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Posted by on Jun 1, 2013 in Boats We Love, Powerboating, US | 5 comments

Boats We Love: Bertram 31

It's hard not to stand in awe of a boat that transformed offshore design so many years ago and is still going strong, supported by a legion of devoted owners.

I can’t look at a Bertram 31 without wanting one. In my daydreaming online boat searches I often stop by the listings to pay my respects. It’s one of those rare boats that proves that boat people of all stripes can see eye to eye when everyone’s considering the same good thing — in this case a unique, legendary, capable design, sometimes copied but never equaled.

Bertram 31 brochure photo

The Bertram 31 was produced in several versions, like the flybridge model shown here. But the revolutionary hull form remained the same.

The original was commissioned by Florida yacht broker Dick Bertram, who was a champion racer in both sail and power, and designed by C. Raymond Hunt, a naval architect known for innovative designs in — you guessed it — both sail and power.

Hunt gave that first 31, named Moppie, the sharp entry, forward flare, flat sheer, low freeboard, fast deep-V running surfaces, and pronounced transom deadrise that allowed Bertram and Moppie to chew up the extra-rough Miami-to-Nassau offshore race in 1960. This fast, seakindly, twin-engine racing hull was given some accommodations and put into production the next year as the Bertram 31. It was built for another 24 years after that.

The boat went through a number of design-style variations and technical tweaks – flybridge model, sedan model, open model, etc.  Most of the early versions were supplied with gas engines, but many have since been repowered with diesels, which tend to be tougher and more reliable (although heavier and more expensive) for offshore use.  Today you can find them with Cummins and Yanmar diesels, MerCruiser gas engines – you name it. Prices and conditions also run the gamut, but to me it looks as if pretty much any reasonably maintained Bertram 31 is worth more today than it was when it was new.

The boat is known as a safe, dependable offshore fishing platform. Accommodations are minimal, and on used 31s they’re sometimes pretty gritty, having lived hard lives offshore. But from some points of view, a cockpit that’s good for fishing is also good for lounging in.  If I owned one I’d switch out the fighting chair for a teak table people could sit around, and run from harbor to harbor with nothing more urgent to do than enjoy the scenery. (I really hope Lenny Rudow doesn’t read this blog. This is true heresy.)

There are plenty of Bertram 31 loyalists out there. Visit www.bertram31.com for an introduction. And for a good look at some of the specimens on the market see the Bertram 31 listings on boats.com.

5 Comments

  1. Lenny Rudow, you’d better read this one!

  2. Heresy? You’re being too easy on yourself. Richard Bertram is surely rolling over in his grave. Doug, I may never forgive you for this one. And if I ever see one of these pure-bred predators neutered and reduced to such wine-and-cheese cruising nonsense, I’ll be sure to smear a big, fat goober of chum of that fru-fru table!!!

  3. And maybe some flower arrangements in the rod holders, an indoor-outdoor throw-rug, a pink flamingo, a garden gnome…

  4. Heresy is the correct word Doug. I hear pontoon boats are more suited for sitting around and running from harbor to harbor enjoying the scenery.

  5. This is true, Josh. But it was worth seeing Lenny rise to take the bait. In truth, if I had a Bertram 31 I’d probably keep it in clear water and set it up as a dive/snorkeling boat. No reason I couldn’t have the table, too…