On Board the Bertram 54 Convertible

The Bertram 54 Convertible charts a refreshingly new, yet familiar course for this longtime builder.

The cresting wave charged at us like a Pamplona bull locked in on a red scarf. This swell looked four to five feet tall from the flybridge view of the Bertram 54 Convertible, and if water had personality, I’d have called it angry.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
At the helm was Robert Ullberg, a noted designer of hard-core sport-fishing boats for respected custom builders such as Bayliss Boatworks, Garlington Landeweer, Willis Marine and Lyman-Morse. He had recently joined the Bertram staff to help refine the 54, as well as to develop several new hard-core fish boats for the long-standing brand.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
Ullberg casually pulled down his sunglasses, offered up a Cheshire-cat grin and pointed the 54’s bow into the building seas. This game of chicken didn’t end well for the wave, which was dispatched with reckless abandon as 86,201 pounds of hurtling boat turned it into vapor.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
The scene reminded me that, while the 54 was first developed as a hybrid cruising and fishing platform, Bertram has returned to its roots in revamping the design. I don’t wholeheartedly recommend running any boat into big seas at high speed, but this rugged sea trial made a statement: Bertram, which came under new ownership last year, is keenly refocused on creating high-end, hard-core sport-fishermen.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
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I will always have a special affection for that boat, but I think Bertram may have new potential for long-term success with this 54 Convertible. She’s a vessel that offers speed when you want it. She is powerfully broad-­shouldered and can slap an unruly sea back without a second thought. Her layout is super fishing-friendly, and the fit and finish and accommodation spaces are first-rate. If this 54 is an indicator of the heading that this builder has set, then the destination it’s aiming for should be very cool indeed. Bertram; 954-462-5527 TEST CONDITIONS: Speeds were measured by GPS off Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in four- to six-foot seas and 20-knot winds with higher gusts, with 75 percent fuel, 100 percent water and six persons aboard. Fuel consumption was measured with the Caterpillar electronic engine-monitoring system. Sound levels were measured at the flybridge. LOA: 57’3” BEAM: 18’2” DRAFT: 4’10” DISPL.: 86,201 lb. FUEL: 1,525 gal. WATER: 225 gal. DEADRISE: 14 degrees ENGINES (tested): 2 x Caterpillar 1,700 hp diesels BASE PRICE: $2,685,014Courtesy Bertram Yachts
When pushed to wide-open throttle (2,350 rpm), this vessel’s optional 1,700 hp Caterpillar C32A diesels helped propel her across the menacing sea at almost 40 knots. According to Bertram’s own sea trial data, in calmer seas the 54 is capable of an average top hop of 42 knots and a 2,100 rpm cruise of about 37 knots. That’s fast.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
Her handling was as impressive as her speed. During my wheel time, I noted about a three-boat-length turn in the swells with a real-time reaction from the rudders and only a moderate inboard heel. Ullberg told me that the 54 was recently fitted with newly shaped rudders, but the builder is holding information on their dynamic design close to its vest.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
I found the optional teak helm seat quite comfortable while navigating the boat through the chop, and the optional 15-inch Garmin multifunction display was also easily viewable from this position.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
In addition to that ride, courtesy of a modified-V hull form, the 54 is built with a solid, hand-laid fiberglass bottom. Her hull sides are vacuum bagged and Divinycell cored to add strength with reduced weight. In short, the 54 was born to chase pelagics in the deep on the rough days. And she’s well equipped for the task too.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
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It starts with her 160-square-foot cockpit. Within its sole are two macerator-equipped fish boxes capable of holding several bigeyes. I’m 5-foot-7, about 175 pounds, and I could have easily climbed into them for a nap in between bites. I might even have been able to turn the 90-gallon, in-transom livewell into a makeshift whirlpool tub, although I would suggest keeping it ready for lively goggle-eyes and pilchards when the sailfish bite turns on.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
For dead-bait aficionados, there is room for a tournament’s worth of ballyhoo, mullet and mackerel under the comfy portside cockpit mezzanine seating. Rounding out this vessel’s tournament-ready arsenal are the optional PipeWelders outriggers, a Pompanette teak rocket launcher with six rod holders, electric teaser reels and three bait-attracting underwater LED lights. Seeing how my test 54 was outfitted for blue-water angling, I would’ve happily suggested to Ullberg that we test her fishability if a strong northerly had encouraged the sailfish to show up.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
This sport-fisherman’s aggressive, muscular profile, angling amenities and powerful performance in sloppy seas illustrated the link between Bertram’s legendary piscatorial past and its new fishing future, but so did her interior layout.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
The 54’s salon was originally designed with a galley aft and a pass-through window to the cockpit, a glass window wrapping around the front of the house and a dinette forward — a layout that is still available for owners. But my vessel had a more traditional, fishing-friendly arrangement. It included a fiberglass-protected house, a U-shaped galley-up set forward and to starboard where a settee used to be, and an L-shaped settee where the aft galley once stood. In either version, the dinette table and seating is forward and to port.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
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Neutral tones dominate in the 54’s interior. The cream-tone carpet and headliner, and the beige settee, blend with the yacht’s standard Amtico sole to offer a welcoming respite from a long day on the troll. Your crew won’t go hungry while taking their break either, because the galley features drawer-style Sub-Zero refrigerators and freezers. In addition, a four-burner electric cooktop makes preparing that lunch of blackened mahimahi a breeze.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
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Her accommodations are up to a tournament team’s requirements with a three-stateroom, two-head configuration accessed via centerline companionway. There is a forepeak VIP with step-up queen-size berth and a twin crew space with offset bunks abaft and to port. Between these two spaces is a head that can be accessed from either the companionway or the VIP. The athwartship master also sports a queen-size berth and has an en suite head. One very cool feature of the master is that the TV is set into the bulkhead. Why? Because when it’s not on, it’s a mirror. (This is really a must-see-to-appreciate setup that has trickled down from megayachts.) If you have even more crew, a salon sleeper sofa is optional.Courtesy Bertram Yachts
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When I was growing up on the south shore of Long Island, New York, a Bertram 31 was the blue-water boat to aspire to own. I couldn’t look out to the channel in Freeport, New York, without seeing one pass by. Every time a 31 came into view, I fell in love with her lines, and her reputation for running in a seaway would often come up in dock talk.Courtesy Bertram Yachts