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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Viking 55 Convertible

The Real McCoy

With style and performance in spades, the Viking 55 may horn in on the territory of some larger competitors.

I’ve been really into the HBO gangster drama Boardwalk Empire, as of late. The show takes place in Atlantic City during the heady years of prohibition, and is rife with sex, violence, and a certain depth of dialogue—pretty much everything I look for in a drama. The show’s chief bad-guy-in-charge runs a booze-smuggling operation, and a good deal of his business relies on fast, seaworthy boats nimbly navigating the rough ocean and internecine marshes of south Jersey to deposit their loads of hooch on shore. And it just so happens that the rural swampland where those drops occur looks a whole lot like New Gretna, New Jersey, the sleepy, throwback seaside town that is a stone’s throw from A.C., and which also happens to be the home to Viking Yachts.

Recently, Viking has been on quite a tear. Its 70 received a glowing review in this magazine [December 2010], and its 66 blew away our Editor-at-Large Capt. Richard Thiel last March. With those reviews in mind, I shoved off for south Jersey to see what their latest launch, the 55 Convertible, could do.

I would not be disappointed.

I noticed a lot of really impressive performance attributes as I ripped the 55 around in looping figure eights and hair-on-fire straightaways in the middle of a marsh just beyond the Viking factory. Her acceleration felt like a sports car’s and her twin 1,550-horsepower MANs ramped her up to a riveting 41.6 knots—doubly impressive when you consider that the boat weighs in at a relatively light, but-not-insignifcant, 77,000 pounds dry. She whirled through corkscrews at 35 knots in less than two boat lengths with hardly any heel, in large part thanks to her independent rudders, which help her respond to fingertip adjustments to the helm. And when the daunting wake of a speeding Viking 66 tried to smack us silly, the boat simply ate up the disturbance without even a shimmy. In this regard she felt more like a small ship than a yacht. At slow speeds she spun around like Chuck Norris delivering a roundhouse kick in his prime, and backed down with a swiftness, thanks in no small part to a bowed-out transom that acts to make her more streamlined when reeling in a trophy fish. Marlin, tuna, and sailfish beware; you don’t stand a penguin’s chance in Hawaii against this boat. 

So like I said, all these attributes on their own would have been enough to write home about, but do you know what I remember most about driving this boat? Ironically, the way she stopped. The props—equipment that Viking prizes so highly they wouldn’t tell even me much about—dug so hard into the root-beer-colored marsh water that when I pulled back on the sticks it literally felt like I had hit the brakes. There was such a sudden lack of motion that everybody on the boat had to shift their feet just to keep from falling over. That’s something I have yet to feel on any other boat I’ve tested for this job, and it means one thing to me—the boys down in New Gretna have this puppy dialed all the way in.

Onboard, the Viking has everything you’d expect for a convertible of this size, type, and price range. The spacious cockpit is ready for war with a Bluewater fighting chair, two freezers, extra stowage, and a ton of teak. There’s a cooler under the mezzanine seating—an area which can be chilled out by optional air conditioning for tropical-weather fishing. Notably, the tuna tubes along the transom (all new Vikings come with tubes) can be customized. Shorter, fatter, you name it. One owner even asked that his tubes be lengthened, since he was worried that the tuna he was about to throw overboard to lure in hungry billfish was getting a sunburn on its tail. Yeah, that’s a real thing that actually happened.

The saloon and accommodations level is reached through an electrical sliding door in the cockpit that opens at the push of a button. A tiny, silver button down by your knees. Look for it, it’s there. You’ll thank me for writing this part down when you board this boat. I just saved you from standing haplessly outside the glass door, looking in at the saloon like a dog in the rain.

That saloon is elegant with either high-gloss or satin teak, and has an L-shaped settee aft, and a galley forward, with a granite bar that can either be a peninsula or an island. It seems to me the island is the obvious choice here for ease of motion should a fish bite while you’re whipping up some nachos.

Down below, the amidships master is well appointed with a queen-size berth and an en suite head that features a large shower with a seat, so the missus can shave her legs more easily aboard, I’d guess. Another thoughtful detail in the head is the cabinet door over the sink, which swings out a full 8 inches higher than the vanity, so you don’t knock anything over when you open it. Air conditioning outlets here, and in the VIP, are routed along the walls so that the cold air isn’t blasting you in the face while you try to sleep—AKA, no sore throats in the morning. Never let it be said that Viking doesn’t care about its customers’ health.

A forepeak VIP can be arranged with either a queen berth or scissoring bunks. The scissoring is the more popular arrangement, which makes sense to me, because it’s a better use of the space, and looks like it might be able to fit three (well-acquainted) people. A third guest cabin to port features bunks and extra stowage.

Topside on the bridge deck, the helm console can either be a peninsula from the port side, or the more popular choice, an island. There are also excellent sightlines from the helm, as you might expect. However there was one flaw up there that bears pointing out. The starboard-side, aft-facing seat has no railing, i.e. it’s a straight shot into the drink. When I first sat in it, I sat down sideways, with my back to the side of the boat, and if I had sat down with a little more panache, as you might after catching a big fish or downing a few brews, well…yikes. Same goes for the opening for the ladder leading topside. No hatch, no railing, just a hole in the deck. It seems like a simple enough fix, and railings in both spots would definitely be something I’d want on my boat.

After my inspection of the boat and the test drive, I got a chance to check out Viking’s factory. There they resin infuse the 55’s hull, employing modified polyesters primarily with a vinylester barrier coat to help prevent osmotic blistering. As I was walking through the cavernous space, where giant 82s and 76s, 70s and even 66s loomed like nautical sauropods, it occurred to me what a perfect size the 55 is. With an LOA of 56-feet 5-inches, she is plenty big enough for serious expedition fishing, but at the end of the day, she won’t take multiple deckhands (and hours) to wash down, and a good captain will be able to dock her by himself without too much trouble. And that’s a nice little attribute, isn’t it? After all, the less men you need to run the ship, the fewer ways you need to split your profits. From fishing tournaments of course.

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This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.