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BOAT TESTS

Bertram 64

The Beast

Bertram’s raceboat heritage shines through in this fast, sea-chompin’, comfortably cruise-worthy battlewagon.

I was braced athwartship on the flying bridge of our Bertram 64 test boat, with my deckshoe-shod feet shoved into the toe kick under the steering console and my butt securely squashed against the fiberglass cabinetry along the starboard cowling. Bertram’s service manager Geney Menendez was on the wheel, ripping us across the coastal Atlantic at a rousing good clip. Indeed, the lime-green 4- to 5-footers out beyond the bow were coming at us in a frothy blur.

“You got it?” I yelled at Menendez so he could hear above the windy roar. My fingers were poised to record our northbound velocity at 1500 rpm, an exercise that, of itself, was not unusual. Menendez’s fingers were fine-tuning the 64’s Palm Beach-style ZF electronic engine control levers.

“Okay, Bill—that’s 1500 rpm,” he yelled back. A matched set of salty plumes blasted loftily away from the bow, one to port and the other to starboard, leaving us both totally dry as we leaned in towards the Furuno glass-bridge-style MFD: 19.2 knots!

“Whooooeeeeee!” I enthused. We were already pothole-poppin’ like we were ridin’ with the Valkyries. And our two thundering 1,925-horsepower Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesel inboards were pulling only half load. How much more would this baby do, once Menendez showered down on the throttles?

Within the next joyful hour I got my answer. Our average, two-way top hop was 35.8 knots, a middling speed perhaps, until you consider what it was really like hard-charging the boat’s comparatively narrow, raceboat-esque deep-V running surface across the watery chaos.

“This thing is a freakin’ beast,” I shouted, shortly after I’d got behind the wheel myself. At the time I was making a long, side-sea run that featured troughs and crests in wild, alternating, 30-knot abandon. But hey, the 64’s engine-driven, power-assisted hydraulic steering kept us steadily on track. There was virtually no yaw whenever I turned down-sea. And, with no tab, our running attitudes were holding steady at five degrees, whether I was firewalling the ZF sticks or backing ’em off. “Heavy boat … fabulous ride,” I shouted again, “You wanna shoot down to Isla Mujeres in style and comfort—this thing’s got you covered!”

But the biggest thrill of the day was yet to come. I’ve already alluded to the raceboatiness of the 64’s running surface and such a groovy trait, I’d say, becomes most obvious when you initiate the sort of tight, high-speed turn I carved while beelining the 64 on back to the barn. The setup for this extravaganza was a speedy southbound run along Ft. Lauderdale Beach, a couple of miles off. Then, with the lightest of hearts, I banked a hard right on the red side of Port Everglades channel and began rocketing west toward the jetties at 26 knots, with 3,850 metric horses thunderin’ underfoot and my Maui Jims pressed pancake-flat. Whaaaaaa! A beast? Oh yeah! 

Life keeps us all humble, though. And a dose of humility awaited my by now rather high-flyin’ self right behind the Ferretti showroom in Ft. Lauderdale where Menendez said to park the 64, starboard-side-to. Earlier that morning, while getting a feel for the boat in the harbor, I’d wondered aloud to Menendez (rather sanctimoniously) whether he actually used the 10-horsepower Side-Power bow thruster very much, considering how maneuverable the 64 was with sticks alone. “Yeah,” he’d replied, “Why wouldn’t I? She’s a big boat.”

This had been a wise statement, the way things turned out. After twin-screwing a 180-degree turn in the fairway behind Ferretti, I began carefully bumping our C32s in and out of gear to angle the bow in towards the dock so I could then throw the rudders hard over and swing the stern sweetly alongside. But alas, because the boathandling fairy had other plans I flubbed up my approach (could an outdated eyeglass prescription have contributed to the problem perhaps? Or a bad breakfast?) and stopped our forward progress too soon, thereby leaving the 64’s bow several feet off while the stern proceeded to come in nicely. “Well, Geney,” I noted while humbly hammering the Side-Power, “Ya gotta love that thruster, eh?”

Touring our test boat’s four-stateroom-three-head interior with Bertram’s vice president of sales Don Jones was something of an eye-opener. While our 64 was most assuredly set up for hearty seafaring topside, with thick, welded-aluminum bowrails, a windlass with flat walkaround and bow pulpit for safe anchoring, a cockpit flush with fishboxes and other fishing paraphernalia, and an expansive, weather-proof hardtop with an EZ2CY enclosure and heavy-duty supports from PipeWelders Marine, there was a lot of cruise-worthy luxury belowdecks. Red-teak veneers were crisply joined and underlaid with tough, 9-ply marine plywood. The leather-upholstered settee in the saloon/galley/dinette area on the main deck was residential both in terms of style and comfort. Latches in the cabinetry throughout bore the august Southco imprimatur. And the appliances on hand (from Kenyon, Fisher-Paykel, Sub-Zero, and Whirlpool) were all solidly mainstream.

“Nice,” I observed upon stepping into the only remaining unvisited spot onboard—the so-called fourth stateroom—where space was tight, but the bunks were springy enough.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Jones agreed, “And you know this is the optional layout—three staterooms and three heads is the standard issue.”

Such mundane concerns were hardly occupying my mind at the moment, however. Instead, I was reliving (for, say, the 15th time that day) the spine-tingling, high-speed turn around the last buoy on the red side I’d made at 26 knots earlier that morning.

“Don,” I said with a grin, “Given the way this baby handles, who cares how many staterooms she’s got?”     

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This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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