BUILDER: Bertram Yacht, Miami. Phone: (305) 633-8011.
LINE: nine models of deep-vee sportfishing boats from 36 to 67 feet, and ranging from around $428,400 to $3.75 million
PRESIDENT/CEO: Joe Bubenzer
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 442
BEST KNOWN FOR: rugged, seaworthy sportfishing boats
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT BUILDING BOATS IN FLORIDA: “Our multicultural work force, many of whom are third generation from the original crew of predominantly Cuban immigrants, has a high degree of craftsmanship with strong roots in the region and in building Bertrams.”
THE FLIP SIDE: “The challenge is finding the new talent for boatbuilding. The same people who can be carpenters for Bertram can be carpenters at some South Florida high-rise.”
Few boatbuilders have the brand recognition — and reputation for open-water ride — of Bertram. And few boatbuilders are launched with such a splash. The 1960 Miami-to-Nassau powerboat race was won by a dark horse, a 30-foot wooden prototype designed by C. Raymond Hunt for Miami yacht broker Dick Bertram and named Moppie after Bertram’s wife. The sterndrive boat’s deep-vee hull with constant 24-degree deadrise cut through the 8-plus-foot sea kicked up by a steady 30-knot wind, and Bertram won the 172-mile race by two hours. (The rest of the fleet either quit or turned back and finished the next day.) The hull design was a radical departure from the displacement and flat-bottomed planing hulls of the time, altering the course of recreational powerboating.
The hull was turned into a plug, and the fiberglass Bertram 31 was launched along with the company the following year. “What started with the deep-vee pioneered by Dick Bertram is carried through today,” says Joe Bubenzer. “What we have done is add luxury and plush materials to complement the best open-water ride in sportfishing.”
After a vigorous 25-year run, Bertram nearly sank during the recession of the late 1980s and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1992. A slow comeback began with a management team led by Carl Herndon (now of Jupiter Marine) and continued by Bubenzer since 2002. Since then Bertram has tripled its sales revenue and doubled its work force. (Bertram is owned by the Ferretti Group, which purchased the company in 1998.)
After several years of launching one new model each year, 2007 will begin a four-year plan to introduce two boats a year. A new flagship is in the works, though the company’s new 360 — the first open boat Bertram has offered in several years — proves the builder’s commitment to the smaller end of its line, Bubenzer says.
“Bertram has always been known for building very durable boats, in many cases an overbuilt design,” he says. “The point was always that they be ready to take any rough weather and seas.” And new technology aims to further improve the ride. The company is the only sportfishing builder, for example, licensed to install Mitsubishi’s Anti Rolling Gyro (ARG) vessel stabilization system, available in the 450 model and larger.
Bertrams are still built at the site of the original 1962 Miami plant. “We’re a dyed-in-the-wool South Florida company,” Bubenzer says. “Bertram has always had its largest market in Florida, so a lot of our boats are designed for fishing and cruising South Florida waters.”