Full speed ahead for Bertram revival

Enthusiasm and energy are evident as the company gears up at its new Tampa plant and service yard
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The first Bertram 35 will make the rounds at the fall and winter boat shows.

The first Bertram 35 will make the rounds at the fall and winter boat shows.

The new Bertram Yachts in September splashed hull No. 1 of the highly anticipated Bertram 35, built by Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston, Maine. Meanwhile, the company began ramping up boat manufacturing and service operations at its own new plant in Tampa, Fla., drawing from the area’s experienced marine-industry workforce.

“We want to get the message out that we are not only a boatbuilding facility, but also a maintenance and service yard for yachts,” Bertram Yachts CEO Peter Truslow told me during a tour of the 120,000-square-foot waterfront shipyard (that includes 40-foot-high buildings) in late August. “We have 70- and 160-ton Travelifts, but the greatest asset we have in Tampa is the people. This is going to be the finest service facility on the Gulf Coast.”

Bertram Yachts closed on the property — the former Lazzara yacht-building facility, just south of the Gandy Bridge on Tampa Bay — in late June. The Italian industrial corporation Gavio Group acquired Bertram’s assets in 2015. Bertram retained Lyman-Morse to build the first two Bertram 35s.

The Bertram 35 was scheduled to be on display at the Newport International Boat Show, followed by the United States Powerboat Show in Annapolis and the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. “The 35 has really hit a nerve in the industry,” he says. “It’s a classic-looking, beautiful Bertram, unmistakably Bertram, but designed and developed in a completely modern way.”

Bertram CEO Peter Truslow stands with hull No. 3 of the Bertram 35, being assembled at the new Tampa facility.

Bertram CEO Peter Truslow stands with hull No. 3 of the Bertram 35, being assembled at the new Tampa facility.

When I arrived 15 minutes early for an 8 a.m. appointment, Truslow was already at his desk. He hustled to greet me.

“We’re working on eight boats from 34 to 84 [feet] in the service yard — let me show you,” he says. The 84-footer was a Lazzara, which was getting a complete engine and genset replacement and some interior work done.

We passed the two Travelifts and headed to the 50,000-square-foot production building, where Alex Cadiz, mechanical leader, and Wayne Deloach, materials manager, were working on the 35’s Caterpillar installation. “This man is one of the best engine installers in the country,” Truslow says of Cadiz, a former Lazzara employee.

Hulls 2 and 3 of the 35 will be completed this fall, and in six months Bertram should be building one boat a month, says Truslow. “We have taken nine deposits, so we have work through next summer,” he says.

There’s also a Bertram 60 on the drawing board. (See story on facing page.)Michael Peters Yacht Design in Sarasota, Fla., designed the 35 and the Bertram 60.

MPYD is the perfect partner for Bertram, says Truslow. “They understand what we are trying to do,” he says. “They have a complete set of capabilities; they are the engineers of the entire boat and are very much part of our team. When you think of Bertram you think of offshore performance, so we need the offshore design expertise of [a firm] like MPYD. There’s no one out there that has more offshore design knowledge and capability as MYPD.”

Truslow, MYPD and the Bertram team are ushering in a new era for the boatbuilder. The legend was born in April 1960 during the 172-mile Miami-Nassau race, when Richard Bertram’s 31-foot Moppie knifed through 8-foot seas and a 30-knot wind to finish 2-1/2 hours ahead of its nearest rival. Moppie, named for Bertram’s wife, averaged a little more than 20 mph in those seas, riding a deep-vee hull conceived by C. Raymond Hunt, the design genius who revolutionized powerboating with this hull.

Bertram’s previous owner, Ferretti Group, shut down production in the summer of 2014 at its leased plant on Merritt Island, Fla.

In February 2015 Argo Finanziaria, one of the Gavio Group of companies, signed a letter of intent with Ferretti to buy the sportfish builder. Bertram has since been assembling a team in the United States, with the main office in Fort Lauderdale. The company hired Truslow in May. Bertram employs 25 people in Tampa and expects to hire 25 more by year’s end, says Truslow.

Vice president of production Earl Blackwell (left) and Truslow have tapped the area’s quality marine work force and vendors.

Vice president of production Earl Blackwell (left) and Truslow have tapped the area’s quality marine work force and vendors.

Truslow introduced me to vice president of production Earl Blackwell. Both were excited about the standout workforce and quality marine vendors in the area.

“They are very experienced workers with big-boat knowledge,” Truslow says. “We’re hiring world-class people. Many are from Lazzara, but we’re also seeing people from Island Packet, Wellcraft and other local builders. These folks are coming to us, looking to join the team. We knew Tampa would be a good location for Bertram, but it has turned out to be excellent in terms of employees and the number of local suppliers available to us.”

The area offers a diverse group of marine vendors, he says. Bertram is working with companies such as Pompanette and Admiral Marine in Tampa and Sarasota’s Marine Concepts, GG Schmitt & Sons and Bluewater Yachting Solutions.

“Who wouldn’t want to work for Bertram?” says John Allen, the president and CEO of Bluewater Yachting Solutions, a yacht interior design and manufacturing company. “We all know the name of Richard Bertram. It’s very humbling to be associated with a name like this. I think it’s going to work out this time. A lot of people involved in this have their feet on the ground and are running hard. Their hands are not in their pockets.”

Allen’s company, which was founded in 2008, carried out the detailed 3D modeling of the 35’s interior. “We hooked up with Bertram because we had worked with Earl Blackwell when he was with Chris-Craft,” says Allen, who has been designing yacht interiors since the early 1990s.

“Nothing is easy about starting a boatbuilding company,” says Blackwell, who has worked for both powerboat and sailboat companies, including Chris-Craft, Glastron and Island Packet. “But we feel really positive about reaching that high level with the quality people we have and the ownership.”

Blackwell says he is fortunate because the average experience of the workers is 20 years. Before choosing Tampa, the company looked at sites in Georgia, North Carolina and other parts of Florida, says Blackwell.

“Bertram is a Florida brand and is still perceived as a Florida brand, so this is a very good fit,” says Blackwell. “The Tampa site includes 800 linear feet of bulkhead space. The channel is only 100 meters away, which is ideal for sea trials. We can haul 100-footers — and do it practically. We’re really ramping up our efforts toward getting the site running as a high-quality yacht facility.”

Truslow, 52, former president of EdgeWater Boats, has been impressed with the progress the Bertram team, which includes CFO Francesco Reisoli, has made.

“In about one year we’ve designed and developed a completely new boat, purchased a new waterfront factory in a new location and established a functioning yacht service yard,” Truslow says. “I think that’s impressive.”

Truslow wants the new Bertram Yachts to be more than just a boatbuilder.

“The old Bertram was about higher-volume boat production,” says Truslow. “Our corporate philosophy is more about serving the needs of the customer, starting with boat production in a methodical, semicustom approach. We’ll carry out sea trials, deliver boats and service them.”

Eventually Bertram Yachts will have a dealer network, “but right now it’s important to be highly involved in the sales process,” says Truslow.

First 60 is on target for the end of 2017

The new Bertram Yachts says it expects to complete the first Bertram 60 by the end of 2017.

“It’s a modern interpretation of the 1980s Bertram 54, with updated naval architecture from Michael Peters Yacht Design in Sarasota,” says Bertram CEO Peter Truslow. “Most of the design work is done. We’re still gathering feedback from industry experts and customers on the details of the design. Hull plug production has begun.”

The 54, which debuted in 1981, became an icon of the modern Bertram, a dependable sea boat with a big cockpit for fishing and a more luxurious interior for the family.

The 60’s accommodations will include three staterooms, including a full-beam master. Twin 1,925-hp Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesels will power the 60 to a projected top speed of 40-plus knots.

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.

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