If you’re old enough to remember when goggle-eyes once cost a dollar each, you might also recall the old advertising adage that claimed: “The sun never sets on the Bertram Empire.” A zillion goggle-eyes, countless tournaments, and a scattering of company owners later, the Bertram brand continues to thrive. Now based in Tampa, Florida, and under the tutelage of Italian superyacht builder Beniamino Gavio, the company’s new 2021 Bertram 50 Express combines bluewater style and practicality with an oh-so-solid connection to its past.
This Bertram is the ideal boat for the owner-operator to run in air-conditioned comfort while still remaining close to the cockpit. The custom PipeWelders tuna tower transforms the 50 Express into a fishing machine, ready to rumble and make noise on the offshore-tournament circuit. The stepped sheer and forward trunk maintain that familiar yet aggressive Bertram profile, but clever design treatments—including hullside windows that merge with the engine-room vents—call attention to the builder’s commitment to make a real statement and keep that iconic Bertram eagle flying high and mighty.
The wide beam of the 50 Express extends aft to the cockpit to provide 178 square feet of usable room, and with an average depth of 27 inches and a 39-inch reach to the waterline, unmatched cockpit storage solutions prevail. Super-wide gunwales are lined with flush-mounted rod and drink holders, while even more rod holders exist in the BlueWater Chairs rocket launcher.
LED lighting glows beneath the coaming to illuminate the dark, and the fiberglass deck sole is molded with serious nonskid and gently crowned to direct water toward stainless-steel scupper drains in each of the aft corners. A pair of insulated boxes measures some 7.5 square feet each and can be plumbed for ice depository. The blue-hued, lighted transom livewell keeps baits calm, and an acrylic window helps to monitor their health.
The transom door is equipped with a lift gate, and Bertram provides outlets for the freshwater and raw-water washdown systems. Two 12-volt outlets supply power for electric reels, and the lazarette hatch provides access to SeaStar’s Optimus EPS dual steering rams, plumbing fixtures and bilge pumps.
The mezzanine deck is protected by the hardtop overhang and is planked in teak, and several compartments exist for general storage needs, chilling drinks and storing baits. The port side is outfitted with lounge seating with freezer space below, and a Garmin display and cockpit and joystick controls are concealed—sliding out of the haunch when needed. To starboard, a sizable tackle center with room for an electric grill is complemented with a high-top seat, making it a prime area for watching the baits for the next bite. Engine-room access is through the centerline hatch that lifts on heavy-duty dual gas shocks.
A four-rung, powder-coated aluminum ladder descends into the bright-white Awlgripped engine room, and a platform provides space underneath for the Seakeeper 9 gyrostabilizer. Centerline headroom is 6 feet, 3 inches, and the pathway between the engines is lined with vinyl deck tiles. Service points for the Caterpillar C18 engines are inboard for easy maintenance and accessibility. Mechanical installations are neatly labeled and include a Reverso oil-change system on the aft bulkhead for the mains, transmissions and genset. Engine and house AGM batteries are located aft on the starboard side next to an Eskimo ice chipper, and the 21.5 kW Onan generator resides to port.
An OctoPlex power-distribution system controls both AC and DC power supplies. Mounted on the inboard stringers, dual water separators can be inspected, drained and the elements replaced without breaking into a sweat. Organized wiring and plumbing are definitely appealing to the owner-operator and make short work out of routine checks and chores.
Command Deck and Salon
With its wide, sliding aluminum door, fiberglass bulkhead, and expansive side and windshield glass, the command deck and salon areas feel like an air-conditioned enclosed flybridge, with 7 feet of headroom. The helm station sits on the centerline and features a sporty faux-teak helm pod, as well as a raised fiberglass console housing an array of Garmin navigation products and the Caterpillar engine displays. Additional accessories include a SidePower bow-thruster joystick, gyro, and trim-tab controls and displays.
Three Pompanette Maximus helm chairs deliver comfort and unobstructed visibility, with the center chair set on an 8-inch molded riser. Port and starboard L-shaped lounges aft of the helm create a good socializing area and give clear views out of the side and front windows.
Although some express-style boats can at times feel cramped and tight, this layout, combined with a generous 6-plus-feet of headroom, is a game-changer. Excellent use is made of the accommodations space containing two staterooms, two heads, a full-feature galley, and a dinette that converts to a bunk makes this Bertram 50 Express an ideal candidate for traveling or fishing the tournament circuit.
The galley is offset to port to eliminate a bottleneck when there is a crowd on board. Outfitted with an upright Liebherr refrigerator/freezer, ice maker, three-burner electric cooktop, microwave, stainless-steel sink, plus plenty of teak cabinetry, lockers and drawers, it leaves you wondering, What did they forget? The layout is well-planned and is what truly makes it not only feel larger, but also rich, comfortable and inviting.
The staterooms are equally accommodating with upper and lower berths in the portside guest quarters and an island bed in the master suite forward. Both staterooms offer good storage options, and the hanging lockers are lined with genuine cedar—an uncommon treatment these days. Similarly, the heads also feature generous-size shower stalls with glass fronts.
Construction and Performance
The hull is resin-infused with a vinylester-resin blend, and the keel and lift strakes are reinforced with Kevlar; the hull sides are cored in composite materials and are divided into five separate compartments by bulkheads, each containing its own high-water alarm and bilge pump. The house and decks are also constructed with a vinylester-epoxy blend and topped in white gelcoat as standard.
Our sea trial was conducted on Tampa Bay, loaded with five adults, a light amount of gear and a three-quarter fuel load (933 gallons). A pair of Caterpillar C18s at 1,150 hp each provided power for a cruising speed of 30.3 knots at 2,100 rpm, while consuming 92 gallons per hour. Top speed clocked in at 36 knots, burning 58 gallons per side. Bertram also offers the 50 Express with MAN V12-1550 CRM engines that will achieve a top end of 40-plus knots, according to the builder.
The steering was programmed at four turns, lock to lock, and the Bertram 50 Express was both responsive and effortless to maneuver. Bertram also installed the engines at a 10.5-degree shaft angle, which enhances helm visibility by providing modest running angles and minimal bow rise during acceleration.
In all, this 50 Express is a testament to the solid construction Bertram is known for. And the timeless design? Well, that’s just icing on the proverbial cake.
Bertram 50 Express Specs
- LOA: 51′6″
- BEAM: 17′5″
- DISPL: 62,000 lb.
- FUEL: 1,245 gal
- WATER: 120 gal.
- POWER: Twin CAT C18, 1,150 hp
- GEAR/RATIO: Twin Disc MGX-5136A, 2.0:1
- PROPELLERS: Veem, 5-blade
- Paint: White Gelcoat (Exterior)
- Climate Control: Dometic
This article was originally published in the August/September issue of Marlin.