One story began 40 years ago, a starry-eyed boater’s lust unrequited until Yamaha’s 350-horsepower outboards spurred him to act. Another anecdote began with new employment. A third boater’s repair-weary checkbook caused him to separate from his old outboard. All three had one thing in common: love of a boat but not its power. After repowering, all three share immense satisfaction. Is repowering practical or a romantic entanglement? A few examples help shed light on the truth.
“I always wanted two things, a ’57 Chevy and a Bertram 31,” Butch Stallings says. Four decades ago, Stallings was given the helm of a 31-footer built in the days when Bertram yachts was brand-new. Offshore one day, the weather turned. “We were all the way out at the nipple, on the 100-fathom curve,” he relates.
Stallings fell in love as that little boat ate up the stiff head sea for 40 miles back to Dauphin Island, Alabama. “It never left me,” he says. “I always had that [ride] in the back of my mind.” In June 2005, nearing a comfortable retirement, Stallings and his wife, Julia, acquired a 31 needing restoration. “I thought I’d put it [back to] its original condition,” Stallings said, but inboards would preclude keeping it behind their house and would have cramped the shallow-water cruising style the couple enjoys along Mobile Bay. Then, Yamaha released its revolutionary 350s, and, as Stallings puts it, “the light went on.”
How Stallings got his wife aboard isn’t clear, but she loves the boat. “It’s little, but it’s quite a showpiece,” she says.
With considerably more cash invested than the cost of a new 34 Tiara, the couple aptly named it Folie à Deux — a rare psychiatric syndrome in which delusions are passed from one individual to another.
“It’s so different; everywhere it goes people look at it,” says Sonny Middleton, owner of Dog River Marina, the site of the boat’s restoration (dogrivermarina.com). Middleton also says twin trimmable outboards mounted aft overcame the legendary hull’s Achilles’ heel — a wet ride. The Stallings’ Bertram was gutted to a bare hull, the flying bridge was widened 18 inches, and then the boat was repainted, rewired and rebuilt with all new components.
The Bertram was beefed up considerably at its aft end to be pushed from the stern, rather than from amidships engine beds. Just the repower, without the restoration, cost around $150,000.
The Stallings’ boat now offers the couple quick trips for lunch and overnights along the Gulf Coast — without worry over draft.
As for the ’57 Chevy, “I’m still on the prowl for that,” Stallings says, “a two-door hardtop with a V-8, restored to original, in aqua and white.”