By Peter A. Janssen
It looks like Bertram has hit a home run with renderings of a beautiful new 50 Express, scheduled to be launched next spring. The 50, the company’s first express in many years, comes as Bertram is enjoying a remarkable turnaround under new leadership and a new plant. Indeed, the 50 will come on the heels of the successful launch of a new 61 in 2017 and the introduction of a new 35, meant to be a modern interpretation of the iconic Bertram 31, in 2016.
Bertram once was one of the most celebrated brands in offshore boating. Dick Bertram built the first fiberglass Bertram, a 31 named Moppie, in December, 1960, in Miami, duplicating the then-radical deep-V hull that powered his winning boat in that year’s Miami-Nassau race. The 31, designed by Ray Hunt, became one of the most famed boat models of all time. It stopped production in 1983, but boat lovers still renovate them and keep them for cruising and fishing.
Bertram built strong, solid and seaworthy boats for many years. But after several changes of ownership, the company fell on hard times in the 1990s. It shut down briefly and was bought by an Italian conglomerate. After more troubles, it was bought by the Ferretti Group in 1997. In 2112, Ferretti shut down the Miami factory and moved production to Merritt Island, Florida, but then shut that down in 2014.
In 2015, Beniamino Gavio, an Italian entrepreneur and owner of Baglietto, bought the company from Ferretti and vowed to return it to its roots. “I’m not going to make an Italian yacht,” he said at the time. “I’m going to make an American boat.” Gavio himself had bought a Bertram 54 in 1999 because he loved to fish. When he wanted a larger boat he bought a Viking 65 because he didn’t like what Ferretti had done with Bertram.
Gavio’s plan was to reintroduce the iconic Bertram 31, and he hired Michael Peters to design it. By the time they were through, the boat had grown to 35 feet. He didn’t have any place to build it, so he hired Lyman-Morse in Thomaston, Maine, to build the prototype. Gavio then took over the old Lazzara factory in Tampa to build Bertrams, and in May, 2016, he hired Peter Truslow, the CEO of EdgeWater (and one of the smartest and nicest guys in the business; we were colleagues for many years at Motor Boating & Sailing) as the new CEO of Bertram. They introduced the Bertram 35 at the Newport show that September, and it was an instant success.
Now they want to follow with the 50 Express. On the main deck, the helm is centered and flanked by co-captains seats on each side. An L-shaped settee is on the port side with a large teak table; a three-person settee is to starboard. Below, the master is forward with a raised, walkaround berth and an en suite head and shower. The guest stateroom is on port side, also with a head and shower (this head serves as the guest head). The galley is aft on the port side; a U-shaped settee with dining table is to starboard.
The new 50 Express is powered by twin 1,150-hp CATS, so it should move. And with Bertram’s return to performance, it should be able to run anywhere.
Specs.: LOA: 51’6”; Beam: 17’5”; Draft: 4’2”; Disp.: 62,000 lbs.; Fuel: 1,236 gals.; Water: 120 gals.; Power: 2×1,150-hp CAT C18 diesels.