52 Convertible — By Richard Thiel — February 2002
|Part 2: Viking 52 Convertible continued|
Besides being dry, our cockpit was also notably free of exhaust fumes, something Viking attributes to the gently inward-curving house sides, which it says break up the air flow and thereby reduce the low-pressure air pocket that typically forms aft of the house--the notorious "station wagon effect." Assisting this are new molded-in oval exhaust ports that look great and accommodate both engines and gensets. (For the ultimate in low clutter, you can order all through-hulls molded in.)
But the most impressive design change, in my opinion, lies beneath that 145-square-foot cockpit (one square foot larger than the 50's). The 52's rudders are an unusual trapezoidal design (see photo on page 152), which are of normal width at the top but are sharply cut away at the bottom. I heard a variety of theories on why this shape works, but I can tell you that work it does. In concert with standard power-assisted steering and a good turn of speed courtesy of optional 1,300-hp MANs (1,050-hp MANs are standard, compared to 820-hp MANs on the 50), the result is one of the most remarkable and enjoyable rides I've had at the wheel of any 50-some-footer. The 52 answers the wheel in an instantaneous, automobile-like way and banks into a turn like a runabout. I'd estimate her turning radius at WOT at no more than two boat lengths, and she loses relatively little rpm as you crank the wheel ever harder over. Spin it the four and a half turns from lock to lock as energetically as you wish, and she never loses her poise.
Of course, there are interior changes as well. The basic plan is unchanged, but the elongated stem and 1'1" more beam provide enough room for a queen-size berth in the forepeak, if you select the standard layout. Our test boat had the optional layout--the only one on the 50--with bunks to starboard. Abaft on this level the master with en suite head is now to port and the third stateroom is now to starboard, separated from the forepeak stateroom by a head. One feature here bears mention by virtue of its spatial sleight of hand. That head has three doors--one to each stateroom and a third to the hallway so it can function as a day head--yet still somehow manages to accommodate all the accoutrements (including a big stall shower). The standard washer and dryer also moves across the hall and against the aft bulkhead, where there's more space.
Up on the saloon deck, the galley seems to enjoy the lion's share of the additional 2'3" (52'10" versus 50'7"). It's now U-shape instead of the angled-J configuration of the old boat. A U-shape is considered the optimum configuration not only because it maximizes space, but for its added security underway. Viking enhanced the design by eliminating the refrigerator/ freezer that stood in the forward port corner and replacing it with four standard Sub-Zero drawers, two refrigerator and two freezer, a $5,320 option on the 50. I'd guess counterspace is doubled, and there's still enough undercounter real estate to accommodate a dishwasher or trash compactor. Another nifty space trick: The forward cabinets extend some three feet deep under the windshield--well beyond arm's reach--so Viking fits them with roll-out racks to make them really useful.
Being an evolutionary design, much is unchanged on the 52. All hatches are still built using a resin-transfer process that makes them light and fully finished on both sides. The cockpit is devoid of cabinet pulls, lending a clean, custom look and minimizing the potential for line snags. Both heads have clearly labeled switch panels so your guests won't be confused. The engines are still mounted to steel I-beams that bolt to fore and aft bulkheads to ensure unchanging engine alignment. End-grain balsa is used in the hull sides, cabin top, and decks. Viking still offers a list of standard equipment composed as if every owner were a hard-core angler: transom door, fresh- and raw-water washdowns, four rod holders, fishbox, and tackle center with bait-prep station and freezer. And the engine room still looks more like an OR than a mechanical space.
One of the advantages of an evolutionary approach to boatbuilding is it allows you to keep what works and eliminate what doesn't. I couldn't find much in that latter category on the 52, although I do have a problem with the near-vertical athwartship bridge ladder. Yes, I know it saves space, but it can be tough to negotiate in a seaway--and especially when the guy at the wheel is having as much fun as I did.
Viking Yachts Phone: (609) 296-6000. Fax: (609) 296-3956. www.vikingyachts.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.