Ask nearly any passionate bluewater angler about the sport’s legendary boats, and there’s one model that keeps coming up time and again: the iconic Bertram 31. Based on a prototype hull that Dick Bertram ran in the 1960 Miami to Nassau powerboat race, in which he beat the second-place finisher by more than two hours and the third place boat by a full day, the 31 was soon a sweetheart of the worldwide billfishing community. The boat had an unusually large cockpit — seemingly half the boat’s length — that made her incredibly fishable.
The widely spaced engines allowed her to spin on a dime, and that solid fiberglass deep-V hull easily powered its way through all but the nastiest seas. Even today, classic Bertram 31s are chasing marlin and sailfish in far-flung destinations throughout the four corners of the sport-fishing world.
But wouldn’t it be great to take that same classic styling and bring it up to modern standards with new power, updated amenities and electronics, maybe even a touch of panache? That was the goal for the all-new Bertram 35, and the results speak clearly.
Cockpit and Interior
Even at rest from a distance, the boat is unmistakably 100 percent Bertram. I had a chance to tour the boatbuilder’s facility in Tampa, Florida, and was quite impressed with the high quality of the operation as well as the end product, as the 35 awaited our test day in a nearby slip. Joining us was Bertram CEO Peter Truslow, who was kind enough to give us a walk-through of the new boat.
“When we designed the 35, our goal was to build the ultimate day boat,” he says. “We have a large cockpit, a spacious salon and a lot of amenities that you’d normally find in 50- or 60-footers.” He pointed out features like the optional teak cockpit and covering boards, the gigantic in-transom livewell with viewing window and massive in-deck fish boxes before we headed below. As he mentioned, big‑boat features abound. The salon is amazingly bright thanks to a full wraparound windshield that let in plenty of natural light, while the heavy tint blocked the unwanted UV rays. To port is a dinette that easily drops down for additional sleeping space if needed; lining the starboard side is a sink and prep counter with stove, microwave oven and television.
The Sub-Zero undercounter refrigeration and freezer units are a welcome addition, each with an aircraft-style aluminum flip tab to keep them from opening in rough seas, a feature usually found on much larger boats. Forward to port is the head with shower, a spacious design that doesn’t feel cramped. The forward berth is also large and welcoming, perfect for an overnight trip or weekend aboard.
Rod storage is located in the overhead, another big-boat feature that makes use of the available space, and keeps your gear safe and yet out of the way when not in use. Storage for other items abounds throughout the salon.
Bridge Deck and Helm
This is an area where the new 35 really shines. The helm is well-laid-out, with a teak center pod, single-lever engine controls, and room for a pair of large Garmin multifunction displays plus the Cat engine readout in the center. To starboard beneath a protective fiberglass lid are the VHF radios, engine switches and more, all within easy reach of the captain.
Our test boat featured three Release Marine helm chairs across the bridge, plus an optional bench seat just aft of the helm, which would be a perfect place for a sharp-eyed spotter to watch the baits and call out billfish as they enter the spread. Ten additional rod holders lined the aft bridge railing too. This vessel had the fiberglass hardtop option, although Bertram will rig the boat in a variety of different ways, including a full tuna tower. But for a 35-footer, I feel that this setup is perfect for the wide majority of owners. A beefy set of Rupp outriggers completed a well-rounded fishing design.
As the factory demo boat, our 35 was loaded with just about every conceivable option, from a bow thruster and Seakeeper gyro to a Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezer system. Nearly every system found aboard a 50-footer is available in the 35, and while you might not want them all, it was enlightening to see the wide range of available options on this boat.
Construction and Performance
As with all Bertrams, the hull is solid: infused vinylester resin and hand-laid fiberglass, with Kevlar centerline and strake reinforcements. Tampa Bay was smooth for our sea trial, but with her deep-V design, the boat felt as solid as Gibraltar as we put her through her paces. And thanks to the inboard power, the 35 demonstrated a key notable feature: The boat planed easily at low speeds and was able to maintain her running attitude on plane from around 15 knots all the way to her top end of 36 knots. Seas pick up on your way back to port? No problem: Just back off the throttles a bit, and the boat will do the rest without falling off-plane. And thanks to her prop pockets and a shallow draft of just two and a half feet, your favorite island destinations are well within reach.
Our test boat was powered by twin Caterpillar C7.1 diesels rated at 500 horsepower each, which provided fuel economy approaching 1 nautical mile per gallon at a cruising speed of 28 knots, demonstrating the terrific efficiency of the hull and engine package. With 310 gallons belowdecks, she has a range comparable to similar day boats in her size class. Even fully loaded, the boat hit a top end of 37.5 knots. At 6 knots, the boat created minimal white water that dissipated completely by the second or third wave, with well-defined alleys of clear water on either side. With the twin Caterpillar diesels humming along, I’d bet this boat raises billfish.
Access to the engines was via powered rams, which offered very good mechanical access around each motor. And while the boat was packed with optional equipment, everything was easily accessible for service. The Bertram 35 is a new breed of boat that’s not just fast and fuel efficient but also modern in construction, engineering, interior decor and layout. Her fishing pedigree is proven, and the list of available options is impressive. The bottom line: Bertram Yachts is back and better than ever.
LOA: 35’1″ Beam: 12’5″ | Draft: 2’6″ | Displ.: 20,800 lb. | Fuel: 310 gal.
Water: 50 gal. | Power: Twin 500 hp Caterpillar C7.1