I can’t look at a Bertram 31 without wanting one. In my daydreaming online boat searches I often stop by the listings to pay my respects. It’s one of those rare boats that proves that boat people of all stripes can see eye to eye when everyone's considering the same good thing -- in this case a unique, legendary, capable design, sometimes copied but never equaled.
The original was commissioned by Florida yacht broker Dick Bertram, who was a champion racer in both sail and power, and designed by C. Raymond Hunt, a naval architect known for innovative designs in -- you guessed it -- both sail and power.
Hunt gave that first 31, named Moppie, the sharp entry, forward flare, flat sheer, low freeboard, fast deep-V running surfaces, and pronounced transom deadrise that allowed Bertram and Moppie to chew up the extra-rough Miami-to-Nassau offshore race in 1960. This fast, seakindly, twin-engine racing hull was given some accommodations and put into production the next year as the Bertram 31. It was built for another 24 years after that.
The boat went through a number of design-style variations and technical tweaks – flybridge model, sedan model, open model, etc. Most of the early versions were supplied with gas engines, but many have since been repowered with diesels, which tend to be tougher and more reliable (although heavier and more expensive) for offshore use. Today you can find them with Cummins and Yanmar diesels, MerCruiser gas engines – you name it. Prices and conditions also run the gamut, but to me it looks as if pretty much any reasonably maintained Bertram 31 is worth more today than it was when it was new.
The boat is known as a safe, dependable offshore fishing platform. Accommodations are minimal, and on used 31s they’re sometimes pretty gritty, having lived hard lives offshore. I don't fish, so if I owned one I'd make it a dive boat. Or maybe I’d just switch out the fighting chair for a teak table people could sit around, and run from harbor to harbor with nothing more urgent to do than enjoy the scenery. (I really hope Lenny Rudow doesn’t read this blog. This is true heresy.)
There are plenty of Bertram 31 loyalists out there. Visit www.bertram31.com for an introduction. And for a good look at some of the specimens on the market see the Bertram 31 listings on boats.com.