Buying a boat has always been something of a compromise, because there hasn't been a boat built that can be all things to all people... or has there? The Bertram 360 Express comes close.
A boat for all seasons
Words and Photos Ian Macrae
If I had a dollar for every time a reader asked me what boat to buy, I'd be a rich man. It's such a difficult question, mainly because there's so many 'individualities' that need to be addressed. First and foremost you have to decide what's going to be the boat's main purpose? Do you intend to go fishing with the mates? Does the wife want to go along, or is she purely a cruising chick? Will the boat have to put up with the afternoon 'pound' on the way back to Fremantle from Rottnest Island on a regular basis? Maybe her main task will be to act as a floating island for family fun days on the Sydney Harbour, along the Hawkesbury River, or on the Gold Coast Broadwater?
Buying a boat has always been something of a compromise, because there hasn't been a boat built that can be all things to all people... or has there? The Bertram 360 Express comes close. Here's a boat with a reputation of being built like a brick outhouse, but never shy on life's little comforts. With a waterline length of 36ft 4in and an LOA of 39ft 4in, the 360 Express really does fit into that 'little big boat' category. But it's her layout, performance and handling that make this top all-rounder a boat for all seasons.
The first thing that struck me when I boarded the 360 was the massive amount of open fishing room in the aft cockpit. I know, it's the first thing we fi shos look for in a boat intended for fi shing, but look at it from another perspective. Combined with the forward and aft facing seating around the helm station, that wide-open cockpit is an ideal location for an alfresco dinner party, or an open area where guests can mingle while enjoying a fine wine (or in my case a 'Crownie' or two) as they watch the sun go slowly down over the water.
But back to this boat's fishing attributes. The double rear-facing seat to port and another single to starboard, allow the crew to sit comfortably and watch the spread as they wait for a strike. And when the scream 'Strike!' rings out, the guy, or gal, on the rod can brace comfortably against the high padded gunwales to fight the fish. Not into stand-up tackle. This cockpit is big enough to mount a game chair if required, with plenty of room left to move about.
A boat with a fishing history that goes as far back as Bertram obviously has a rapid self-draining deck (to get the water out of the cockpit after backing down hard on a big fish). Then there's all the other fi shing associated paraphernalia fi shos expect onboard, such as livebait tank, rod holders, deck wash, bait preparation area with a freshwater tap and sink, large freezer, underfloor storage, rod holders, wide transom door and a removable swim platform. That's definitely not needed when game fishing.
From a skipper's perspective, the heavily padded helm bolster seat allows the driver to get into a comfortable position both standing, or sitting. All the gauges are in the skipper's line-of-sight and there's plenty of room on the ample dash for the new owner to personalise their electronics package.
The Bertram 360 Express comes with a bimini and a full set of clears, so skipper and crew are protected from the elements when things get rough. But there's also a small opening window/hatch in the centre of the windscreen that maintains a good airfl ow even when the helm area is in lock-down mode.
Enough of this boat's fishing aspects walk down the teak steps into the main air-conditioned saloon and the Ferretti influences come to the fore. The layout, quality of fixtures and fittings and obvious craftsmanship and attention to detail are first class, but the Italian influence on the decor isn't overbearing. The timber panelling, cabinetry, teak floors and Corian bench tops, lend themselves to low maintenance living in airy, open-plan surroundings. There's plenty of room and bench space to cook up a storm in the galley, there's a reasonable fridge/freezer and ample cupboards for storage.
The dinette on the starboard side converts into a wide, single bunk and the forward stateroom features good hanging lockers and a large comfortable island bed. The head is to port, next to the cockpit stairs. This shower/toilet is well fi tted out, but it would be a little squeezy for anyone of larger proportions. The engine room is amidships beneath the helm station floor. Access is gained by raising the helm cockpit floor on electric rams. There's plenty of room in here to carry out regular servicing and daily maintenance.
But the coup de grace is the positioning of the 1535lt fuel tank. This baffled tank is also sited amidships, forward of the engines where it helps stabilise and balance the hull, while forming a sound barrier between the engine room and the main saloon. This 'is' a quiet running boat and at anchor you can only hear an extremely soft and muffled hum when the Kohler generator is running.
In fact, this boat has all the features and luxuries to make her an ideal overnight cruiser for a couple with a child and the sliding main stateroom doors even offer some onboard privacy.
OUT ON THE WATER
The electronic throttle and gear levels are silky smooth and make manoeuvring around the marina precise and simple. The shaftdrive engines are also mounted far enough apart to allow the hull to spin within its own length with little, if any, forward movement when one engine is placed in forward and the other is in reverse. It's the perfect set-up for the quick, precise moves required from a boat in the final stages of a fight with big fish like marlin. From the driver's perspective, push the hammers down and the electronic controls bring the engines effortlessly up to speed. The hull rises out of the hole quickly, with no bow-up attitude. It maintains a level running attitude at all times, which is uncommon for an express cruiser. Allround visibility remains excellent.
This boat weighs in at 12,830kg (dry). That means a lot of fibreglass has been used in her construction (this is one strong hull), which, coupled with her flared bow, wide down-turned aggressive chines and a 13ft 6in beam, gives an extremely soft, dry, stable and quiet ride, even in choppy conditions. She doesn't turn like a ski boat, nor was she designed to, but she's easy to drive and manoeuvre at both high and low speeds. In fact, it only takes a few minutes behind the helm to feel confident with this boat - she's as easy to drive as the family car.
Cruising offshore at 2200rpm was a pleasure and I'd have no hesitation in recommending this hull/motor confi guration to any potential bluewater angler. Spend the extra $20 grand or so to fit the optional tuna tower and you have an ideal game boat for a three-man/woman team that won't cost the earth to run. The name Bertram has long be associated with fishing in this country and it's great to see this quality brand re-establishing itself here. Bertram is now owned by the Italian Ferretti Group, which adds its own flair and workmanship to analready well-built vessel.
With a price tag of $765,000, she's by no means an 'economy' purchase, but you only get what you pay for and remember she's almost a 40- footer. The strength and build-quality of this boat is first class, she has an ambience befi tting her heritage and all the fixtures and fittings to make her as good at sportfishing as she is at cruising. But for mine, her offshore handling capabilities, the secure feel she gives passengers and crew and that massive wideopen cockpit gets the nod from me.