A Rising Tide: Inside Tampa’s Bertram Yachts

By McKenna Kelley

Bertram Yachts had plenty of options when planning to bring the classic designs and sleek engineering of their nearly 60-year-old boat brand fully into the 21st century.

Though many of the world’s top yachts are built in places like Germany and the Netherlands, Bertram made a some-what unique choice for the location of its new ship-yard in 2016: a 120,000 square-foot bayfront facility near Tampa’s West Shore Boulevard.

“My first choice was Florida,” said Beniamino Gavio — of the Italian corporation Gavio Group, which acquired Bertram Yachts in 2015 — in a statement announcing the new relocation. “We believe that Bertram belongs to this country. Bertam started in Miami, and we want to keep Bertram in Florida in order to preserve the connection with its history.”

Bertram CEO Peter Truslow says the move to Tampa was a major part of the company’s efforts to build a better Bertram.

“Bertram considered waterfront facilities throughout the Southeast but chose Tampa because of the incredible boat-building workforce and supplier base in this area,” he adds. “Miami was no longer a practical place to build boats, but it was important for us to stay in Florida. Our shipyard, right at the Gandy Bridge, is a perfect place to launch and test the new Bertrams. It’s also a perfect lo-cation to service the growing number of large yachts in this area.”

To that end, Bertram has launched two new models built here in Tampa — the Bertram 35 and Bertram 61, with a 50-foot model expected later this year. The 35 is a modern spin on Bertram’s original model, the 31-foot Moppie, that company founder and powerboat racer Dick Bertram used to win the 1961 Miami-Nassau Race in four hours and 20 minutes.

In many ways, the Bertram 31 seems custom-designed for Tampa’s lifestyle — elegant, yet practical. Built with what the company deems “superior fishing capabilities and innovative luxuries,” the 31 is made for deepwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico but is also fitted with deep propeller pockets sized to allow for flats fishing in Tampa Bay’s shallower waters. Features like the 12-foot, 5-inch beam and deep-v hull design (which provides a smoother ride) also set the model apart. Inside the boat, a panoramic and frameless window lets natural light into the galley (with Amtico flooring, Corian countertops, a SubZero refrigerator-freezer combo, and a two-burner induction stove) and open state-room, making the space comfortable and livable for both serious fishermen and leisure cruisers.

Bertram also gives boat owners a variety of ways to customize their crafts; among other fixtures, the exterior paint colors, interior upholstery, configurations, seating arrangements and hardtops are chosen by each buyer. The company has delivered about 20 Bertram 35 models around the globe since 2017.

“The new 35 represents the absolute best of both worlds,” Truslow said in a statement on the boat’s construction. “Yes, the 35 is comfortable, but she’s also as rugged and offshore capable as any Bertram ever built.”

Perhaps most importantly for Tampa, Bertram has hired more than 100 locals — including shipbuilders, engineers and customer service professionals — to support the company’s rapid growth, with plans to hire for more than 100 additional positions. Bertram is also contributing to Florida’s $10 billion boating industry, the country’s largest. In 2017, $3 billion was spent on new power boats and accessories in Florida.

“Florida is the No. 1 market for boats in the world. The state’s incredible growth in population and wealth will support Bertram for many years to come,” Truslow says. “There is a strong boat-building culture in this area that we are keeping alive, and local resources like the universities and MacDill Air Force Base help support our hiring efforts.”