The wraparound flybridge mimics the windshield below, and the swept-up bow and easy sheer make their way aft to a long, low-slung cockpit and a tumblehome transom. The Bertram 31 looks just as good today as it did 51 years ago, when it burst on the scene and changed powerboating forever.
One contemporary designer has likened the timeless look to that of a classic 1956 Ford F-100 pickup truck, others to a Shelby Cobra or early Corvette.
It was Ray Hunt’s deep-vee hull, hidden below that distinctive waterline, that made it different. The Marblehead, Mass., genius ù he also designed the Concordia yawl, the 12 Meter Easterner, the 110 and 210 one-designs ù shaped his 24-degree constant deadrise hull to rise up on lifting strakes and slice through waves. Contemporary hulls tended to pound in rough waters. The concept was proven when Miami sailor and yacht broker Dick Bertram set a record in the 1960 Miami-Nassau race in a Hunt prototype, fighting 8-foot seas and 30-knot winds. Most of the fleet didn’t finish until the next day.
A year later, the Bertram 31 debuted, and the rest is history. From 1961 to 1983, Miami-based Bertram built 1,860 of these iconic powerboats. The record-setter became a favorite of anglers, some of whom swore it “raised fish” with its hull harmonics.
The Bertram 31 remains a favorite, a classic, and they’re found the world over. “Looking down off the bridge and watching the bow split the waves in a good sea, I can identify with Dick Bertram and all the hundreds of charter skippers who made their reputations on this boat,” Capt. Mike Holmes wrote in Gulf Coast Fisherman magazine. “Being aboard is to relive a part of boating history, like driving an early Corvette or Shelby Cobra around a twisting course. The 31 Bertram has the distinction of being a legend in its time and its time is far, far from over.”
The best powerboat ever? She’s on my short list.
October 2012 issue