Viking 56 Convertible — By
Capt. Bill Pike
|Can a shapely, supremely equipped battlewagon double as a comfy cruiser? Oh yeah!|
When Viking Yachts intro'd the popular 55 Convertible about a half-dozen years ago, I was way more intrigued than I usually am when a manufacturer splashes a new vessel. The size was right, for sure--I can't think of a more sensible envelope for a practical sportfishing machine than a LOA in the mid-50s range. The boat was chock-full of the engineering virtues that are typical of Viking--the ones that make sense to folks who extensively use and cruise their boats. Furthermore, the offshore fishing essentials were there. If memory serves, the 55 had a large, savvily accoutered cockpit with a sole close enough to the waterline to facilitate hauling a fish aboard, and her flying bridge, with Palm Beach-style steering console and extended hardtop option, was a tournament skipper's dream.
But there was something else that tickled my fancy about the boat--the same something that hallmarks Viking's new 56 Convertible, a successor to the 55 in some respects, albeit a slightly longer and substantially beamier one. Call it class perhaps, if what you're attempting to describe is a certain solid, uncompromising air of distinction. Or call it style, if it's curvaceousness and sleekness you're shooting for, infused with just enough tradition to make the boat look like a boat, not a swoopy chunk of abstract art. One way or the other, I'd probably agree, although I'd have to add an important observation, based solely on a little offshore trip I recently did on the 56, a prototype optionally outfitted with a matched set of 1,480-hp MTUs.
The day was a pretty one. We departed Miami about mid-morning and made our way up the coast to Fort Lauderdale at a cruise speed of maybe 33 or 34 knots, arriving a little before noon. The velocity with which we covered the 20-some NMs from one spot to the next was not in itself astounding--Vikings are wave-chompers for the most part and fast, and the mellifluous sea state the day we made the run was hardly a challenge to a boat of the 56's capabilities. What was astounding, or at least seriously attention-getting, was the utter confidence the boat inspired en route, both in me and, I think it's fair to say, everybody else onboard.
Confidence is an ephemeral quality, of course. Although you'd think it would have something to do with a boat's size, it often does not. I've test-driven vessels that were so small, I expected them to perform with aplomb, for example, but nope--they were untrustworthy. On the other hand, I've test-driven boats that were so big, I expected them to perform like lumber wagons, but again, nope--they felt so staunch and constant, they gained my confidence immediately. Exactly why the 56 (and, for that matter, the 55) fit so squarely into this latter camp I can't say, although a few thoughts came up on the trail to Lauderdale.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.