The Groove is Back
If you’re scratching your head wondering if the 54 is “new,” well, yes and no. An Italianate version of the fabled original 54 was introduced in 2008, a launch that raised a few eyebrows in diehard sportfishing circles. I understand why. Sure, there were lots of nifty interior treatments. The aft galley arrangement and forward windshield were practical and made a lot of sense, for example. But these features fit squarely into the cruising and entertaining categories. And Bertram’s heritage is firmly embedded in the tough, salt-stained battlewagon realm. Another issue was the handling—mainly the steering. In my opinion, driving that particular 54 felt a little squirrelly, a little less responsive than I’d have liked. But here’s the good news. Thanks to naval architect and sportfish-design heavy hitter Robert Ullberg, the latest version of the 54 suffers from neither of these foibles. Indeed, if you have a boat with the same model designation as one of the best-riding convertibles on the water—the original Bertram 54—it better kick ass. And this new 54 certainly does.
A refreshing nod to American boatbuilding practices is the interior option of a forward galley. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with the aft-galley arrangement emphasized in Europe and other parts of the world these days, and in fact Bertram offers that plan. However, the team on the 54 project realized that the majority of its diehard sportfishing clientele prefers the more traditional forward galley sans windshield, allowing for extra stowage and a very workable layout. Plus, the galley-forward layout sends the message that a true Bertram remains a kick-ass, hard-core fishing machine, not a fluffed-up cruiser. The stateroom arrangement belowdecks remains the same as in former years—a very functional layout. The forward guest stateroom can be ordered with an over/under berth arrangement as well. The interior joinery—finished by a subcontractor—is well executed.
The hull’s bottom, keel, and chine areas are made of hand-laid, solid fiberglass using premium vinylester resin. Hullsides are cored, as is the deck and superstructure. Exterior finishes include Ashland Maxguard ISO-NPG gelcoat and (for feature stripes) Dupont Imron paint. Internal strengthening comes courtesy of a complex and robust grid of foam-cored fiberglass longitudinals, transversals, and bulkheads.
The twin 1,700-horsepower Caterpillar C32 ACERTs in our test boat provided impressive acceleration and torque propelling us to a top speed of nearly 40 knots. The lines of sight from the aft-oriented helm were superb, allowing me to see the action in the cockpit or over the bow easily. During our sea trial there was zero wallowing or excessive smoke as I put the boat through her paces. And the helm response? Bingo! Ullberg and the Bertram team have nailed it.
The 54’s single fuel tank is on centerline in the engine room. (I like single-tank installations that eliminate the need for often-complicated fuel-manifold systems.) This got the weight distribution right and we achieved a plane effortlessly without touching the tabs. Pulling the throttles back to about a 67-percent load produced an easy, 20-knot-plus, low-cruising speed and a range of about 300 miles with a 10-percent reserve. The Bertram 54 is not a particularly light boat. Tipping the scales at a bit more than 83,000 pounds, she’s a little heftier than some of her competitors. Yet I felt the benefit of her heft when pounding through some stacked seas off Ft. Lauderdale. Man, this is a fun boat to drive, with no excessive rattling or shaking.
The bottom line? One way or the other, the new Bertram 54 seems indicative of what may be rolling out of Bertram’s new waterside facility at Merritt Island in the future. She is a sweetly performing, sweetly engineered, diehard sportfishing boat, with comforts galore. And dare we repeat—she’s a truly kick-ass battlewagon!
Bertram Yacht, 954-462-5527; www.bertram.com
: 83,737 lb.
: 1,524 gal.
: 225 gal.
: 2/1,700-mhp Caterpillar C32 ACERTs
: 2/1,380-mhp MTU 10V-2000-M84s
: Upon Request
: 1/15.5 kW
: ZF 2060A w/2.092:1 ratio
: 34 x 51 five-blade Veem
Aquamatic 700-1 watermaker ($19,664); Z Mitsubishi ARG stabilizers ($164,626); Eskimo ice maker for transom fishbox ($18,775); second 17-kW generator ($23,602).
Air temperature: 76°F; humidity 69%; seas: 4-6': wind: 7 knots; load: 1,219 gal. fuel, 225 gal. water, 5 persons, 100 lb. gear. Speeds are two-way averages measured with GPS. GPH taken from Cat display. Range based on 90% of advertised fuel capacity. 65 dB(A) is the level of normal conversation.