Bertram 31 Flybridge Cruiser
Life doesn’t stay the same. Boats don’t, either. Dug Stowe has had his Bertram 31 for almost 20 years, and it has made the transition from a “fishing with the guys” boat to a family cruiser that’s a perfect fit for his companion, Kerri, and their 2-yearold daughter.
Stowe, who is 48 and lives is Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, bought the iconic deep- vee boat 18 years ago as a fishing platform to replace his center console. “I didn’t have a specific goal in mind when I bought it; I just wanted a stock Bertram 31 that ran well and was comfortable,” he says. After spending the night in the middle of Fisher’s Island Sound at anchor in the fog, on a boat without shelter or electronics, “I wanted to have something more than a center console.”
As he puts it, he decided to take charge of his boating destiny. “I wanted to do more than just catch bluefish and stripers,” he says. “So I decided to buy a platform that I could do basically whatever I wanted with.”
Just out of business school, Stowe in 1999 paid around $22,000 for his 1969 Bertram 31 Flybridge Cruiser. “There were a couple of Bertrams in our harbor [ in Mystic, Connecticut], and they struck me as a very goodlooking boat,” he says. “Of course, I knew their reputation.”
But buying the boat was just the beginning. “It was in bad shape,” Stowe says. “It had twin 440 Chrysler engines, which should strike fear into any knowledgeable boater. We drove it from Swansea [Massachusetts, where Dug Stowe with (from left) Olivia and Kerri it was purchased] to my home port in Mystic, and to this day I don’t know how we got it there.” In subsequent inspections, Stowe says, he found many “scary things,” including rotten plywood and worn-out engine parts.
The Bertram was gutted “from the firewall back,” repowered, rewired, repainted and fitted out with up-to-date electronics to make it the reliable, comfortable boat he wanted.
Then Stowe started to go to Bertram rendezvous. “I noticed that the Bertram 31 seemed to have two things. It has a cultlike following, and it’s a boat that people really like to modify. I started seeing what people had done with their 31s — I was intrigued. I saw the possibility to create something unusual.”
Stowe decided to make his Bertram ready for “another 25 to 50 years of use,” fixing the leaking side windows, changing to a solid windshield, stiffening the flybridge, solving the engine problems he’d been plagued with. “I needed a real plan,” he says. “I had a boat that was deserving of the investment. I said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s save up the money to do it right.’ ”
The first phase involved gutting most of the interior, then rewiring and plumbing, installing teak soles and decking, updating