33 knots and a top speed of 36 knots with these engines.
The 630's full-shouldered beam of 18 feet, 1 inch is generous even by Bertram standards. The Bertram 60's beam, for instance, is 16 feet, 11 inches. After living aboard the 630 for four days, I would change little. Her cockpit is well organized, with a bulkhead console that includes a bait-prep center, freezer and live well that kept our bait swimming for days. There is one fishbox in the transom and another under the sole, plumbed with an ice machine. Dockside connections are hidden under the coaming, and a bulkhead locker is good for stowing tackle or deck gear.
I had never been sold on bridge staircases, but I am now. The 630's offers comfort dockside and security at sea. The tournament-style helm has a pop-up dash with enough room for an electronics store. The seating area forward of the helm is larger than most and has rod stowage, a refrigerated drink box and a sink. A seat on the after bridge corner is designed to accommodate a tournament observer.
Bertram offers the 630 with a three- and four-stateroom layout. There is also a choice of under-counter or upright refrigeration in the galley. Your choice of arrangement depends on your needs, but all are well conceived. I prefer hull number one's three-stateroom, three-head arrangement, which provides more real estate in the VIP head and the master stateroom and head. I liked the under-counter refrigeration in the galley, though I would pass on the dishwasher in favor of more stowage space. I would also find a spot for a trash compactor. The joinery is the handcrafted cherry common to the line and is available with a high-gloss or satin finish.
After spending time aboard the 630, Bertram's president, Joe Bubenzer, guided me on a tour of the production line where she was built. I shared the details of our sea trial, and he seemed pleased.
"Bertram weather", he said, smiling. Bubenzer understands that Bertram is more than just a boat.
Dick Bertram built his brand around designs that could operate safely in undesirable conditions. Call it legend if you like, but over the years, "Bertram weather is the phrase owners typically utter with relief when skies are dark and they've returned safely to the dock. In my view, the 630 has earned the Bertram name.
Contact: Bertram Yacht, (305) 633-8011; www.bertram.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877