By Steve Knauth
Used Boat Review: Bertram 25 Express
The Bertram 25 Express was first introduced in 1961 by designer Ray Hunt, and the deep-vee hull quickly earned a reputation for speed and seaworthiness.
For John Sicuranza, being out on the water in a boat just comes naturally. The 44-year-old electrical contractor from Old Lyme, Conn., grew up on the waters of Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River, riding around in his father’s 16-foot Glaspar and messing about in the family rowboat. He and his friends learned to drive boats long before they got into cars.
Sicuranza stayed with the sport, even as he started his own business. “I would say I’m a sailor first,” he says. “I’ve been crewing on a friend’s J/24 for the past 14 to 15 years on Wednesday nights and for [the] Off Soundings [regatta].” He’s also an avid frostbiter and sailed in the 1995 Bermuda Race.
So it’s no surprise he’s got a fleet of boats for seemingly all occasions, including a JY/15 and a Laser for those days when the breeze is fresh, a utilitarian 12-foot HBI inflatable, and an 18-foot Grady-White center console for when the fish are biting. “Somehow my wife started calling me a boat nut,” says Sicuranza, the father of two. “Now, if you ask my kids, ‘Is Dad a boat nut?’ even the 2-year-old says yes.
Too true. On a recent evening, Sicuranza did the “babysitting” for his two kids — Abigail, 5, and Andrew, 2 — while his wife, Kirsten, was traveling. But instead of staying home and watching SpongeBobSquarePants on television, Dad took the youngsters out for a dinner and a cruise to watch the sailboat races off Fishers Island, N.Y.
They did it with the newest addition to the family fleet, a 1964 Bertram 25 Express that he found in New Bedford, Mass., two years ago online. It needed considerable work, but Sicuranza could see that the twin-sterndrive 25-footer was the right boat for his family at the right time. And the right price: $7,000.
“I didn’t know much about Bertram,” Sicuranza says. “But I liked the timeless look, the cabin layout, and the beam and the cockpit floor area. It had twin engines and, of course, the V-berth. And to find out that [designer] Raymond Hunt was a sailor was cool.”
Since then, he’s found out firsthand about the handling qualities of this classic deep-vee. “I went out, and it was blowing 25 knots with the seas running 4 to 5 feet,” he says. “I felt safe and it was a great hour-and-a-half ride.”
Power comes from a pair of newly installed 3.0-liter, 135-hp MerCruisers. Each burns about 10 gallons an hour cruising at around 20 knots at 3,000 rpm. Top speed is around 40 mph at 4,000 to 4,500 rpm.
The Bertram is an easy boat to use and serves the young family well as both a dayboat and cruiser. “I keep her at a small place in Noank, Conn., the same place I sail out of every Wednesday, and from there we can get to Great Salt Pond on Block Island [R.I.] in under an hour,” says Sicuranza. “But we also like to take people out on the lighthouse tour, cruising from Watch Hill, R.I., to Saybrook, Conn.”
It took some work to make it all happen. After replacing the original Volvo engines at Noank (Conn.) Shipyard, he had Essex (Conn.) Boat Works paint the Bertram inside and out, giving the 25-footer a distinctive slate-blue hull. The yard also installed new bulkheads, rub rails, seats and a headliner, and the old hardware was replated. Friends and family chipped in with the work, too.
“My mom made new cushions, and a carpenter friend made the swim platform and teak cockpit inserts,” says Sicuranza. Essex Boat Works also made a custom dinette with a folding table, which he calls the “best lunch spot.”
It’s the right combination of seaworthiness, comfort and performance to get the Sicuranzas out on the water — Dad’s favorite place to be. “What’s not to like out there?” he asks. “Cooling off on a hot summer day, getting to those places that you get to best by water, like Greenport and Sag Harbor on Long Island, Block Island, Napatree Point and Watch Hill [in Rhode Island] and Hamburg Cove on the Connecticut River. This boat is perfect for us.”
The Bertram 25 is an all-fiberglass boat with a Ray Hunt-designed deep-vee hull. Standard twin stern-drives (around 110 to 130 hp each) provided 20-plus-mph cruising speeds and a top end of around 40 mph. The hull shape is known for its rough-water performance, and the combination of speed and seaworthiness made the boat popular with anglers.
The large, flat foredeck and wide side decks give access to all parts of the boat. The cockpit takes full advantage of the nearly 10-foot beam to provide around 100 square feet of deck space. The helm station is to starboard, protected by a two-pane windshield in an aluminum frame. There’s a pedestal seat at the helm and a companion to port.
The cuddy cabin layout is simple, providing plenty of storage as well as the comforts of an occasional overnighter, including the typical V-berth with an insert and room for a portable head in between. A large overhead hatch provides light and ventilation.
Steve Knauth is a contributing writer for Soundings Magazine. This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue.