Bertram 360 Express

Bertram's comfortable 360 Express worships the light.

It's been a few years since Bertram devoted its attention to anything other than muscular convertible sportboats. But ever since 1998 when the Italian yacht-building powerhouse Ferretti Group purchased Bertram, a design with a broader focus seemed a given. Now the Bertram 360 Express has arrived.

Bertram was something of a pioneer in open cockpit, express-style designs. The 1960's Bahia Mar was based on the 31-foot race-bred hull that launched the company. The formidable 38 Special in the '80s was followed by a series of express style "Moppies in the '90s.

For those familiar with Bertram's current lineup, the 360 Express will seem a comfortable and satisfying fit. As with her larger sisters, her styling and interior arrangement are the work of Italian design firm Zuccon International. Her soft, shapely foredeck and long, slender side windows complement the gentle sweep of her sheerline. The sensible pitch of her windshield offers contrast and balance.

The 360 Express is distinguished from her sportboat sister (the 360 Open) by a fiberglass hardtop and an exterior layout geared more to cruising and sun worship. Her cockpit has aft-facing seating in place of a bait preparation center and livewell. A transom bench seat is designed to fold up out of the way into the transom coaming, and a cockpit sun platform and a swim platform are optional.

The raised bridge has a wet bar with a sink, a refrigerator (or icemaker) and a spot for a built-in grill. Flip-back companion seating can be configured to form a dinette and the bench seat opposite the helm can be raised with a push of a button for a view forward. The tilt-back helm console is designed to accommodate two large electronics displays as well as engine instrumentation. An electrically controlled windshield vent keeps the air fresh. In addition to a hatch in the sole, the entire bridge deck can be raised with a push of a button for complete access to the machinery space for easy maintenance.

Below, the cabin is finished in cherry and accented with a faux teak and holly sole. A table and L-shaped settee can be configured to form a double berth and a 20-inch flat-screen TV is fixed to the bulkhead. The galley has a stainless steel sink, a microwave oven and dual voltage refrigeration. The head has a vanity and a separate stall shower. A queen-size berth forward can be segregated from the cabin by closing bi-fold doors.

Our test boat was fitted with the 460 hp C7 Caterpillars and ZF reverse-angle gears. I recorded a max speed of 33.7 knots at 2900 rpm, 100 turns above Cat's rating. I suspect that once the 360 is loaded with fuel and gear she'll be spot-on. She responded quickly to throttle and reached top rpm in 15 seconds without a hint of smoke. With slippery-smooth electronic controls and power-assist steering, she handles like a sports car.

The 360 Express' finish and outfitting suggest that she is built to the large yacht standard that Bertram is most familiar with. Together with her crisp performance, this salty pedigree sets her apart from many traditional players in the express market.

Contact: Bertram Yacht, (305) 633-8011;