Q&A with noted Naval Architect and Boat Designer: Michael Peters
Photo: Power & Motoryacht Magazine
Anglers Journal editor-at-large John Brownlee recently caught up with noted naval architect and boat designer Michael Peters and posed a few questions about his recent collaboration with the new Bertram brand.
Q: Michael, you’ve created some of the most iconic boat designs in history: please tell us where the new Bertram 35 fits into that legacy?
A: It’s always a challenge to take a storied brand and bring it back to life. You have to be very careful. I had this experience with brands like Chris Craft and Rybovich in the past and you have to be a sort of chameleon, you can’t make it about you. You have to take second place to the brand and not force your own personality on it.
Q: Describe for us the main differences between this new boat and the classic Bertrams of the past?
A: One of the challenges we face is tapping into people’s imaginations about the older boats. We’re really often dealing with childhood memories of people’s father’s Bertrams. You sometimes must look at this as a position like a museum curator, and you have a huge responsibility not to mess it up. You don’t want to overthink it or overdo it. It’s like when several people look at a beautiful car, or even a beautiful woman. Chances are we’ll all agree that it, or she is beautiful, but we may not agree at all about why. One thing we have to ask ourselves is what would the boat look like had the company never changed hands through time, if it had existed seamlessly all these years?
Q: As the company ramps up and prepares to begin building boats in Tampa, what new technologies will the 35, the new 58 and models to come incorporate?
A: Modern boats all have larger engines, greater fuel capacities, much drier rides and greater stability through changes in hull design and through technologies like SeaKeeper. These are all things that Bertram designers would have figured out over time. Today’s buyers won’t tolerate a wet boat and they demand stability.
Q: It has been said that even though you’ve created hundreds of new designs, there exists no single signature visual element that identifies a Michael Peters boat. That sounds like quite a difficult feat to pull off. What goes into creating a new boat for a company like Bertram with a long history of a certain look, while still incorporating fresh and modern ideas?
A: Designing boats for a company with a long history is quite different from starting out with a fresh design, a blank sheet of paper. You have to view yourself as a caretaker of the brand’s legacy while changing all of the things that must be changed. You have to hang onto the aesthetic aspect everyone is familiar with as it would be wrong to do away with the older stuff. The designer does not have the right to inflict his or her own look on the brand. You have to respect the look that’s associated with that brand, and as long as we respect where those boats have come from, we know how to move forward.
Q: If someone were to ask you what particular quality makes these new Bertrams stand out from the Bertrams of yesteryear, what would you tell them?
A: In terms of construction, the 35 has a glued-in, molded fiberglass structure throughout the boat, very different from the way they built Bertrams in years past. Other than interior cabinetry and trim, there’s no wood in the boat. The very way we put the boat together has changed substantially. The trick is to create a boat that someone will instantly recognize as a Bertram from across the harbor. But as they get closer, they can plainly see that it’s a modern boat. The new boats are built using computer aided routers that provide a very precise fit and finish, so while we aim for a nostalgic look, the entire boat is built in the most modern way possible. In reality, everything about the new boats is better. The hulls are better, the look is current, construction is better and the power is up to date. Globally, every aspect of the boat has been touched.
Q: Michael, many thanks and good luck with this and your many other projects!
A: Thank you.