“Convertibles” have been known more for their similarities than their differences over the years, but that is changing. Increasingly, buyers are using them more for cruising than for fishing and we applaud that trend because they make superb offshore cruising boats because of their low CG, large flying bridges, roomy cockpits, and prodigious hull strength. We think the mid-50s range is an ideal size for a fish-anywhere, cruise-anywhere convertible, so this week we are going to compare the “Big Four.”
The new Bertram 540 was launched at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show and
joins three other mighty battlewagons. We took a look at all four and found some
surprises. See above (top l to r) Bertram 540, Ocean Yachts 54, (bottom l to r)
Viking 54, Hatteras 54.
The word “convertible” describes a class of boats that are designed to be equally
as good at sportfishing as they are at cruising – thus, they can be “converted”
seamlessly from one function to the other.
Something Fishy --
Indeed, while much of the emphasis on these boats is on their “fishability” – it
is here where they are practically identical. The size of their cockpits, the now
standard mezzanine seating, the cockpit bait wells, freezers, rod holders and virtually
everything else on the business end of these behemoths is pretty much the same.
If one builder comes up with a good idea, the others will have copied it by the
next boat show, or sooner.
However, it is with the cruising accommodations where the four boats tend to
show much more individuality. The new Bertram is creating a trend in several ways
– both by moving the galley aft (already being copied by others as you read this)
and by re-introducing wind shields in the main salon after a 20-year absence. Below,
the newer Bertram has three staterooms and two heads in a layout scheme slightly different
than that of the Hatteras and Viking 54s, both of which are virtually identical
All four of the builders are offering over and under bunks in the forward stateroom
as an option. We prefer this arrangement for a number of reasons, including the
fact that it is a better utilization of space and creates a larger cabin sole area,
and two male anglers can sleep there comfortably.
The Ocean Yachts 54 --
It is with the Ocean Yachts 54, however, where we discovered a real difference
among the four 54s. She is the only model of the four that has three decent-sized
staterooms and three large ensuite heads – all with separate shower. It is also
the only boat of the four which has room for a washer/dryer -- not only that but
the Ocean Yachts has a side-by-side washer and dryer units!
The third stateroom (with twin bunks, can be used for crew), is full beam and
is the only layout which is appropriate for such a crew arrangement, in our opinion.
Ocean Yachts has always had a reputation for the most creative utilization of interior
space and it certainly holds true on the 54.
Hatteras and Viking are in virtual lock-step with their salon/galley layout
which has changed little in 25 years except for the under-counter Sub-Zero drawers.
Most radical is the new Bertram 540 which has a large galley next to the aft bulkhead
and lunch can be passed out the electric window to the cockpit.
Ocean Yachts has taken a slightly different tack, by building a large galley
in which two people can comfortably work. The company has thoughtfully placed its
under-counter Sub-Zeros outboard so that someone can actually stand behind the drawers
when they are pulled out. The Ocean Yachts galley and settee is raised about 8”
from the salon floor which allows the full-standing headroom in the stateroom below.
Some people may not like the step, but we think it is a good trade-off.
Flying Bridge --
Once again the Viking 54 and the Hatteras are nearly identical in basic
layout, which is fine since it is comfortable for passengers while cruising. Ocean
Yachts has opted for the trendy center console helm on the flying bridge that keen
fishermen seem to prefer these days.
The Bertram 540 has a large traditional flying bridge which is ideal for entertaining
with a cocktail table surrounded by U-shaped seating and the L-shaped counter to
starboard is handy for drinks and food.
Allocation of Space --
Cockpit: We are intrigued by how each of the four builders allocated
their fore-and-aft space for their 54’ convertibles. All of the cockpits are within
about a foot of each other fore-and-aft, with Bertram’s beam the widest at 17’10”
which is carried straight to the transom.
Fore-and-Aft Measurements --
Accommodations: All measurements are approximate: Ocean Yachts uses
more of its 54’ length for accommodations than the other three boats by nearly 7
feet. Its 54 uses 30’+ for its three cabins and heads. Bear in mind that the Ocean
Yachts’ 54 is from 5” to 1’ narrower than the other boats, nevertheless she has
far more sq. ft. of accommodation space than any of the other three – and about
100 sq. ft more than the Viking 54.
Salon/Galley: Again Ocean Yachts has the most fore-and-aft length
at nearly 17’, over 1’6” more than the Hatteras. Viking and Bertram fall roughly
in between. Having said that, in many respects we feel the Bertram 540 salon/galley
has the best use of space overall, and with the windshields across the front of
the cabin, the boat certainly has a bright and open feeling. Kudos to the Italian
designers for bringing us out of the dark. On the other hand, there are good
reasons why the other builders do what they do - more storage, cooler inside, no
worries about window leaks in rough seas.
The Ocean Yachts 54 flying bridge features the center console
helm design to make it easy for the captain
to get around the bridge during action.
Flying Bridge: Since the flying bridges are directly over the salon/galley
they are about the same size, again with Ocean Yachts being the largest, and Hatteras
the shortest fore-and-aft by nearly 2’, with Bertram and Viking in the middle.
Weights and Measures --
The lengths of the four boats are about the same as is water capacity. The other
critical measurements of these boats are--
All four of these battlewagons are intended for serious engagements offshore and
all four builders are well aware of the speeds their customers have historically
demanded. Pricing on these boats ranges from about $1.6 million to as high as you
want to load up the boat, say, $2.3 million. For more information about these four
vessels, visit the builders’ websites…