Tauranga-based bespoke boatbuilder Marra Marine has completed a stunning restoration of a 1986 Bertram 23 hull with a view to giving it the capacity and capability to be the ultimate sport fishing vessel.

With its low centre of gravity and high gunnels, the Bertram 23 has always been known as the ‘big little boat’ when it came to sea going ability, and this restoration was planned to really showcase this quality. The cockpit is generous for a boat of this size, making it perfect for the keen fisherman/woman, family group or scuba diver.

The project started with a smaller goal in mind – until the boat’s Gisborne-based owner realised the talent of the Marra Marine team and quickly became caught up in a shared vision to take this trailer boat to the next level.

The original scope of work was as follows:
• Inboard to outboard conversion
• Raising the hardtop 150mm
• Step-through transom with livebait tank
• Cabinet work
• Aluminium joinery
• Paint work

However, what eventuated is that every inch of the boat was renovated.

What made this project special – and it’s an aspect of its business that Marra Marine prideS itself on – is close collaboration with the client and all the subcontractors to the project.

“This was very much the ultimate collaboration between client and builder, where our visions were so completely aligned,” said Marra Marine’s Tim Marra, explaining that the project grew into something huge.


“At the beginning I never anticipated the level to which our client was prepared to take this project. I am in awe of it, and while we were completely able to deliver, at the outset we hadn’t anticipated the level of quality in the finish our client wanted – it’s second to none.”

In working more closely with the owner, Marra Marine learned he lives off grid and therefore had a desire to set the boat up to also operate off grid.  It is fully solar powered, just like the owner’s house. He can charge the starting batteries and 36-volt Minn Kota bow-mounted electric trolling motor system through a separate plug-in socket arrangement. This vessel is also equipped with Bluetooth smart shunt, whereby the owner can monitor the voltage, with constant real time updates for complete visibility of onboard electric power usage and battery status.

The biggest challenge for Tim and his team was space – this 23-foot boat is set up like a 35-foot vessel, and in this respect very much lives up to its ‘big little boat’ title. However, squeezing so many big boat features into the modest-sized Bertram 23 hull was challenging.

But, says Tim, who collaborated with some of the best marine tradespeople in the Tauranga region, always keeping the lines of communication open across the project team, the challenges were overcome with smart, practical solutions and innovative ideas.

All the sub-contractors and the wider project team working on this project appreciated the fact that the boat stayed in the same location at Marra Marine HQ, Sulphur Point, says Tim. According to sub-contractor Michael Coombe, Director of MiCam Auto Electrical, “it created efficiencies and saved time across the board.”

Fellow business owners:
• Bay Marine Electronics
• Micam Auto Electrical
• Marine Reflections
• Mount Fabrication
• Matamata Motor Trimmers

Highlights for BME installation
• Garmin nav suite at both helm and flybridge
• Minnkota Ulterra 36V electric trolling motor
• Fusion blackbox stereo system
• Full RGB strip lighting throughout the boat, matched to the speakers and underwater lights


Higlights for MICAM installation
• Solar system
• 550m of marine cabling
• Hella – latest LED lighting throughout the boat