For sale next spring: The first-ever Bertram — a 54 convertible — built with a resin-infused superstructure, deck and hull sides. The transition from open- to closed-mold construction is made possible by the legendary builder’s move from Miami to a new 37-acre site in Merritt Island, Fla., where it’ll build more and better boats in larger buildings.
“I can’t wait. We’re really looking forward to a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility up there,” says Ken Beauregard, Bertram Yacht vice president of manufacturing. “It certainly will benefit everyone — us and the customer.”
In addition to the new construction methods, the company now will have the room it needs to comfortably build the Bertram 80 — its largest model — and even bigger yachts. Bertram has been operating out of the same plant in Miami since 1962, but its boats now are too large to properly and efficiently complete there. “It’s old and has low ceiling heights — those are the biggest issues,” Beauregard says. “Our tallest ceiling [in Miami] is 32 feet, compared to 60 feet at Merritt Island.”
Assembling and launching the 80, introduced in 2010, has been a headache, he says. “A 500-ton crane must come in on 11 semi trucks and it takes another crane to assemble the boat,” he says. “They actually lift this 180-ton boat up over a two-story building and into the water. As you can imagine, it is very expensive.” Bertram had to go through this ordeal when it splashed an 80 on June 18 and 19 — but after that, no more.
The company had been looking for a larger site for about four years. “It’s a relief for us because it’s really the culmination of a tremendous amount of work, trying to find a home that would be suitable for what we plan to do in the future,” says Bertram president Alton Herndon, outlining the transition that will have the builder up and running in Merritt Island by Oct. 1. “We have three new models on the drawing board right now, all from 50 to 80 feet.”
Bertram looked at more than 30 sites from North Miami to Virginia Beach, Va., according to Herndon. “We were looking for properties that were on navigable water and that preferably had large, tall buildings,” he says. “We wanted property that had at least 30 to 40 acres. And it goes without saying we were looking for a community to hire good employees. Thirty-five sites later and … here we are — Merritt Island, Fla.”
Herndon says its new home satisfies all of those requirements and it’s only 45 miles from Orlando International Airport, so customers will have easy access to their yachts during construction.
Bertram has begun the move to 1230 Sea Ray Dr., and it has agreed to a seven-year lease and an option to buy with the site’s owner, Vectorworks Marine, which purchased it from Sea Ray, according to James Henderson, Ferretti Group chief marketing officer for North America. (Ferretti owns Bertram and several other brands, including Pershing, Riva and Mochi Craft.) The company will try to relocate as many of its 125 employees as possible and it hopes to expand its work force to about 220 in the next few years. The builder will operate out of an 87,000-square-foot building initially and it plans to erect a second building and come away with 111,000 square feet by the end of the year, says Beauregard.
The Miami site has about 200,000 square feet. “But, again, a lot of it was unusable due to the sizes of the buildings,” Beauregard says. Bertram expanded its Miami facility in 1972 and again in 1981. “The thought was that [the] boats weren’t going to get much bigger than 50 feet,” he says. “Now that’s our smallest boat.”
The baby of the fleet — the Bertram 51— has an LOA of nearly 55 feet. The 80 was introduced in 2010. In between are the 54, 57, 64 and 70. The first yacht to be built entirely at Merritt Island will be the 54. Planning of the laminate schedule was being calculated in mid-June. The boat should ready for assembly Oct. 1 and completed in April 2013. “Vectorworks is going to provide us with infusion parts, so we are going to subcontract a segment of our parts production to Vectorworks,” Henderson says. “So it is a nice relationship.”
Bertram uses no resin infusion in Miami, so the move also means the builder will run a “greener” operation, says Beauregard. “[Resin infusion] is more environmentally friendly, provides more consistent construction from boat to boat, and arguably a better structure with a better glass-to-resin ratio,” he says. It also allows builders to construct lighter boats, but weight savings did not drive Bertram to infusion. It will stick with solid glass for the hull bottoms. “We like the solid glass bottom,” he says. “We like the safety factor that it brings to the boat. We really overbuild our boats, and we don’t want to change that.”
The weight of a solid glass bottom means the boats require bigger engines. “But we build battlewagons and everything we do is with that in mind,” says Beauregard. “You don’t have control of the boat after 10 or 15 years and many of our boats are still around after 30 or more years. We want the hulls always to be structurally sound.”
Bertram expects to build about a dozen yachts in 2012, but Henderson estimates it will build 25 boats a year initially and expand from there at the new site.
And, he adds, boaters can expect some “great new yachts” from Bertram. “We have a number of things going for us into the future,” he says. “One of those is the manufacturing facility, which is huge for us. Putting the brand here in Merritt Island, keeping it in Florida, keeps the heritage of the brand here. With a 37-acre site, we have significant opportunity for growth and expansion. … The second step for us is a new model line and we are working on that now. And we will slowly start to rebuild the presence of the brand. Our goal is to bring the brand back to where it was in the 1980s.”
This article originally appeared in the August 2012 issue.