On Sunday, July 12, let’s all plan to go boating.

Bertram Yachts' 50th Anniversary Party

Rain Check?

Bertram Yachts' 50th Anniversary Was One Helluva Party, Despite The Weather!

The human pinball hits Miami! That’s what I was feeling like when I picked up a rental car at the airport to drive to Miami’s Marriott Biscayne this past April. I was coming off a couple of long, hard-travelin’ weeks, during which I’d racked up a few thousand frequent-flyer miles, rattled through a train ticket, rented a sprinkling of automobiles, tested some boats, and slept in a succession of motley hotel rooms. But now things were lookin’ up, what with Bertram Yachts’ 50th anniversary bash on the docket for the evening.

Heck! I figured all I’d have to do to participate was glad-hand some folks at Sea Isle Marina behind the hotel (where a bunch of Bertram owners were docking their boats) and then head for the appropriate ballroom, find a chair, kick back, and nod through a speech or two. With any luck, there’d even be food, like, for example, those lovely little crab-stuffed mushrooms that so often grace waterside f’tes these days.

“Yum,” I reminisced to myself as a big ol’ raindrop whopped the windshield, presaging a veritable April deluge. Uh-oh! Would this put the kibosh on the meet-and-greet behind the hotel, the anniversary’s kickoff event? I drove on, envisioning storm-tossed desolation, complete with tattered Bertram flags, slippery docks, and beleaguered Bertram owners, fans, and employees (former and current), scurrying for cover. Dang!

So much for dark imaginings. As I approached the sign-up tent, two old friends yelled with singin’-in-the-rain gusto, “Hey BillÖBill Pike.” I’d first met Pierre and Anita Pierce at the 1988 Bertram-Hatteras Shootout, a glamorous affair, especially to a young merchant seaman only recently converted to marine journalism. In a blue shirt with Moppie (the name given to all Bertram’s company boats over the years) embroidered over the pocket, one-time Bertram company captain Pierre raised a glass to the recalcitrant elements and grinned indomitably.

But the fun had only begun. Within minutes I felt like I’d been flat-out assimilated into a community of boat owners so super-enthusiastic they made me forget I was wandering around getting wet. For example, having cruised his 25-year-old 33 Bertram Sportfish down from Annapolis for the event, with son Max and friend Dave Decker as crew, Robert Shapiro genially and spontaneously offered: “Come with us for the Bimini start in the morning, Bill. Come on!”

Gerardo Santiago, a Puerto Rican dentist from Naples, Florida, was equally stoked. He virtually begged me to tour his decades-old Bertram 31 Zero Cavity, newly painted, refurbished, and repowered with Yanmars ‡ la Florida’s “Mr. Yanmar,” Richard Mastry of Mastry Engine Center. “Listen, I’m tellin’ ya,” he proclaimed to Mastry and I while paternally patting his dashboard, “In Puerto Rico, back in the day, Bertram was the ruler of the seas!”

Then there were the Scholls, Tom and Cathy. After maintaining a Bertram 50 Convertible for 18 years in the Keys, they’d recently upgraded to a big, bodacious 570, with a cockpit seemingly custom made for their two highly acrobatic English Labs. “One more time,” I laughed as the dogs jumped for biscuits beside the fighting chair.

And the rain? Yeah well, it eventually morphed into an afterthought I guess, along with all my pent-up human-pinball agitations. But I was a tad tired from my travels, so I hit the trail around midnight, with long-time Bertram test-boat driver Sammy James’ story about doing 278.43 mph in a top-secret “government boat” still ringing in my ears. James and the rest of the cast of thousands kept right on keepin’ on, however. And hey! Nary a rain check amongst ’em!