Buyer's guide: Caribbean 26 | Bertram 25
Built under licence from Bertram Yachts, the Caribbean 25 and 26 soon became a big deal in Australia. It also remains one of the most sought after hulls on the secondhand used boats market.
The Caribbean 25 / 26 launched in the 1960s, out of the American Bertram cult from designer C Raymond Hunt and power and sail legend Richard Bertram.
Bertram Yachts licensed Australian icon Archie Spooner’s International Marine to build yachts and in the first year Archie and six employees produced 85 boats, with the 25-footer as the leader of the gang.
The original Hunt designs changed very little; the Caribbean 25 / 26 and latest Caribbean 27 are direct descendants; deep-Vs with plenty of beam, a nice flared bow and no-nonsense ‘more is better’ fibreglass.
Caribbean boats always tended towards simple fit-outs and while there's some variation in upholstery, fittings and engines, all Caribbeans and Bertrams share DNA.
The original Bertram 25 usually had twin inline six MerCruiser sterndrives – 165hp engines, then in-line four-cylinder 170s and 470s with freshwater cooling. Most original 165s have been eaten by salt water but a great many repowered hulls still grace our waterways.
Caribbean 26 / Bertram 25
The 25 Bertram/Caribbean is one of the greatest sea boats ever in its class, its wide beam and deep deadrise allowed tremendous volume and stability compared to rivals.
Variants include runabout, hardtop saloon, the dual-station open-cabin Fly Bridge Sports Fisherman (FBSF) and the fully enclosed Fly Bridge Cruiser (FBC) that often featured a single MerCruiser V8 or Volvo diesel sterndrives. More than 1200 25ft Bertrams were produced before the 26ft hull was released in 1989.
In the 1980s the hull was tweaked to take the MerCruiser 4.3L V6 sterndrive, and the naming agreement with Bertram ceased, hence the all-new Caribbean 26. Sales were strong but the recession took a toll on boat sales, so early 1990s boats are rarer.
- Browse Trade-a-Boat's extensive archive of Caribbean boat reviews.
Caribbean 25 / 26 features
All Caribbean 25 and 26 boats feature the same general layout: a big lockable vee-berth with a large hatch to the long foredeck. Starboard helm and port dinette are common to all except the FBC which only has an upstairs helm station. Until recently twin-lever gearshift and throttle controls were standard.
The galley has a spirit stove, pantry and sink. The Caribbean 26 got a 550L water tank, and dspite a long engine box, there’s huge deck space.
These are multi-function boats adept as inshore entertainers or offshore gamefishers. The reputation has few peers, and they often fetch more than their purchase price secondhand.
In June 2009 Paul Ghosn of Sylvania Marina told us: "The first one I sold cost $26,000 and would probably fetch that today."
Seven years on, a good early to mid-1990s used Caribbean 26 FBSF will fetch a price of $45,000 to $70,000. While the 3m+ beam and high weight put them in the Oversize class, a quality trailer is worth the extra. For post-2000-models, secondhand Caribbean 26 boats vary more but a good used boat may fetch a price of $70,000 to $120,000.
Handling and ride
Handling is excellent. The deep-vee, solid construction and good planing strakes give terrific rough water credentials. It can take time to master low-speed manoeuvring on twin stern-drives but practice will have you turning it on a dime.
You can expect mid-20kt out of early offerings; we recently experienced 43kt at 5200rpm (WOT) in the latest 27ft Caribbean runabout with 4.5L 250hp MerCruiser engines.
I've personally reviewed Caribbean 26 boats repowered with Yanmar 4BY2-180ZT marine diesel engines, Volvo Penta D4-260s and Mercury Diesel TDI 265s.
The heavy fibreglass lay-ups and construction techniques stand the test of time. Early offerings can have thick gelcoat that forms crows’ feet around wear points. It looks tired but generally doesn’t affect the fibreglass dramatically.
The main considerations are old fuel tanks, wiring and hoses, as well as upgrading essentials such as bilge pumps. Don’t underestimate the cost of refurbishment if you wish to fit new winches and modern electronics.
Bertram 25 / Caribbean 26 specs
TYPE Monohull deep-vee cruiser
WEIGHT Hull and dual six cylinder sterndrives approx. 2600 kg
PEOPLE (NIGHT) 2/4 (DAY) 7+
FUEL 550L (26ft)
See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #478, on sale May 19, 2016. Why not subscribe today?
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