A series of articles about sportfishings first builds by Dave Ferrell. Reprinted from Volume 18 Edition 5 July/August InTheBite Magazine
To build any boat from scratch is a magical thing. Having the gumption to take a big pile of your own money and turn it into a pile of materials that you intend to turn into a boat goes way beyond my perception or capabilities. Taking another fella’s money and trying to do it for the first time must spin the term “nerve wracking” to incredible new heights. Nevertheless, there’s always a few pioneers who step up and make something new that the boat-building industry just can’t ignore. Here are just a few examples of boats that have made a difference…there are plenty many more in North Carolina, Florida and elsewhere….
Richard Bertram Yachts, Moppie
No matter what far flung port you pull into, if there’s the tiniest chance that someone could catch a billfish, you’ll probably find a 31-Bertram, or two, still running folks out to the blue water. Pretty much indestructible, the huge cockpit and great ride of the Deep-V hull design, cemented the venerable 31-Bertram into boat building and sport fishing history.
To get some background into how the company started, we turned to Morgan Bertram, son of Richard Bertram, the company’s founder. “The first 31 was built of wood at the Richard Bertram Yard on the Miami River. That boat, Moppie, won the 1960 Miami to Nassau Race by a wide margin. A Sports Illustrated article written about the race by the boat’s navigator, Charlton Mitchel, brought national attention to the design and its performance. The demand for a 31 was so great that they decided to make a plug off the wood Moppie to initiate fiberglass production of the 31. The first fiberglass 31 was built in Hialeah and would become Glass Moppie which won the 1961 Miami Nassau Race and a bunch of other races that year. My father purchased the property across the street from the Richard Bertram Yacht Yard and built a state of the art fiberglass boat manufacturing facility and started building the 31, 25, and 38s there. So technically, the Glass Moppie represents the very first Bertram Yacht,” Bertram describes.
Tommy Thompson, Product Development Manager at Richard Bertram Yachts, likes to point out that the original 31s weren’t just great boats in their time, but that they’ve gained a mythology all their own. “Hunker down if someone starts a story with, ‘I’ll tell you a story about the time I ran a 31 Bertram from…’”
Sure enough, if you name any top-notch bill fishing spot in the Caribbean, Gulf or Central or South America, the first sportfisher to chug into the inlet or harbor was probably some crazy guy making an incredible crossing on a 31-Bertram. They aren’t very big, but they are seaworthy and will definitely get you where you are going!
“The ‘Deep V’ really over simplifies the bottom of the 31,” says Thompson, “More important, is that the dead rise carries all the way back to the transom. No matter how you explain the geometry, that bottom revolutionized the offshore boating industry. We looked hard at what it is about the 31 that has survived for three generations. Our new 35 captures the four main attributes that we think made the 31 so successful and popular with sport fishermen. First, it’s the timeless shape of the boat…it’s cool looking and inviting. Second, the low profile…low center of gravity that makes it so functional. Third, the ‘more-cockpit-than-house’ proportions that make it so practical, and of course, fourth, the ride. All of those same attributes carry over to our new 50 and 61 as well. We have captured more subtly the shapes of the famous Bertram 54, and kept the ride at Bertram’s core philosophy. It has to be a Bertram!”