Bertram 30 Moppie


A Dream Come True?


Boat Review - Bertram 30 Moppie

I've finally found my dream boat and this is it. I'm almost embarrassed to use such words due to all the ridiculous hype we read in the magazines, but I can assure you that it is hard to overstate the positive aspects of the 30 Moppie.

LOA 30-6" Type Multi Purpose
Beam 11-3 Engines Crusader 454, 330hp
Draft 3-1" Top speed 29.4 kts
Fuel 250 gal Options Cat 300 hp
Cummins B Block
Weight 12,500     

I never really expected to see one up close and personal because there are only about 20 of them in existence. My understanding is that these were built prior to the

That, of course, is an unsubstantiated rumor but I surely hope it is so, for the market is sorely in need of a boat of this calibre. Unfortunately, when people ask me -- usually the folks who want to move up into something really first class -- what they can get into after they're tired of slamming around in their SeaRays, Regals, Carvers or whatnot, my answer is "nothing." There isn't much in the way of really great late model production ocean boats of this type available.

Until I ran into this little beauty. Certainly I'd seen one around before, probably in a picture somewhere or in a boat show, but whatever I saw was not enough to really get me excited. In fact, there are very few boats that get me even mildly interested anymore, but when someone called me to survey one, I perked up a bit.

Before I get too carried away, let's talk about what kind of boat this is. Just from the photo you can tell this is NOT just a fish blood and slime Bertram. Oh, no, for this is one of the things that really caught my attention. After all, not many designers have been very successful at creating a serious multi-purpose boat along the lines of this one. This Moppie will cocktail barge with the best of the rest, and still kick butt and take names out in the deep blue salt, as I'll describe in a moment. 

So why do I call this a multi-purpose boat rather than, say, an open fisherman? Well, the main reason is that one cannot seriously call a boat a fisherman when you load the cockpit area up with big seating modules. A boat just cannot seriously be called a sport fishermen when so much emphasis is placed on comfort and style. And that's what we have here.

This boat is the answer to all those husbands who mistakenly involve their wives in the purchase of a boat. She wants a floating condo; hubby wants to challenge the Gulf Stream. This is one of the few  boats of its class that I know of that could possibly meet the desires of both.

Now, the good news is that we got to sea trial it, not on the usually placid Gulf Stream, but with a nearby tropical depression that kicked up 6-8 foot confused seas. I couldn't have asked for a better day. Waves from the east and the south at a nifty 90 degree angle that brought up all too frequent apexes reaching an occasional ten foot rogue. And a very interesting ebb tide rip at Everglades entrance good enough to challenge the best of them, boat and operator.

Bertram 30 Moppie

Superb, absolutely superb. It’s a shame that there are so many pathetically designed and poorly handling boats out there that the average boater has come to accept poor performance as a standard. Most just don’t know what a great handling boat is because they never get the opportunity to pilot one.

The first thing I did was to slow down from a 24 knot romp on beam seas, cut her back to 12 knots and then put her bow smack into those mildly towering waves coming at us. I fully expected to see blue water coming over the bow but it never happened. Each time the bow neatly rose up and over the wave without plunging deep into the trough of the next one.

How can it do that? Well, either it was a wonderful accident of design or the designer knew how to design the shape of the bow just right, getting the flare just right so as to provide enough buoyancy to provide the right amount of lift at the right time. To accomplish that takes a lot of experience and testing and fiddling around with hull shape. Definitely not the sort of thing your basic CAD machine operator is going to come up with, copying what everyone else does because that is the current style.

Some serious conditions as
we head out the inlet.

Next, I swung north-north east, putting her into something of a following sea but, as I said, the wave pattern was very confused. Kicking her back up to 24 knots we attempted an endurance run—human endurance, for the boat could take a lot more than I could. Though we jumped a couple good ones, this hull did not slam once. I guess we’re so used to those rear engined vee drive boats that utterly lack proper balance of CG and CB, that we’re pleasantly shocked to find a boat that doesn’t slam even in extreme conditions.

The bottom shape is not what we’ve come to know as the conventional Bertram deep vee. Oh, no, it’s a warped plane with very strong deadrise forward tapering off to a ho hum angle at the transom, with a notable convex curve to the bottom panels. Plus, it has a little keel to add a bit of roll dampening as well as greater directional stability without inhibiting turning. Why the convex curve? Mainly because it adds much more strength over a flat panel. Somebody was thinking.

A pair of Crusader 454’s gave us a top speed of 29.4 knots in less than ideal conditions. This boat weighs in at 12,500 lbs. which accounts for the speed, especially when you consider that we now have 30 footers out there that routinely weigh in at less than half that amount.. Before we went out the owner commented that it "has a big boat feel." And he’s quite right, it does. When taking the seas head-on, it has the feel of a bigger mass meeting a smaller mass.

Bertram 30 Moppie

And then there's the balance, with the bow being neither too heavy nor too light, the naval architect’s skill in getting the right weight distribution. Being a conventional straight inboard, the engines are only slightly aft of center.

With the depth of this hull, it does not have a good low speed cruise. Below 22 kts. it tends to bog down a bit (squat) and guzzle fuel, so you’ll be cruising at higher RPM’s to gain hull efficiency and better speed, which translates to generally poor fuel economy. But that is yet another cosmic law of boat design; great sea boats don’t yield good fuel economy. It’s more costly to push deep hulls. Figure 28 to 32 gph total.

Does this boat need diesels? Hardly. The performance with lower power 454’s (320 instead of 350hp) was good. The diesel options are 300 HP Cats, the ill-fated 3116 engines, and the Cummins B block engine.

A wet or dry boat? Sugar, in 6-8 not once did we take huge sheets of spray. Some light spray, sure, but no drenching sheets of water. In more normal conditions you’d call this a dry boat. Of course, with its widely spaced engines and props, this boat will tango or do any other dance you’d like. Docking is a finger tip operation.

Hull construction has foam cored hull sides and a solid bottom. Stringers are designed right, being heavily glassed over wood with no wood showing anywhere. The bottom has plenty of bulkheading and transverse framing. The hull seems quite rigid and there was no groaning and creaking at sea.

The decks are presumably foam cored and sturdy. They didn’t shudder when I jumped on them, though the foam coring gives sort of a tinny sound rather than the nice acoustics that balsa yields. I didn’t find any indication of fasteners run through cored sections. However, because of the full liner, I could not determine how the deck is attached to the hull. The aluminum rub rail (yes, they’re still using that crap) is screwed on, so presumably the deck is glassed to the hull.

Other design pluses include great ergonomics. How many thirty footers have you ever been aboard where you don’t feel cramped and are constantly bumping into things? The traffic pattern is a straight, unencumbered pathway right up the middle. The companionway into the cabin is huge and you can walk right down the steps without even ducking (I’m 6-0). Beautiful, just beautiful.

And then there’s the foredeck. No bubble boats for Bertram. The transition from the side deck to cabin top (or raised section of foredeck) is an acute 90 degree angle up to a moderately crowned expanse of foredeck that yields unobstructed footing. You could practice dribbling a basketball up there no problem. Absolutely nothing there to trip over. If I wanted to bitch a little, I’d say the catwalks should be 2" wider as you tend to get your foot stuck between the raised toe rail and house side since it’s a bit narrow for large feet.

Bertram 30 Moppie - Engine  Room

And I’d like to see a higher profile windshield than it has, but the placement of the arch and Bimini top gives plenty of cockpit headroom and a foot tall gap between top and windshield for soft enclosures to fit nicely. And speaking of those, the ones on this boat were exceptionally well made and thought out design wise. Don’t know if they’re a Bertram option, but I put them up and took them down in no time, no struggling with zippers or snaps. I’ve never seen one this good before. Never. The section across the front being made in three pieces accounted for that. Again, somebody was thinking straight.

What else? Hmmm, how about your basic Tiara cockpit seating modules and electrically opening three part hatch section (instead of a ridiculously large single hatch) that is designed right instead of wrong? I won’t go into detail to explain all this, suffice to say that engine room access is just fine and dandy. Even when you open all these huge hatches, it doesn’t cause the usual roadblock—you can still get into the cabin and vice versa with the hatches open. Neat design trick there.

The helm area looks great, but the reality is somewhat less so. The ergonomics aren’t quite right and I didn’t feel as at ease as I would on a typical Tiara which, in my view has the best designed helms in the world. The engine control placement isn’t quite right and the tiny 14" wheel is a disappointment. Not only is it too small, but I kept hitting my knuckles on the top of the panel because there isn’t adequate clearance. If you try to go to a larger wheel, this would interfere with the controls, so we’re stuck with that.

There are no switches on the binnacle and all are off to the side which requires a special cover to keep water off them. That’s probably better than putting them under the wheel like many do. It’s hard not to notice the high end engine controls—all highly polished solid stainless—I’m not sure if they’re Kobelt or top of the line Morse, but in any case, they’re very smooth.

The windshield is stylish but solid: when grabbed onto for support, you don’t get the feeling that it’s going to come off in your hand. The arch is high enough to allow for a Bimini that was nearly a foot over my head so that my noggin wasn’t getting fried by the heat radiating through that black top. The airflow through the area was sufficient to keep it tolerably cool on a sunny day with temps and humidity in the mid 90’s. That’s not an insignificant point, and one that always gets my attention.

As for the cabin area, well, I’m hoping the photos will tell this pleasant story. The biggest little 30 footer I’ve ever seen of this class. Mom should love it, cuz the interior is spacious and non claustrophobic. The head compartment generally sucks—there’s no stall shower or make up vanity, really pretty plain—but the area size is fine. You could bend over and tie your shoe laces in there without smashing your head. And speaking of that, there’s no head smashing anywhere on this boat.

The settee is nicely set off to port by raising up the deck a bit, yet it does not look like sitting on bleachers like with most of such designs. Somehow, this works out right. And it’s shallow so you don’t end up with the movie theater syndrome. You’d expect the table to have a pneumatic or mechanical height adjustment but it doesn’t. For the price, it should. And you’ll find a lot of other things that you’ll think it should have for the price, but doesn’t. Just remember that the cost trade-off here is in EXPERT DESIGN. You want it all, then it’s going to cost $325k out of the box.

It’s got a crappy little Norcold reefer when it should have a SubZero unit. OTOH, this is no foam and vinyl padded cell. You either got a full fiberglass inner liner throughout, with maple paneling with lots of solid trim. For a thirty footer, the galley area is large with plenty of counter space but, storage space is a bit limited.

A limed oak interior is a lousy idea in any boat because of the wood's tendency to discolor when it gets wet, particularly around the cabin door. The solution here is to varnish it heavily, and to pull the panels and treat the edges so they don't wick water. Do that and it will last. Otherwise, it looks bad in just a few years.

The only disappointment I felt about this boat was the engine room. The systems installation is not as neat as it should be. Considering the price, I thought that things should be neater. For example, you can see in the photo that the battery charger wiring runs over the top of the head pump out plumbing. That’s a matter of aesthetics, but when you pay a high end price, you come to expect even the engine room to look good.

Access to the steering gear and aft bilge pumps is unencumbered via a six foot wide aft deck hatch in two sections. The rudders are stayed with a 5" aluminum channel rather than the usual hunk of rusting steel.

The boat is fitted with three Jabsco 1750 auto bilge pumps, like it should be.

The waste system valves are located in the engine room and easy to reach.

Sea strainers and sea cocks are front and center, as are the batteries (2-4D in heavy poly boxes). Ease of servicing here couldn't be better.

The A/C unit is buried behind the reefer, which has to be removed to reach it for service. I wasn’t too happy about that.

Altogether, this boat can be easily serviced by the owner with the only major shortcoming that the engine outboard spark plugs are very difficult to get at. Otherwise, for the do-it-yourselfer, this is a dream boat.

I was surprised to see the lack of the usual  gunwale hawse holes; these are through the transom, instead, making it less than easy to thread a line through. Plus, it’s lacking a grab rail on the side of the arch for boarding, but it does have a nice railing around the backside of the cockpit settee.

Next, Bertram chintzed on the engine room air intakes. The three plastic vents along the side of the cockpit coaming have no dorade boxes behind them. A dorade is a box that is intended to capture water that comes through the vent and channel it safely away. Instead, during a heavy rain, I found water running down the inside of the hull.

Another high tech faux pas: Crusader, like everyone else these days, simply could not resist the siren song of high tech computerized engine control systems. As a result, you pay the price in terms of increased unreliability and costly troubleshooting and repair when something goes wrong. In this case, it was an electronic fuel flow sensor that is connected to central processor that shuts off the fuel supply to both engines when that sensor doesn’t like the information it is receiving. Yes, you read that right: it shut down BOTH engines. With a system like this you don't need enemies. We had the computers removed and deep-sixed.

In this instance, it cost the owner $1200 to figure out why BOTH engines were shutting down when they were run up to speed. They thought it was a fuel tank related problem that later turned out to be ye old central processor. When the processor was disconnected, the problem disappeared.

If you’re experienced with Bertrams, then you’ll note a major improvement in the aft cockpit area. The liner is a FULL liner, which means even the side lockers are part of the molding, which also means that there is no plywood used anywhere. Virtually nothing to rot. And the cockpit has a nice crown that causes water to run off quickly into perimeter gutters and out the scuppers. This crown is what eliminates the "saggy" or flexing feeling you get with flat decks. Altogether, the design and detail work is great.

And, miracle of miracles, somehow they managed to design the engine hatch cover gutters in such a way that does a good job of keeping the water out by making the gutters very deep and narrow. Hence, the gutters themselves serve as strengthening frames to keep these hatches from having that sagging feeling.

You see, God is in the details. It is attention to detail like I’ve described here that make it one of the nicest production boats available in its class.

At-a-Glance*

  • Hull bottom, Solid glass
  • Hull sides, Foam cored
  • Decks, Cored, material undetermined
  • Deck rigidity A+
  • Hull/deck join, A Partially glassed
  • Stringers, A+ Glass over wood
  • Bulkheads, Plywood
  • Hardware attachments, A
  • Rub rail,  aluminum F
  • Gel coat durability, A
  • Exterior detail, A
  • Mold fairness, A
  • Through hull plumbing, A- bronze above W/L
  • Fuel tanks, A+ fiberglass
  • Engine mounting, A+
  • Engine access, A-
  • Engine room neatness, B
  • Engine room water tightness, C
  • Steering gear, A
  • Struts, A
  • Props, Exposed
  • Electrical installation, A
  • Electric panel, B
  • Cockpit ergonomics, A
  • Cockpit detail, A
  • Foredeck access, A
  • Available stowage, C
  • Hardware quality, A
  • Bilge pumping, A
  • Head system, C - old style pump
  • Helm ergonomics, B
  • Panel layout, A
  • Cabin layout, A
  • Interior fit and finish, B
  • Head compartment, B
  • Quality Interior appointments, B+
  • Air conditioning efficiency, A
  • Calm water performance, A
  • Rough water performance, A+
  • Slow speed handling, A+
  • Ease of docking, A+
  • Axial turning radius, A+
  • Spray over bow, A

* Sometimes, when we have the time and are particularly interested in a boat, we'll take the time to grade multiple aspects as we did here.

Posted March 3,2002

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