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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Viking 50 Convertible

A lot can change in seven years. Heck, I went from being a college student to a working professional (yes, this is actually a job) to a daddy in that amount of time, and from having near-black hair to a more refined salt-and-pepper duotone. Man, the time flies. As fast as life moves ahead, so does boat design and technology. I found proof of this during my latest testing adventure onboard Viking Yachts’ 50 Convertible.

The reason I use a seven-year span as a benchmark is because I often crew on a 2001 Viking 50 Open, the Convertible’s predecessor, and so am familiar with the Viking ride. The most obvious difference I found between the two boats is in the engine room. The seven-year-old Viking that I fish on sports twin 1,050-hp MAN diesel inboards, while this latest 50-footer sports two optional--and significantly more powerful--1,360-mhp MAN diesels. (Twin 1,100-mhp MANs are standard, and the bigger power is about a $96,000 uptick in the boat’s $1.449-million base price.) In addition to more horses, these bigger powerplants also feature the latest-generation engine-management software from MAN, which aids in the motors’ overall operating efficiency.

But some things don’t change. The new 50’s big iron sits on engine beds comprised of hefty steel beams that are hung on intermediate bulkheads. This means you can feel secure in the fact that those engines will be aligned spot-on for a long time, maximizing your propulsion system’s ability to push this 66,500-pound behemoth without noticeable vibration. Now, building tough--as Viking does with a hull of vacuum-bagged, end-grain-balsa right down to the keel--is one thing, but the finish on this vessel is top-notch, too. With 5'5" headroom and walkaround access (I easily scooted my 5'7", 180-pound frame around both motors), and finished off in pure-white Awlgrip, this engine room is showroom-ready.

But the 50’s ER is more than a showcase for big power; it’s also a practically laid out and functional space. There’s quick and effortless access to the SeaStar power-assist fluid fill just forward and to the right of the starboard engine. Directly below and to the left of the power-steering fluid reservoir is a small hatch that provides access to a series of True Union ball valves that manage flow for the refrigeration supply, sea-water bypass discharge, transom livewell, seawater washdown, and air conditioning. Batteries are housed in fiberglass boxes to outboard of each motor; in front of the port motor are the Cruisair air-conditioning handlers, which are also easily maintained. The 2001 50’s outboard space is tighter, due to the fact that the older boat’s beam is several inches less than this one’s 17 feet.

The ER isn’t the only part of the new 50 that displays a smart design. Take, for example, my test boat’s hull form. It features flatter aft sections than previous Vikings: 12 degrees of transom deadrise, about three degrees less than earlier-model Vikings (like the 2001 50). It also sports a more convex shape in the forward third and latter half, which should help provide a soft and dry head-sea ride, while the flatter aft sections provide lift. I didn’t get a chance to try out the dry-ride theory, as test day was damn near wind-free, with just 5 knots of northeast breeze lazily drifting about. But what the pancake-flat Atlantic Ocean off Cape May, New Jersey, did do was offer an opportunity to see what this new hull and her MANs were capable of when matched up.

The 50 didn’t disappoint. In less than 30 seconds, the engines spooled up to 2350 rpm and catapulted her to 46.4 mph (40.3 knots), and that was with about 1,050 of her available 1,200 gallons of fuel onboard. She also made a comfortable average cruise speed of 40.2 mph (35 knots) at 2000 rpm. Expect this boat to burn about 138 gph at WOT and 96 gph at cruise (see "Our Numbers," this story, for complete test data). From a comparison standpoint, the seven-year-old 50 cruises at 30 knots (65 gph) at about 2000 rpm, and WOT is 38 knots (110 gph) with a full load, which includes an 804-gallon tank. A combination of her power-assisted steering, high-speed stainless steel rudders, and 33-inch Veem wheels made her handling sports-car quick. The ZF gears with 1.97:1 gear reduction and RexRoth controls helped the boat spin fast enough to beat down a wily billfish. This boat was equipped with an optional Side-Power bow thruster ($14,225), but the MANs provide enough torque to make her dance quite well in close quarters without it.

You’ll want her to hoof it, too, when you’ve hooked your grander. This boat’s laid out to catch big fish. The 50’s cockpit amenities include in-deck fishboxes that can be partitioned with StarBoard inserts, used as livewells, or plumbed for an ice maker ($14,250), like on our test boat. Unlike the older 50, this new one also has an optional in-transom livewell. Larger bait-freezer stowage is available, too. Of course, as is de rigueur these days, there’s mezzanine seating, which also has insulated stowage underneath the step and can be set up as additional bait stowage, a freezer, or another refrigerator. There are also traditional angling amenities such as four in-gunwale stainless steel rod holders (I’d add two), a transom door, and hideaway gaff stowage. The cockpit also boasts 140 square feet of fish-fighting space. And there’s room for an optional fighting chair. Add some Rupp outriggers--an $8,405 option--and six rocket launchers ($1,100) on the $30,965 optional hardtop, and you’re good to run to the deep.

While the 50 is a true battlewagon, Viking has given equal attention to the comfort side of this boat’s equation. The saloon is inviting with an earth-tone Ultraleather L-shape settee, and all the bulkheads and cabinetry sport satin-finish teak (high-gloss is available). Her below-deck layout comes standard with three staterooms and two heads. One word on the port-side guest stateroom: The light switch is on the bulkhead at the head of the berths, which means you step into the dark room to turn it on. I’d prefer it be mounted in the bulkhead immediately to the left upon entering.

But it is the saloon/dinette/galley that’s the place to kick back after spending a day staring at baits. One of the highlights of this vessel’s interior is the island galley. It’s a triangle-shape affair with two stools. In addition to making a great breakfast nook, the island opens up space for crew to pass through the saloon/galley area. Combine this seating with the dinette across and the aforementioned settee, and there are plenty of places for people relax. All seating areas offer an unobstructed view of the standard 37-inch Sharp LCD TV on the bulkhead forward and to port.

The 50 is more than just newer, she’s advanced in terms of design, power, space utilization, and ride. While there have been many changes, she still provides the one thing Viking has offered consistently for more than 44 years: an agile, speedy, and stable platform for going far and fishing deep. And with a raked and blacked-out saloon window mask blending with a razor-like sheerline, she’ll look good doing it, too. Imagine what the next seven years could bring.

For more information on Viking Yachts, including contact information, click here.

When you’re fishing the circuit for several months at a time, having a place to stow all of your must-have gear, especially on a midsize 50-footer, can be challenging. Viking has done a good job, as you can see, of maximizing otherwise dead space. It’s all compartmentalized to keep the load from shifting, and the heavy-duty struts make lifting the berth a breeze. --P.S.

This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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