Q&A with Bertram's Vice President of Production: Earl Blackwell
Earl Blackwell, Bertram’s Vice President of Production, had a conversation with Anglers Journal editor-at-large and Bertram owner John Brownlee about Bertram’s plans for building the company’s new models going forward, and had this to say:
JB: Earl, please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be part of the new Bertram.
EB: John, thanks for your inquiry about the new Bertram. I started my career at Glastron Boat Company in Austin, Texas as a design engineer while in graduate school at the University of Texas. From there I moved to Florida, for Gulfstar, and have since run engineering departments, my own company and eventually moved into manufacturing management many years ago for some of the country’s largest and best manufacturers both nationally and internationally in power and sail. I have been in Boat Building and company management for over 43 years. The new Bertram team, Michael Peters and Mr. Gavio asked me to be part of the new startup. I was pleased to say yes.
JB: The company has announced two all-new models so far, with more to come. The new 35 is being built for the time being under contract with Lyman-Morse in Maine, but we understand Bertram has secured a boat building facility and will build future models there. How did that transaction come about?
EB: John, yes we do have a very good plan of new models for development of Bertram and our future. We are in the process of securing our permanent location. It is in Florida but we are not releasing the specific location at this point. We are very close to finalizing that transaction. Susan Davids and our team have looked all up and down the East coast at all available facilities and locations that would make sense for Bertram. We have selected the Southeast as we still feel that Bertram must be located in that region to fit the brand. Our selection is an excellent one and will be available to share very soon.
JB: How large will the new plant be?
EB: Around 150,000 Sq. Ft.
JB: Bertram has always had a reputation for building solid, high performance boats that can take on anything the ocean can throw at them. Can you tell us if there are any enhancements to the new construction methodology to further enhance these qualities?
EB: Certainly. We are using Michael Peters and his team along with our team to make sure that we are following and improving upon the “Tradition of Excellence” that has been the Bertram history. The new Bertram’s will be infused hulls incorporating Kevlar into high puncture areas for added strength. Carbon Fiber beams are utilized in the infused decks to insure strength and light weight. The infusion has exhibited extraordinary results in glass to resign ratios yielding superior strength and toughness that we are designing and building into each new Bertram. Very low shaft angles, partial pockets, high performance lightweight struts, the list goes on of product improvements and these are just a few of that we are incorporating into our new vessels producing “toughness” and high performance levels.
JB: As you ramp up the production line, do you have a specific target in mind regarding the number of boats you’d like to turn out annually?
EB: We do have a business plan but it is not ready for release at this point. Even though the sales of the new 35’ have been excellent, our goal is to build to the highest quality standard and not high volume.
JB: Long-time Bertram fans like me will be eager to see the new facility once it’s established and operational. Will plant tours be available sometime down the road?
EB: Yes. With an appointment we will be proud to show off the facility and “How we build in the Quality” as we go. We listen hard to our retail customers. We have a new facility and are being very careful how we plan all operations and processes to produce the products as planned and designed to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations.
JB: Finally, give us your thoughts on what will set these new Bertrams apart from other similar designs from your competition currently on the market?
EB: John, we have started with a new iteration of the ‘ole classic Moppie 31 in our new 35. MPYD have done an extraordinary job of designing in the features and look that hopefully provides our customer a “singular product” that only true Bertram aficionados could design and build. From that start, our product line is laid out to produce unique designs and products, in both features and functions that only Bertram could produce, both from the aesthetic side and true Blue Water performance capability. They look like Bertram’s that are immediately recognizable. We are very proud of where we are going.
JB: Earl, many thanks for your time and best of luck!