Viking 66 ConvertibleBy Capt. Richard Thiel
Photos By Shaw McCutcheon
Viking introduces its purest—and most beautiful—convertible yet.
There’s a story, probably apocryphal, that when someone asked Michelangelo how he would create a sculpture of an elephant he replied, “I would take a large piece of stone and take away everything that was not the elephant.” Although a masterpiece of oversimplification, his words point up that genius almost always results from having a clear goal and being able to focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.
In creating its new 66, Viking has followed that exact same philosophy: crafting a sportfisherman by removing everything that is not a sportfisherman. Custom or production, you’re not going to find a purer battlewagon than this.
The 66 is not officially a replacement for the 64, which remains in production. Both will continue to be built on the same line—at least for now—although the two boats have hardly anything in common except that they were designed to go fast and catch fish. The hull is entirely new and reflects a continuing evolution in philosophy at Viking: reducing deadrise aft (from 15 degrees in the 64 to 11 degrees in the 66) to increase lift and thereby efficiency and speed, and making the foresections more convex to enhance seakeeping while keeping the topsides dry. I can personally attest to the efficacy of these changes: I ran the 66 in late November off Palm Beach, and she ate up four-footers like a pit bull on Dog Chow.
This is Viking’s first totally infused hull—it’s been infusing other components for years—and that’s no doubt taken a lot of weight out of the boat. Reduced displacement combined with the new hullform produced a remarkable top speed of over 48 mph on test day. Admittedly, that was with the largest available engines, 2,000-hp MTUs, (1,550-hp MANs are standard), but the 66 also managed a cruising speed of just under 35 mph with the big diesels loafing at 1750 rpm and burning 104 gph. For a boat of this size—ready to fish and tipping the scales at at least 105,000 pounds with fuel and water—that’s a feat.
If Viking had done nothing more than build a boat that exceeds its traditionally lofty standards for speed and seaworthiness, it would have been an accomplishment worth bragging about. But it has also created the most beautiful Viking convertible ever. Put the 66 next to any other Viking and the older boat will look like a shoebox in comparison. The sleekness starts right at the aggressively raked forefoot, aft of which you’ll see more freeboard than the 64—about 17 inches more. The foredeck is essentially flat, and because of the extra height forward, the sheerline is a bit more exaggerated, but still graceful. The deckhouse face is a good deal more raked, and the house sides are curved both vertically and horizontally and nicely converge inward towards the cockpit. Even the tower’s cross braces are gently curved. (It was done by Palm Beach Towers, a Viking subsidiary.) Indeed, look anywhere on this boat’s exterior and you won’t find a hard angle. All those curves could have produced a boat that looked too fussy to be a serious battlewagon, but instead the effect is subtle, a blending together that produces a boat that can only be termed—sorry, guys—pretty.
Inside, Viking designers have reprised a saloon layout that has worked well for them in other models: a forward galley separated from the saloon by an island instead of a peninsula. (A peninsula is available as an option.) While practical for cruisers, this seems clearly aimed at anglers who will be able to circulate freely throughout the food-prep area without running into each other. Think of it as the human version of a round livewell—no one gets trapped in the corners—and a speedy exit for all is assured should a rigger go off. And to further reduce interior traffic, albeit for nonculinary purposes, an interior day head is now available, right by the cockpit door.
Speaking of facilities, the 66 has 4½ heads, the half being the aforementioned optional day head, three being one for each stateroom, and the fourth lying all the way aft in the crew quarters. Yes, the 66 has crew quarters, a bunk stateroom down and aft of the companionway landing that not only has its own head but two entrances: one from the landing and the other from the engine-room through the head, via a watertight door. So on a 66-foot sportfisherman the crew can enter and leave the boat without going through the main cabin. (There’s also a tilt-up engine room hatch under the mezzanine.)
A lot of the advanced electronics that are already available on other Vikings are here as well—things like the Octoplex electrical control and monitoring system, that allows control of all electrical function from either of two panels; Viking’s proprietary VIPER steering system that turns each rudder independently, and three Lenco trim tabs that automatically retract when the gears are shifted into reverse, so you won’t snag your lines when backing down on a fish.
But my favorite bit of Viking ingenuity is the centralized raw-water supply system. All raw water—for the air conditioning pumps, saltwater washdowns, livewells, you name it—comes through a single through-hull, which has its own oversized strainer and 220-volt pump. (There are actually two such pumps—one a backup—and both are simple, over-the-counter swimming pool units that are easily serviced most anywhere in the world.) You can clean the strainer without shutting down any of the system components, and an integral regulator maintains constant system pressure as items come on and go off line. It’s not as glamorous a piece of engineering as, say, the saloon door, which opens and closes electrically with a Star Trek-y swoosh—but it is one of those things that will make an owner’s life (or that of his captain) a lot easier.
So is the 66 a masterpiece on the scale of say, a David or a Pietà? That might be stretching it a bit. But in the world of boatbuilding in general and convertibles in particular, this boat truly qualifies as a benchmark and a work of art.
This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.