Viking 56 Convertible — By
Capt. Bill Pike
|Part 2: Viking integrates and secures everything that goes into the 56.|
For one thing, there was the assured steadiness of the ride, an aspect of performance that proceeds from two sources: rock-solid construction and a balanced, sea-splitting hull form. On the first score, Viking integrates and secures everything that goes into the 56, from the foam-cored fiberglass stringers to the custom-fabricated bracket that immobilizes the water heater in the engine room. When the boat moves, whether it be sterning into a slip or rocketing the Gulf Stream, she does so as a cohesive unit.
On the second score, the 56's running surface is the product of one of the oldest boatbuilding heritages in America. Viking, with manufacturing facilities in New Jersey and a growing service center in Florida, just celebrated its 39th anniversary. While empirical factors like broad, reversed chine flats, a transom deadrise of approximately 15 degrees, and a beefy, resin-and-silca-filled keel all contribute to a comfortable--and comforting--ride, the fact that Viking has been building boats since the glory days of Elvis Presley is a part of the picture as well.
Then there was hands-on performance. At one point during our run, I put the 56 into a series of tight S-curves, which I hoped would test her agility and give me a thrill. It did both. Thanks to a Hynautic hydraulic steering system with two engine-driven power-assists, both the wheel--and, of course, the boat--were ultra-sensitive to the touch and instantaneously responsive. More to the point, I found I could make quick, controlled turns by simply giving the wheel a momentary push with a finger, allowing it to spin quickly or slowly through the palm of my hand (depending on the intensity of the push), and then adjust or stop the turn with the same finger.
The savvy, robust way the helm area was protected from the elements was the last place I figured my sense of confidence was emanating from. The optional hardtop was secured with tree-trunk sturdiness, and although we had the three-sided enclosure (also optional) deployed for the entire run up the coast, there was never a hint of blowout, even at top speed. Watertight, gasketed Lexan hatches covered all electronic nav aids at the steering station, keeping everything dry inside dedicated lockers. Moreover, an Icom VHF was installed in a locker under a gasketed, waterproof hatch, and a set of dial-type emergency engine controls (throttles and shifts) were protected in the same waterproof environment. Does Viking try to cover every contingency? You bet.
Once we hit Lauderdale, Viking's marketing rep Pete Frederiksen and I spent the afternoon examining the 56 dockside. The interior's layout is much like the 55's on the main deck: a saloon and galley to port, stocked with top-shelf appliances and equipage, including a home-entertainment system with an optional, pop-up plasma TV. The lower deck's been changed considerably, although the three-stateroom, two-head basics remain. The queen-size berth in the amidships master has been reoriented from fore-and-aft to athwartships. Sculpted teak vanity fronts have been added in the heads, along with a solid-granite option for countertops and soles. And by moving the Kenmore washer and dryer from the companionway nook it occupied on the 55, Viking's been able to add a sizeable hanging locker to the starboard stateroom as well as extra space to the starboard head.
The engine room was what put the finishing touches on my impressions of the 56, though--it was flat-out spectacular. From the companionway-style entry forward, everything was either powder-coated or Awlgripped white, including the overhead, the underside of a four-inch-thick layer of fiberglass composite that supports the saloon sole. Lighting was ample--ten lights overhead. Batteries--each being a Delco, replaceable just about anywhere in the world--were ensconsed in fiberglass boxes with lids. Engine mounts were gutsily installed atop steel-beam engine bearers gusseted into dedicated, intermediate bulkheads, the point being to maintain bulls-eye drive-train alignment, improve under-engine access, and reduce the transmission of vibration. Delta T demisters guarantee clean, dry intake air.
"Given the level of engineering I'm lookin' at here," I noted as Frederiksen and I finished up, "it's no wonder this baby's so darn confidence-inspiring."
"Go a hundred miles offshore," he responded with a grin. "It gets even better."
Viking Yacht Company Phone: (609) 296-6000. www.vikingyachts.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.