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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Viking Sport Cruisers 58 Flybridge

While the larger world grapples with thorny issues like disappearing polar ice caps and nuclear proliferation, the boating industry wrestles with its own conundrums, one of which rivals those in thorniness if not scale: Galley Up Versus Galley Down. Pretty much since the day someone first put a lid on a hull, designers and owners have debated which is the better location for the food-preparation area. The issue involves matters as weighty as ergonomics and aesthetics but also fringes on that of gender: Is it right to banish the cook (often a female) to the nether regions while the captain (often a male) enjoys expansive views and fresh air?

Viking Sport Cruisers offered a solution when it replaced a popular galley-up model, the 57 Flybridge, with a new galley-down model, the 58 Flybridge. Examining the two, you can see why a seemingly simple either/or proposition has generated such controversy. Being up, the 57's galley placed its occupants in the thick of things (if a few steps down), right in the midst of the main-deck saloon and just aft of the starboard helm, making conversation practicable even as meals take form. Yet the 58's galley—forward, down three steps, and to port—hardly exiles the cook. Yes, views from it are definitely limited, but an open overhead brings in light and makes communication with the helmsman a reasonable proposition.

Neither galley has an edge on size and amenities; both offer the basics required by a sometime cruiser: cooktop, microwave, copious refrigeration (an upright for the 58 and two drawers for the 57), and decent counterspace. But when you look at what changing locations does to the other accommodations, you begin to think the 58 finally has the definitive answer. As you'd expect, removing the galley from the main deck creates a larger, less-broken-up saloon, and let's face it, this is where most people spend most of their time when they're not outside. Removing the bridge staircase at the forward port end of the saloon further frees up more space, albeit at some price in convenience. The pictures here tell the story of the modifications, but it's worth pointing out that the 58's designers were able to also fit a bar with an ice maker, refrigerator, and bottle and glass stowage (but no sink) behind the helm, where the 57's galley is. Both boats' dinettes are across from the helm, a convivial location that in the case of the 58 makes it especially convenient to the galley. Being elevated adds room for accommodations below (in the 58's case, the master stateroom) and fine views as well.

So the obvious question is, what happens to the sleeping accommodations when you put the galley below? It's a credit to this boat's designers to answer, "Not much." There's still a VIP forward and a master aft (which was farther forward and to starboard on the 57), both with en suite facilities. The double-berth stateroom has migrated from port to starboard to make room for the galley and is sufficiently sized to include a full-size hanging locker but alas, no direct access to facilities as in the 57. In other words, you have three comfortable staterooms and two heads big enough to accommodate enclosed showers—just like on the 57. What more could you ask for on a 58-footer?

Well, you could ask for an exciting ride. All Viking Sport Cruisers have considerable deadrise—the 58's measures 19 degrees at the transom—and all things considered, that should make them good in a seaway. I say should because on test day, the seas off Atlantic City, New Jersey, were so flat, you could have rolled a beach ball across them all the way down to Cape May. Countering the beneficial sea manners the additional deadrise aft brings is reduced lift and—at least theoretically—thereby reduced speed. Yet a terminal velocity of nearly 37 mph hardly qualifies this boat as lethargic. You do get a fair amount of heel in hard turns because of the generous deadrise, but given the 58's fine manners, it just makes the ride all the more fun. Indeed, helming the 58, you could easily delude yourself into believing you were joyriding a much smaller boat, were it not for her steering. The system, which is currently used exclusively by Viking Sport Cruisers and Princess Yachts, is a wonderful piece of technology from Sleipner that combines an electronically controlled hydraulic pump with a straight hydraulic backup. When you turn the wheel, you actually send an electronic signal to a motor in the lazarette that does the dirty work of moving the rudders. My problem was an initial second of extra resistance that required just enough additional effort to remove the instantaneous response in figure-eights and, I'd guess, add some fatigue to extended cruising.

Overall the 58 is a solid ride, and that's because she's built. Actually, make that engineered. The evidence is everywhere, from the way the batteries are enclosed in sturdy FRP boxes that are vented overboard to the shiny polished-steel plate that protects the air conditioning circulating pump from wayward feet. Of course, the lazarette hatch is guttered and drains overboard, but via solid-brass elbows? The reinforcement in the way of the rudder quadrants is really quite remarkable, and both saddle tanks have remote-controlled (from the cockpit) shut-offs, a crucial safety feature in the event of a fire and one that frankly should be mandated on all powerboats. Someone even obsessed over little details like a lock that prevents inadvertent activation of the rockers for the winch and a nifty deck drain with a top/strainer that lifts off so you can easily remove any clogs. And I had to ask myself, was it pure serendipity that the fuel-water separators were placed on the aft engine-room bulkhead so that when you turned on the lights, the fuel was backlit, revealing the slightest contamination?

Actually, despite all the beautiful fabrics, lacquered cherry, and cushy mattresses, it was the 58's engine room that was my favorite place on this boat. But then I'm an engine guy. Galleys? I don't get too excited about whether they're up or down, as long as they're close enough for someone to hand me a cold drink.

For more information on Viking Sport Cruisers, including contact information, click here.

No matter what kind of boat you own and no matter what kind of filters you have, someday you'll have to clean out your fuel tanks. You just can't prevent sludge from building up, which is why you should clean them periodically, problem or not. With most boats that means calling in a fuel caddy with a circulating pump and suction hose that has to be snaked down the fuel fill—a process that yields uneven results. But with the 58, just unscrew the plug in this fitting on the bottom end of both saddle tanks, which on European models provides a crossover between the two, screw in a hose barb, attach a hose, and drain the gook. Or, better yet, suck it out with a small pump.—R.T.

This article originally appeared in the September 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.