A Gift Worth Giving - Bertram gives itself, and us, a big present.
I don’t wax nostalgic, especially when it comes to boats. Since I’ve been messing around in ‘em, I’ve watched them become better built, safer, easier to handle, and yes, more affordable. I think ahead, not of the past. Well, usually. I can’t look at a Bertram tearing out of an inlet without remembering the sight of the original 31-foot Moppie, which blasted out of Government Cut to win the 1960 Miami to Nassau race. Crewing aboard an ancient Huckins being delivered to Miami, I was close enough to history to see the rooster tails on the horizon. So I have a connection. And every Bertram that’s been built since Richard Bertram parlayed that win into a company that made his name synonymous with quality has a connection with Moppie.
Even on Bertram’s 40th anniversary, its new 390 Convertible has a visceral relationship to her well-established heritage. Sure, the 390’s styling and lines are pure 21st century; her sweeping cabin sides and near-teardrop-shape windows (solid shatterproof glass) reflect the influence of the Italy-based Ferretti Group, which bought the company in 1998. But close an eye, like I did, and look at her hull from the sheerline down. That sharp entry, topped by a subtle spray-deflecting flare, gradually softens to a 21-degree transom deadrise, a real deep-V hull and a concept the company has relied on during its entire existence. As a matter of fact, the 390’s hull is an extended version of the company’s successful 37-foot convertible, which debuted in the late 1980s. Why change a good thing?
It’s what you don’t see, however, that lets the 390 earn her namesake. Her 476-gallon fuel tank is immediately forward of her 480-hp Volvo Penta TAMD 74 EDC diesel inboards (with 21/2-inch stainless steel shafts and dripless, water-cooled shaft logs) not only as a sound barrier between the machinery space and the living quarters, but also to minimize the effect of changing fuel load on trim. The standard 8-kW Kohler genset, immediately abaft the engines, is also on the 390’s midline, also for reasons of stability. Stability is important because, like every Bertram, the 390 is aimed at serious fishermen who want a long-legged machine that can take them far offshore and get them safely home, no matter what the sea state.
And if you’re in a pounding, boat-beating head sea, there are other factors you need to consider: Foremost among them, the boat has to be strong. Here, too, Bertram combines common sense with practicality. The bottom is solid glass using unidirectional 17.08 knitted fabric, but the hull and cabin sides are Divinycell-cored; the weight-savings topsides also contributes to overall stability. The shoeboxed hull-to-deck joint is bonded with 3M 5200 and stainless steel screws on three-inch centers that self-tap into an aluminum backing plate.
Top notch, but what grabbed me most was the 390’s stringer system. The transverse members of the foam-cored fiberglass grid don’t end at the hull sides, as most do, but continue 18 inches or so up the hull, increasing strength and stiffness. Expensive and labor-intensive? Sure, but you’ll feel a lot more confident when you’re trying to sleep as your partner is piloting this boat through a tumultuous sea.
Sleeping easy below underway? Any veteran of an overnight canyon run knows that statement is an oxymoron. Well, think again. Remember that athwartships-mounted fuel tank? It, and the other silence-inducing factors Bertram engineered into the 390 (an acoustically enclosed genset, that Divinycell coring, and plenty of engine room insulation), contributed to a steady 74
dB-A reading throughout her interior while our test boat was ripping along at a full-bore 2690 rpm. That’s well within range of normal conversation (65 dB-A).
Of course you need more than silence to sleep well. While the 390’s at the dock, the forward, pedestal-mounted, foam-mattressed double berth will do the trick (you won’t lack for additional changing room and locker space, either), but underway, I suggest the starboard guest cabin. There, two single berths are arranged side by side instead of the more popular, and less comfortable, upper/lower arrangement. The 390’s single stall-shower-equipped head is a quick step across the companionway from the guest cabin and has a separate entrance to the master, via a solid cherry door. In fact, all of the 390’s interior wood trim is solid, hand-varnished cherry, which goes well with the liberal use of Corian countertops. Flush latches in the high-quality vinyl overhead provide access to concealed rod-stowage compartments. Also up here is a sturdy searail, an item conspicuously absent on many offshore fishing boats. Echoing that concern for safety at sea, the U-shape galley, two steps down, nestles in the port corner forward of the saloon, designed so the cook can go about his or her other business without fear of ping-ponging every time the boat comes off a wave.
There wasn’t much of a sea running when we raced out of Miami’s Government Cut (memories of Moppie) to put the 390 through her paces, but a few hard turns, made a lot easier thanks to well-installed, easy-to-work, Hynautic hydraulic steering, generated enough wake to hint at seakindliness. Another sure-fire indicator of a well-designed boat was that the climb onto plane (at about 1800 rpm) was so effortless that I had to glance aft from the flying bridge to determine when she was totally out of the hole. Her bow stayed level at all times; the 390 doesn’t ride with the bow-high attitude commonly found with many sportfishermen.
There are more touches that set the 390 Convertible apart from most of the pack. Both engines are configured to allow them to power the boat’s emergency bilge pumps with a yank on a valve. Access to those engines is from the aft deck, so you won’t have to endure greasy stains defacing your carpeting after you or a technician perform regular maintenance tasks. However, if you need to pull an engine or the genset, both the 390’s saloon sole and the aft deck can be removed by backing out a few bolts. The same is true of the forward bulkhead, which allows access to the chain locker, although there’s a small hatch located topside, too. That could come in handy when you have a snarled anchor line or ned to unkink a chain.
However, here’s something else to consider: If you’re the kind of fisherman who likes to anchor out in deep water, the standard vertical Simpson-Lawrence Sprint 1000 windlass might be a bit on the light side. You therefore may want to consider installing a more powerful windlass in its place.
Good engineering and good performance have always been the hallmarks of the Bertram name, and the 390 Convertible is certainly no exception to the rule. The fact that this boat also offers a new level of style and luxury makes her one heck of an anniversary present for serious fishermen.