Bertram Yachts has been building 54 foot sportfishing convertibles in one incarnation or another for years, and it’s always been one of their most successful models. This year they introduced an upgraded, intelligently-designed 540 Convertible, and this latest edition proves that the fittest don’t just survive, they evolve to be stronger, faster, and better.

The 54 foot category has always been a good one, for Bertram Yachts.

The 54 foot category has always been a good one, for Bertram Yachts.

The first evidence can be found in the engineroom; take a look at the beefy engine bearers, which have inch-thick steel plates laminated inside. Now glance over to the oil-exchange system, which has quick-disconnect fittings so you can swap out the engine oil without making a mess. And take a peek at that hull to deck joint; it isn’t just screwed and glued as with most lesser boats, it has a 3/8-inch aluminum plate backing up the through bolts. Hoses are double-clamped, wires are chaff-protected where they pass through bulkheads, and deck hardware is backed with pre-tapped aluminum plates. Put all of these factors together, and you have a boat that’s tough enough to survive the changing epochs.

But if you build a boat this rugged, won’t it weigh a ton? Yes—in this case, nearly 42 tons. And excess weight does cut into any boat’s efficiency. The 540 comes loaded with power, however, and with a pair of 1,676 horsepower CAT C32 ACERT diesels in its belly, the 540 rolls right up to 40 knots and sees its best cruise at about 30 knots. So, what’s the down-side? The “best” cruise only nets you about 0.3 nautical miles to the gallon, because fuel burn at 30 knots is right around 90 gallons per hour; beef up on the Exxon-Mobil shares in your portfolio, before fishing season starts.

That mass, on the other hand, when coupled with Bertram’s trademark deep-V hull, also nets you an awesome ride. The 54 Bertram has long been known for its ability to crush waves underfoot, and the builder was smart enough not to mess with success, so the 540’s hull design remains the same.

Fishing styles and equipment are other things that constantly evolve, and the new 540 has adapted to be a better predator. Check out the transom livewell, for a prime example. It’s gigantic, lighted, blasts in water with the pressure of a fire-hose, and has a multi-level inlet. Any goggle-eye would be proud to await his fate in here. If you’re more interested in the comfort level of the fishermen than that of the fish, the mezzanine will be of interest. There’s room for several anglers to lounge while they await a strike, and it houses a bait freezer, a chill box, and a tackle box. There’s another cockpit unit, this one standing height, on the starboard side behind the ladder to the bridgedeck.

Fishing even plays a role in interior design, which I discovered while roaming through the 540 (while moored alongside Bertram's largest sportfishing yacht ever built, the 800). when you swing down the hatch over the dinette, you'll expose a rod box with enough room to house a full set of 30’s. And when you swing up the lower berth in the port-side stateroom, there's a rodbox that’ll hold anything up to 80’s.

Stronger? Check. Faster? Check. Better? Check. The newest 540 proves that evolution is real—even if intelligent design does play a role.

Specifications: The 540 has an LOA of 57'1", a beam of 17'10", and a draft of 5'5". Hull deadrise is 16 degrees, weight is 83,737 pounds, and fuel capacity is 1,524 gallons. For more information, please visit Bertram's web site.


Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld,, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.