Bertram’s new battlewagon is suffused with the spirit of her ancestors.
Nothin’ else like it in the world,” I yelled as our Bertram 511 prototype swung a broad, gracefully banked, highly exhilarating turn. I snatched a couple of anticipatory breaths, tweaked the width of my stance, stabilized my butt against one of two, optional, high-gloss Murray Products helm chairs, and then, with the bow targeting a big condo looming amid the mists of Miami Beach, pegged the Palm Beach-style ZF throttles, unleashing a set of 1,360-mhp MAN V12-1360 diesels that were already wailing like banshees.
The feeling of raw, blistering power that ensued was flat-out indescribable. And the smooth, true-tracking precision with which the boat beelined across the washboardy two-to-three footers east of Miami’s Government Cut, averaging a top end of 44 mph, was pure Bertram nostalgia. I was momentarily reminded of the lithe Bertram 43 Convertible that I’d fished in the Bahamas way back in 1988. And the rampageous 54 Convertible I’d sea trialed off the New Jersey coast not long after her interior had been redesigned in 1995.
Deep-V hull forms have always been the heart and soul of all things Bertram, and from what the company’s engineering director Richard Lamarre had told me while we’d cruised down the Miami River from the builder’s plant earlier that morning, our 511 sported a running surface that owed a lot to the guys who originally popularized the deep-V some 50 years ago: designer C. Raymond Hunt and yacht broker, accomplished ocean racer, and eventual Bertram Yacht founder, Richard Bertram.
Sure, our 511’s transom deadrise was just 16 degrees—considerably less than the race-bred 24-degree configurations that characterized Bertram’s early Moppies—but she sliced a dicey seaway with unruffled aplomb nevertheless. And thanks to some subtle deadrise modifications forward of the transom, as well as wide chine flats, an absence of prop pockets (for better buoyancy aft), and moderate bow flare, she produced a smooth, nicely balanced, confidence-inspiring, bone-dry ride while doing so.
Ergonomics were just as impressive. Sightlines from the flying bridge were unobstructed, even as I throttled the boat out of the hole. The mounting flat for electronics—part of an electrically actuated, weather-resistant, pop-up console that Bertram offers as an option—seemed of ample size and was tilted for comfortable viewing. The Teleflex SeaStar power-assisted steering system exhibited a satisfying level of resistance—just tight enough for fingertip-manageability—and the ZF SmartCommand engine-control panel to starboard of the wheel offered two especially nifty conveniences.
The first had surfaced as I’d backed the boat into a narrow fairway just south of the Bertram plant. I began with considerable enthusiasm for the reduced power inherent in SmartCommand’s Easidock function, which imparted welcome delicacy and safety to the process. Moreover, according to Lamarre and others onboard, the oomph engendered during gear bumps could be adjusted to one of several power settings, depending on the owner’s preference.
However, as I continued the exercise, I eventually discovered that by not using Easidock and simply bumping an engine into gear for the merest of moments, I could instantaneously take advantage of all of the MANs’ low-end torque, a development that in league with a set of big, five-blade wheels and 1.75:1 gear ratio, made the 511 one of the most responsive, manageable vessels I’ve recently maneuvered dockside.
The second convenience surfaced shortly after I’d finished with the fairway. As we began purring down the river, the virtues of ZF SmartCommand’s Autotroll mode became almost immediately apparent. By merely pushing a couple of buttons and then manipulating the two Palm Beach sticks, I could tweak the 511’s twin-engine cruise speed to a fare-thee-well—4.7 knots seemed to be optimum for the extant conditions—and reduce her wake to a ripple. Easier than alternately bumping one engine into gear and then the other to achieve reasonable velocities mile after mile!
Once we finished our sea trial and made our way back up the river to the Bertram facility, I was able to form a solid opinion of the 511’s interior amenities in fairly short order. The three-stateroom, two-head lower-deck configuration included flush-fit windows in both the port master and starboard guest staterooms. And a profusion of windows and windshield panels also circumscribed the saloon/galley/dinette area on the upper deck (our test boat lacked the optional lower helm station on the starboard side). All in all, the interior layout struck me as straightforward, simple, and cheerily bright.
Key features included easy-to-maintain Amtico flooring in the galley, large rod lockers in the saloon overhead, solid cherry joinery, and optional top-stitched UltraLeather upholstery topside. There was also a picture window in the saloon’s aft bulkhead that at 5’7″ by 4’2″ is the largest, most panoramic expanse of window glass I’ve ever seen on a midrange battlewagon.
A straightforward, practical approach held sway elsewhere as well. The 511’s all-white engine room, for example, is accessed via a mid-mezzanine companionway and then through a lazarette that’s voluminous enough to hold an optional Eskimo ice machine, a couple of gensets (two optional 23-kW Kohlers), and a few other odds and sods. The ER itself offers workable, 5’2″ headroom and an easy-to-navigate two-foot-wide passageway between the mains. Except for a tough-to-get-at, outboard dipstick on the starboard ZF marine gear, filters and other maintenance points were all conveniently inboard. And a single, sight-glass-equipped molded fiberglass fuel tank lay all the way forward and athwartships, directly over the 511’s center of buoyancy, an arrangement that typically obviates trim problems related to fuel load.
I finished up my dockside assessment by examining the 511’s fish-fighting arsenal. In addition to a mezzanine that is both cushy and useful (thanks to several cool boxes, a freezer, and a baitwell under the seats and sole), the test vessel sported a 142-square-foot cockpit with optional Murray Products fighting chair, a three-foot-wide, outward-swinging transom door with gate, a big, removable fishbox (with macerator), comfortably padded inwales, and plenty of deckshoe-gripping nonskid. The Pipewelders hardtop and outriggers were optional.
“So whataya think?” Lamarre asked, stepping ashore. I considered the question for a moment and then synopsized Bertram’s 511 rather succinctly (if I do say so myself), taking into account not only her heritage-driven, open-water performance and dockside mannerliness, but her straightforward, simple layout as well.
“A blast from the past, really,” I opined, adding, “No doubt about it.”
Dialed-In Lube Exchange
So I’m down in the lazarette of the Bertram 511 and notice an unusual gizmo on the forward bulkhead. It’s an oil-exchange manifold hooked up to a heavy-duty Leeson electric pump that has an off/on switch alongside. But what’s that clock-like device with the central pointer and numbered dial? A Bertram rep told me the company’s been installing ‘em for years. “Kinda low tech,” he added, “but it works.” Here’s how: Let’s say, using quick-connect fittings and hoses, you link one of your main engines to the manifold (and thus the gizmo) and then simultaneously link the gizmo to an appropriate container in your cockpit. Depending on whether you want to fill or empty your engine, you simply dial up the amount entailed and hit the Leeson’s switch. Eventually the pointer (with the totalizer) will tell you when you’ve pumped enough. Works for both engine oil and transmission fluid! –B.P.