Anglers still have everything they need, and the family will enjoy the amenities too.
At the conclusion of our ride, as we took a final look around the boat and exchanged pleasantries before my departure, a boat owner stopped on the dock and gave the Bertram 35 a solid look, up and down, fore and aft. He liked what he saw. He complimented 117 Yachts’ Dean West on the look of the boat before he said, “That’s the boat every fisherman dreams of having.” While that might be a slight exaggeration — we can’t get everyone to agree on anything — the heartfelt sentiment is indicative of the reputation Bertram built for itself on the water and off. Mostly on.
When the builder ceased production in 2012, many people in the boating world were disappointed, for a couple of reasons. It appeared to be the end of an era, and it pointed to a potentially more troubling direction for the boatbuilding industry, sportfishing boats specifically. Luhrs Corp. filed for bankruptcy and was sold that same year, and still hasn’t reemerged. Cabo Yachts ceased production two years later. The trending arrow was pointing down.
Then, in 2015, Bertram was back, with plans to have prototypes in the water by 2016. Those prototypes led to 2017 model-year yachts for sale to the public, and then, on a warm December San Diego day, I was aboard a 2018 model for a sea trial.
As a tribute to the original Bertram 31, which elicits nostalgia in many anglers of a certain age — I won’t say what that age is — the 35 hits the mark. As a new yacht that is solidly placed in the modern era of lighter materials, high-tech propulsion and electronics, and advanced hull design, the 35 hits the mark there too. Our test boat was the Flybridge Sportfish version with the hardtop. It also comes without the hardtop and with fewer of the fishing features.
Its molded and vinylester-infused hull is solid below the waterline and cored above it, and Kevlar is used to reinforce the keel and strakes. The deep angle of the hull carries all the way aft, softening slightly but still maintaining 22 degrees at the transom, which means the 35 can slice through waves in reverse when it’s time to fight and chase the big one, which folks might expect from a Bertram. Throw in the optional bow thruster, whose controls are built into the handles of the Palm Beach-style engine controls, and the captain can really drive in reverse. We tried it.
A deep-V hull such as this can lead to some uncomfortable moments while the boat is at rest over a fishing spot, which we tested while beam-to our own wake, but our test boat had a Seakeeper 6 gyro, and with that activated, the rolling motion was virtually eliminated. It’s a $42,000 option, but if someone in the family has a propensity to seasickness, it’s the most affordable option on the lengthy list.
Technology geeks will love the iPad that’s included with the boat. On it are the owner’s manuals and several apps that assist in trip planning, control the stereo and turn the tablet into a repeater of the screens at the helm, so people chilling in the cockpit can check out the chartplotter, engine readouts, fishfinder and more.
Speaking of the cockpit, it will be the center of outdoor activity on this boat, whether that activity involves wetting a line or one’s whistle. For angling action, the cockpit is loaded. Built into the transom is a livewell with a window (an aquarium view, in Bertram’s words), built into the cockpit sole are two removable fishboxes with macerators and under-gunwale storage to either side. Four rod holders are secured in the gunwale, four more are secured to a rack on the flybridge overhang and outriggers emanate from either side of the boat. Fresh- and saltwater washdowns are included. Our test boat had no fighting chair, but one can be rigged if an owner so chooses.
The forward half of the cockpit is a power-actuated engine-room hatch that provides good access to the twin CATs, the genset and the gyro, but atop it to both sides are boxes with removable cushions that serve as two-person sun lounges, meaning four people can easily lie back and soak in the sun or sit comfortably while waiting for a bite.
Through a sliding door from the cockpit is the main cabin, which includes a starboard-side galley — drawer refrigerator and freezer, two-burner cooktop, microwave/convection oven, deep stainless sink, overhead cabinets, under-counter drawers, lots of countertop work space — and a portside dinette with a U-shaped settee around a teak table. A TV is mounted to the bulkhead forward of the dinette. Overhead is a rod locker with room for six tools of the trade.
Down three steps and forward are the stateroom and the head. The offset queen berth leaves room for a nightstand and a bench seat to starboard. A TV is mounted at the foot of the berth, To create a privacy door for the stateroom, the door to the hanging locker swings out and secures open, and a clever flap swings up and secures, closing the space off from the rest of the boat. The wet head includes a sink, a Dometic toilet and a handheld showerhead that mounts near the ceiling.
San Diego Bay was as placid as downtown Cleveland on the day of the Super Bowl parade, which didn’t give the Bertram 35 much chance to show what it could do in adverse conditions but did give us a chance to measure some reliable numbers from our perch at the flybridge helm, the boat’s sole helm, where the view is unimpeded. On our boat, two Garmin GPSmap XSV 16-inch multifunction displays were mounted flush above a varnished, high-gloss teak pod that held the tournament wheel and the engine throttles. A seven-inch CAT display and a compass were between the MFDs.
Three Stidd captain’s chairs (optional) fronted the helm, an optional hardtop was overhead and a three-sided enclosure — rigid glass forward, soft glass on the sides — wrapped around us. Other components of the hardtop package are the dual aluminum ladders, LED spreader and overhead lights, a molded radar platform and a rod-holder rack.
Speeding in the shadow of the Coronado Bridge, the 35 made me wonder if the number in its name referred to its length or its top speed. We hit 35 knots — maybe a couple of tenths more — as the 500 hp CAT C7.1 diesels spun at 2900 rpm and burned 54 gph. The boat’s range is about 183 miles at that speed, given its 315-gallon fuel capacity and building in a 10 percent reserve. That range stretches to 245 miles at 2300 rpm, where speed was 26 knots and fuel burn was about 30 gph. Bumping up to 2500 rpm yielded 30.1 knots and a 224-mile range.
During hard turns between 25 and 30 knots, the 35 exhibited a sporty lean, thanks to the deep-V hull bottom, that never felt out of control or shaky, even up on the flybridge at the boat’s only helm. The back end didn’t try to slide or feel like it was correcting for some deficiency or over-steer. When I brought the wheel back to center and let the boat tackle its own wake, the hull sliced through the waves like an opposing running back through the Browns’ defense (what did Cleveland ever do to me?).
As a Bertram, the 35 obviously tends more toward the fishing side of things, but it can pull double duty as a family boat. The full galley, comfortable and convertible (to a berth) dinette settee, private stateroom, head with a shower, and twin double sun lounges are obvious weekender features. Other touches — teak-and-holly cabin sole, teak cockpit, high bow railing (for safety), glass treated with V-Cool (to keep the sun at bay) all around the main cabin, gyro, air conditioning and heat, Fusion sound system — make the 35 feel more like a mini-yacht than a hardcore sportfisher. Hardcore anglers can get everything they need in a boat without alienating the rest of the family — though their ability to embellish the stories of their catches and, more importantly, their near-catches will be diminished greatly.