The Old Bertram Doctors are in

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They’ve got the prescription if you hit a snag in your Bertram refit

A couple of former longtime Bertram Yacht employees are looking to assist powerboat enthusiasts who are restoring old Bertrams.

Lee Dana of Vero Beach, Fla., and Jerry Solderholm of Fort Lauderdale recently set up a consulting group called “Old Bertrams Doctors.” They will provide model information, help track down hard-to-find parts, drawings, and offer refit consulting and engineering services for Bertram powerboats built before 1996.

“For years Jerry and I have been getting phone calls from people with questions about their restoration, about documentation, about original drawings — you name it,” Dana explains. “We figured if we can help out, why not?”

The Bertram Doctors have a combined 45 years of service at Bertram Yacht. Dana, who is 75, held a number of positions there, including vice president of engineering and senior vice president. Solderholm, who is 66, worked as manager of Bertram’s parts and service department. Both men retired in the 1990s.

“Working for Bertram was a fun, challenging experience,” says Dana. “Dick believed in having a strong technical end of the business. As a boater himself, he believed everyone else should be a boater, too, and encouraged employees to use the two or three company boats. It was a philosophy that stayed with the company long after Dick was gone.”

About two years ago Dana and Solderholm approached Bertram president Joe Bubenzer to explain their consulting plan, and to request access to Bertram’s archives. After a number of meetings, Dana says, Bubenzer granted access to the company files, and Dana and Solderholm agreed to move forward with the idea. “Having access to those archives is crucial,” Dana says.

Bertram Yacht traces its beginnings back to 1960, when Dick Bertram — a Miami yacht broker and powerboat racer, as well as a veteran bluewater sailor — entered a 30-footer named Moppie in the Miami-Nassau Race. But Moppie was no ordinary boat. She was built with a breakthrough 24-degree deep-vee fiberglass hull designed by New England native Ray Hunt. While one third of the fleet was unable to complete the course, Moppie powered through the rough seas that year in record time.

Bertram was blown away. He made a mold of the hull, and by January 1961 the budding boatbuilder produced a fast, sturdy powerboat for everyday use: the Bertram 31. For less than $20,000, consumers could purchase the first of what turned out to be a long line of Bertram sportfishing boats.

“Fishermen have always wanted a fast, maneuverable boat that would lose no time in getting out where the big ones strike,” Bertram once said. “And one that would lose no fish through poor handling.”

Today, Bertram owners the world over are lovingly — and at times fanatically — restoring, repowering and customizing these vintage boats. The refits often wind up costing many times the boat’s original price tag.

“It was a simple, simply constructed and durable design,” Dana says. “The reputation, the cult following of the original Bertrams is still around today.”

Dug Stowe of Boylston, Mass., knows a thing or two about restoring a Bertram. Seven years ago he purchased a 1969 Bertram 31 named Alchemy. Since then, Stowe has performed an extensive refit of the boat, leaving only the hull and interior unmodified.

“If you’re going to do a down-to-the-nuts restoration, you need to know where all those nuts come from,” says Stowe, who suspects the “doctors” will prove helpful in a number of Bertram projects. “And when you’re working on the larger Bertrams, having people with many, many years of knowledge to help you is handy. You’re going to have questions, and you’re going to want to turn to people you can trust.”

Another helpful source of information, according to Stowe, is Patrick McCrary’s online forum for Bertram owners, www.bertram31.com.

Right now Dana expects most clients to come by word of mouth. He says that after a year, the team hopes to launch a Bertram Doctors Web site to help broaden their client base.

“We’re excited to get this started,” Dana says. “Hopefully we can help some Bertram owners, and hopefully this goes well. We’ll see what happens.”

For more information contact Dana at (772) 234-5211.