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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Bertram 800

Wicked Tough

Fast and supremely seaworthy, this 80-foot battlewagon is the biggest, baddest Bertram ever.

The day was certainly getting off to a serene start. The canal behind Bertram’s Fort Lauderdale office was glass-flat, with nary a riffle, thanks to lots of wind protection from all the nearby buildings. And our test boat, the new 800, seemed rather tranquil herself, tied alongside the canal’s edge as she was, seemingly immovable, towering, and statuesque.

Things were different offshore though. Word was that beyond the jetties at Port Everglades a rowdy easterly was churning the coastal Atlantic into a vast, unruly mob of tall blue rollers, although exactly how tall those rollers might be remained a matter of speculation.

Once we boarded the boat, Bertram captain Jim Varela lead the way aloft to the 80-footer’s enclosed flying bridge via a spiral stairway at the rear of the saloon, directly across from the day head on the starboard side. Up top I noted a few more details that fit the serene theme. The 800’s two monster 2,400-bhp MTU 16V-2000-M93s were purring in virtual silence way down below. Her 144,000-Btu Cruisair air-conditioning system was maintaining a faint but wholly relaxing and whisper-quiet chill. And the array of subtly tinted windows encompassing the bridge enclosure was filtering out the sunlight’s harshness without diminishing visibility.

“Well, Bill, we’ll give it a try at least,” said Varela, getting behind the steering wheel. He hit the activation pads for the Side-Power bow thruster, then shot an appraising look at the electronic cartography on his front-and-center VEI flat-screen display, tweaked the squelch on the Icom IC-M604 VHF, and gave the lines-off sign to folks below. Only a couple of gear changes and one quick thruster shot were required to crab the 800 smoothly off the dock and send us on our way.

Turned out the offshore scene was indeed bad. As we bobbed in the semi-mayhem between the inlet’s jetties, Varela and I, as well as Bertram chief engineer Richard Lamarre, saw immediately that getting accurate, reciprocal-course-based test data with the PMY radar gun out there in the wild blue was going to be a challenge. The wind was blowing a steady 25 mph directly out of the east (with gusts hitting 33 mph and more), seas were running between six and eight feet, and because the only workable radar-gun targets were ashore, even our high-speed runs were going to have to be done running north and south—side-sea—between points of land that jutted out from the coast. I must admit, I wondered if obtaining accurate readings were even possible.

The answer came soon enough. While the first few data points presented little difficulty, the rough-and-tumble nature of pedal-to-the-metal ops in sideways honkers quickly asserted itself as Varela throttled up. Enormous swathes of spray began blasting off the bow as we forged ahead. Bouts of what felt like near levitation became so frequent that everyone onboard had to cling to the beefy overhead sea rails with both hands. And toward the end of the extravaganza, during a super-fun, wide-open run that yielded a whopping 42.3 mph, I swear the 95-ton vessel shot free of her element, went airborne momentarily, and then plunged home with such an authoritative, totally integrated thunk, that a chorus of yells went up that woulda done justice at a foot-stompin’, hat-tossin’ West Texas rodeo.

“Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!” I exclaimed, once Varela had backed off enough for me to put pen to clipboard. My enthusiasm for the rather definitive way the 800 had just proven herself, particularly in terms of hull construction, running-surface design, and longitudinal balance, soon prompted a brief discussion of all three elements and how they were contributing to this rather rambunctious sea trial we were all so obviously enjoying.

The 800’s hull, Lamarre explained, is exceptionally stout, thanks to a densely packed series of thick transverse web frames, a cage-like assembly of foam-cored longitudinals, a cluster of smaller stress-fighting “stem stringers” at the bow, several structurally integrated liners, a solid-glass bottom, and hull sides cored with 11/2"-thick Divinycell. Her running surface, he continued, is a classic deep-V shape tapering to a transom deadrise of 12 degrees, a combo designed to split eight-foot seas with the efficiency of a fillet knife. And her longitudinal balance, he concluded, is optimized not only through precise engine placement but also via “intelligent fuel storage,” meaning the use of a single fiberglass fuel tank that’s foam-bedded and installed athwartships atop the center of buoyancy, a strategy that obviates fuel-burn-related trim problems.

After I took the wheel, I kept our speed down to 35 mph or less all the way back to her Lauderdale berth—no sense snapping off an antenna or scanner. The experience was an informative one nevertheless and featured excellent visibility almost all the time (spray on the windshield was minimal, believe it or not), arrow-straight-tracking even when running down-sea, and a broad turning radius of what I estimated to be between two and three boat-lengths, a feature typical of most big inboard-powered yachts. Negotiating the length of the narrow, congested canal leading back to Bertram’s dock at idle speed required that I alternately bump one big engine into gear and then the other, a process that nicely showcased the 800’s close-quarters responsiveness and agility.

I commenced the remainder of the day with a tour of the 800’s machinery spaces. Top-notch features included pricey Optima batteries, a couple of gutsy crash pumps, two big Delta “T” air-induction boxes, a fluid-transfer system with complete redundancy (see standard equipment list), and a set of Mitsubishi ARG gyro-stabilizers beneath a raised portion of the walkway between the mains, which no doubt were at least partially responsible for the 800’s offshore achievements. But forward, the 48-volt bow thruster system had its own battery bank and charger.

The interior was a top-notcher as well and available in several layout configurations. Our test boat had the enclosed flying bridge (versus an open one), a saloon/galley/dinette area on the main deck with an athwartships starboard-side space forward of the galley (for a second crew quarters, pantry, or office), four big staterooms (all with en suite heads) on the lower deck, and a dedicated crew cabin aft.

“We’re talkin’ a wicked tough boat here,” I synopsized, as Varela and I stood in the Bertram 800’s cockpit, having just finished up with an inventory of fish-fighting features. I’d certainly been impressed with the savvy engineering in the machinery spaces, the interior’s luxurious appointments and layout versatility, and the thoroughness of the fish-fighting arsenal. But man, I simply couldn’t get over the sea trial we’d done earlier.

Varela summed it up rather succinctly: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Bertram Yacht (305) 633-8011.

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.