IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO TALK ABOUT TROPIC STAR without mentioning its well-maintained fleet of Bertram 31s.
The twin-diesel Bertram 31s are to this lodge what floatplanes are to the fly-in operations in Canada and Alaska: rugged, dependable workhorses. They are not the fastest or largest fishboats on the water today, but they are strong, sure-footed and nimble. And they can run safely through the snottiest seas.
“To me, the 31 is the most iconic sportfishing boat ever built,” says Capt. Richard White, the fishing director and manager at the lodge. “They’re so maneuverable and versatile. And the hulls are absolutely bulletproof.”
The lodge operates 13 of the Florida-built boats — which debuted in the early 1960s — with two operational spares on hand. Tropic Star also has the expertise and facilities to repair, replace or fabricate in glass, metal or wood just about anything on the boats, be it a steering or an electrical system, a shaft, strut, rudder or engine.
“Our boats fish 300 days a year,” says Tropic Star Capt. Zane Andrews, the son of the former owner, who started driving 31s when was 13 years old. “They have to be easy to work on. We can change an engine between tides. And we always have more boats than we can run. Fishability is a big thing.”
The lodge continues to tweak the boats to make them more functional. The fleet is in the early stages of being upgraded. The hulls will be repowered, the cabins enclosed and air-conditioned, the bridges and heads upgraded, and the helms graced with new Raymarine electronics.
One of the keys to success at remote lodges is resourcefulness, an attribute that was embedded in the DNA of Tropic Star by former owner Mike Andrews, a hands-on, do-it-yourself guy. “When something breaks, there’s nobody to call,” says John Brownlee, host of Anglers Journal TV, who has stayed at Tropic Star a number of times. “You have to be able to fix everything yourself down here.” Given the variety of fishing and species available, the variations in seasons, the remote location and more, a trip to Tropic Star generates questions. The lodge’s website is an excellent source of information (tropicstar.com). Tropic Star has offices in Orlando, Florida, and Panama City, Panama. email@example.com
The Bertram 31 is synonymous with the lodge.