The difference between testing a new Viking and other convertibles is the same as the difference between following the New York Yankees and most any other baseball team. The Yankees are obsessed with being the best, and they set the bar higher than anyone. Where a division title would cause most teams to rejoice, for the Yankees it’s a mere stepping stone to the only thing that counts: the World Series championship. And while they aren’t always successful in attaining that goal, they usually come close, which is why while other teams rebuild between seasons, the Yankees usually only need to tweak their lineup with one or two roster additions.
Viking Yachts is just as obsessed with being the best, and since it nailed the basics of convertible design long ago, it doesn’t reinvent, it just refines. Take the 68 Convertible. She and the soon-to-be-introduced 64 Convertible (see “Design Portfolio,” February 2006) were designed to replace—and improve upon—the 65 Convertible, which debuted at the 1999 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The 68 is, of course, bigger—five inches wider and two inches shy of three feet longer—with much of the added length abaft the saloon bulkhead. At 186 square feet, the 68’s cockpit is but three square feet larger than her predecessor’s, but that’s deck space. She also has a standard three-foot-deep mezzanine (a smaller one was available on the 65), beneath which are a 9.9-cubic-foot bait freezer, tackle locker, chill box (under the saloon step), and engine-room hatch. One step up is a three-person observation settee (shaded by the cockpit overhang) with stowage below. So where the 65 catered to anglers, the 68 caters to anglers and those who like to watch them.
Viking owners, who are known for putting a lot of miles on their boats, will be happy to learn that the extra 34 inches also translates into 250 more gallons of standard fuel capacity (an additional 375-gallon tank is optional), although freshwater capacity drops by five gallons. Interestingly, Viking says it’s also managed to shave an inch off the draft, bringing it down to 5'5", even though displacement increased from 96,000 to 115,000 pounds. Does an extra 19,000 pounds make the 68 a sluggish performer? Thanks to an extra 460 horses with the top-of-the-line engine option, the answer is no—unless you consider a breath under 45 mph sluggish.
The other big improvement is on the flying bridge, which, as on the 65, is available either open or enclosed. But where the 65’s console was a peninsula open to starboard, the 68’s is an island, which improves traffic flow. Stowage hardly suffers, as the console is still big enough to climb into (in spite of all the electronic gizmos and two dedicated electronics batteries inside), and the area forward is large enough to accommodate an optional 5'4" wide by 2'6" deep freezer and seating ahead of that. There’s also a seven-foot-long bench on either side, under which is rod stowage complete with fabricated lock-in rod racks, plus a trash container and a drink cooler, one of five aboard.
The saloons are similar in size and configuration, although where the 65 had a big, U-shape couch across from a starboard entertainment console, the 68 has an L-shape lounge with a table across from a port-side credenza. Both boats have the dinette forward and to starboard and the galley across from it, but the 68 adds a sweeping Corian counter with two-person eating bar.
Below, the 65 was available with either three or four staterooms; at present the 68 is available only with four, but that will probably change after things calm down a bit; at presstime the 68 was sold out through 2007. As in the 65, the four-stateroom version includes a crew quarters with double bunk, private head, and direct access to the engine room, but in the 68 the port-side master berth is athwartships instead of angled, providing more walk-around space. On both boats the forepeak VIP is available with either cross-over berths or an island queen. >>
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