Subscribe to our newsletter

BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Bertram 630 Convertible

Hey Jose, can you get this kite over some?” Josh Brown calls up to Capt. Jose Mullian on the bridge. Down in the cockpit Brown’s eyes are glued to the lone kite flying 100 yards astern. The port engine kicks ahead, the wash bubbles out, and the big boat swings a bit to starboard. “Yeah, that’s it,” I hear Brown whisper to himself. “Fly the other one,” he says to Joe Lambert, our other deck mate.

Both kites are now positioned correctly at oblique angles from the transom. Brown moves around in back of the fighting chair. “We’ll get fish today,” he muses as he catches sight of several birds working a weed line just to the east of our position. “Hey Jose?”

“I see ‘em,” is Mullian’s immediate response. The deep-throated growl from a pair of 2,000-hp MTU diesels beneath the cockpit changes as we slowly slide off a bit and edge closer towards the wheeling and darting birds.

The wind is a steady 10 knots from the northeast, and the ocean is up just enough to make it interesting for the fish but not anywhere near what it would take to upset this boat. Things are calm now, but once the knockdowns come, it’ll get a lot livelier, both in the 160-square-foot cockpit and on the bridge.

We’re aboard Bertram’s 630 Convertible, the company’s latest tournament fishing boat, as she works an area just a bit offshore of Miami’s Government Cut. As this is her maiden angling outing, the pressure is on the crew and I to hook up and land her first fish.

The 630 was conceived by Norberto Ferretti, the driving force behind the Ferretti Group as well as its chairman and president, who acquired Bertram in 1998. His directive to the Bertram design team was to take the 60, a seasoned bluewater battlewagon, and build a larger, faster tournament boat, a boat that, together with the other Bertram convertibles, would create an impressive sportfishing lineup and make the builder even more of a force to be reckoned with on the tourney circuit.

Ferretti wanted outstanding performance, horizon-chasing range, and top-drawer accommodations, but first he had his team look at why the 60 was such an excellent sea boat. “We designed this boat to possess exceptional seakeeping capabilities, as supplied by [the 60’s] long, constant-deadrise running surface, sharp entry, and deep forefoot,” said Mullian. He added that her generous volume forward helps make the 63 handle well in all sea conditions: head, following, and quartering. “By using all that buoyancy forward, the bow pops up and keeps the boat from falling off to either side.”

Ferretti also wanted speed, and as reducing drag is one of the most important factors in getting something to go faster, the designers gave the 630’s running bottom a 14.5-degree deadrise aft as compared to the 17.5 degrees found on the 60. In addition she has a pair of shallow, seven-foot-long prop pockets that lower draft and flatten out the shaft angle, reducing appendage drag. She also features the same sharp, deep-V entry; big, wide chines; and keel as the 60.

“After all the testing I’ve done on this hull, I’m impressed with its performance in calm as well as adverse sea conditions,” Mullian told me. I’d have to wait for another day to check his claim, as test day saw only a calm sea. However, I can report that my 630 displayed outstanding tracking during my time at the wheel as well as excellent handling, especially through a series of 360s at speed, during which I noted a drop of less than 200 rpm, a sign of an efficient hull. As for backing down—well, more on that later.

Mullian also told me that the team computer-analyzed four different hull designs before coming up with the one that combined the fastest speed with the best seakeeping. They obviously chose well, as I noted an average top speed of 47.3 mph and a comfortable cruise speed of more than 40 mph at 2000 rpm with the optional 2,000-hp MTU 16V 2000 M91s. And that range Ferretti wanted? I calculated 536 miles (0.32 mpg) out of 1,849 gallons, including a ten-percent reserve at that 40-mph cruising speed.

Ferretti also had the Bertram team look at improving construction. The bottom is still solid below the waterline, with Klegecell-cored hull sides, deck, and superstructure. But instead of a conventional stringer system, which is molded, then pumped full of foam and secondarily bonded to the hull, Bertram uses a giant casting sculpted out of high-density, 14-pound foam blocks that are encapsulated and laminated to the hull using longitudinals measuring about eight inches wide. In addition, the thwart members that continue up the hull sides to within ten inches of the sheerline are spaced closer together than on the 60, leaving fewer unsupported areas.

The same kind of thought that went into increasing speed and strength was also given to interior comfort. The 630 is offered with a standard three- or optional four-stateroom layout. To provide more room, Bertram designers increased the beam above the waterline at about amidships; traditionally Bertrams have beams that are continuous from amidships to the transom. “On the 630 we kind of ‘pooched’ it out at the center to give the boat a little more room, gunwale to gunwale, in the center of the boat,” Mullian explained.

That’s why the roominess was so noticeable in all three quarters aboard my 630, whether I was in the forepeak, amidships master, or starboard twin-berth quarters. I also noted lots of stowage spaces. There were two full-length cedar closets, two cabinets, and a pair of drawers in the forepeak’s centerline queen berth. I found a three-drawer, two cabinet credenza along with a pair of cedar closets, two night tables, and a free-standing cabinet for the entertainment center in the master. And the twin-berth quarters had a full-size closet and ample drawer space.

There are other places aboard the 630 where roominess is evident. One is the bridge, where the expansive helm offers the skipper a vast array of electronics that disappear into the console at the push of a button. Forward of the helm there’s also a seating area for about eight, with stowage below.

Another place is in the Awlgripped engine room, which is accessed via a door in the forward part of the cockpit. I found six feet of headroom there, with acres of room around and between the mains to do all the necessary maintenance work without fear of any knuckle-busting. The saloon, galley, and dinette are also spacious and feature, respectively, comfortable seating areas, large Corian countertops, and all the latest appliances, as well as four large above-counter cabinets, four drawer-style Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezer units, and a dining area that seats six.

So, did the 630 and I manage to catch anything? Well, about an hour into it, we had our first knockdown. As Brown was re-baiting the port line, he and I looked up and saw one of the other rod tips bend. “Well Ken, are you going to take that fish or not?” Before I knew it, he and Lambert had cleared all the other rods and this fish and I were, well, connected.

Twenty minutes later, after several jumps and three runs that stripped off as much line as I had reeled in, Mullian put the boat in reverse and maneuvered her beautifully as I finally brought the fish to starboard. “Fifty-pound sail, at least,” said Brown. “Okay?” he asked as he held the leader. “Do it,” I answered, and with that he clipped the leader and the fish slipped back down into the water and, with a flick of its tail, was gone.

“It’s got to be 12 noon somewhere,” Brown said as he popped the ceremonial beer. “Here’s to the first fish caught on the Bertram 630,” he said as we toasted. Brown and I lifted a toast to the bridge, and Mullian responded with a bottle of water, a smile, and “Now, let’s get those baits back in the water.”

We didn’t see any more fish that afternoon, but that didn’t matter to me. Not only did I have a nice sail under my belt, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Bertram 630. Combining superior engineering with luxurious accommodations, the Bertram design team has made Norberto Ferretti’s mandates a reality, resulting in a boat that’ll be just as comfortable island-hopping as she will be fishing the canyons.

Bertram
(305) 633-8011

This article originally appeared in the March 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.