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Viking Yachts 42 Open

Poetry In Motion

Viking Yachts puts a new twist on propulsion with a fast, fun super-performer.

Now this was going to be interesting! Viking Yachts was making its first foray into the realm of pod-propulsion with an express-style sportfishing machine—the 42 Open. I was strolling through the gates at Viking’s Yacht Service Center in Riviera Beach, Florida, charged with the task of sea trialing her. Over the past few years, I’ve operated many pod-propelled vessels, both great and small. And this day’s festivities featured a powerplant I was familiar with: two 600-mhp Cummins MerCruiser QSC8.3-600 HO diesels with Zeus drives. Zeus, of course, is the kind of pod technology where aft-facing propsets are affixed to underwater units vertically suspended from shallow protective tunnels.

How would such a package sync with Viking’s reputation for solid engineering and hard-core fishability? Hmmm, I’d have to see.

The test boat was docked in a dicey slip. She was hemmed in to starboard by a patch of radically skinny water—I swear I saw sea gulls wading knee-high in it at one point—and a string of buoys out front that warned of equally shallow water beyond the extremely narrow fairway. “Okay,” said Viking captain Ryan Higgins, a man of few words. I removed the bow lines, the sterns and springs having already been tossed. While standing on the foredeck, I felt a quick shot of appreciation for the solidity I felt underfoot—the area at the 42’s bow is relatively flat and the nonskid is grippy.

Higgins eased her out. Then, with the bow starting to nudge the buoy line and the transom clearing the slip’s pilings by mere inches, he began using the 42’s Zeus joystick to crab my test boat diagonally down the fairway, carefully working toward a spot where the channel’s narrowness widened into Lake Worth and the ocean beyond. The maneuver was a masterful bit of boathandling—something I don’t think Higgins, I, or anyone else could have safely managed with old-fashioned, angled-shaft propulsion. “Cool,” I commented as Higgins swung onto a more conventional heading.

Lake Worth’s salty surface remained flat while we ran our speed trials and collected other data. The average top hop I recorded was 42.3 mph, a respectable velocity when you figure it generates an operating efficiency of .68 mpg. After Higgins mentioned his preference for running the 42 at 2700 rpm, I added that throttle setting to the normal register and got some numbers that were also fairly impressive. The 42 does 36.5 mph at 2700 rpm while burning 44.1 gph for an operating efficiency of .83 mpg. Rousing speed, decent efficiency!

I got behind the wheel after the test runs. And as soon as I’d put the jetties of Lake Worth Inlet in the rearview mirror, I opened ‘er up, a move that immediately brought a special smile to my face. The smile means—and has always meant, by the way—that I’m thinking, What a joy to drive such an utter, wave-chomping thoroughbred across the ocean.

I spun the 42 hardover. At WOT, she hunkered into it like a Le Mans racer banking into a chicane. Glancing over my shoulder as my test vessel came around, I estimated our tactical diameter to be approximately two, maybe three, boat lengths. Then, after spinning another turn in the opposite direction, I began S-curving with intensifying confidence, back-and-forth, up-sea, and then down-sea. Then with a glance at Higgins meant to reassure, I headed straight down one of the five-foot troughs I’d created with the 42 going full speed while S-curving like a maniac.

The ride was amazing. Not only did this vessel exhibit an unflinching level of operational stability, she remained absolutely controllable. Indeed, because the Zeus system incorporates tabs that deploy and adjust themselves automatically, all I had to do was steer, throttle, hang on, and grin. “Higgins,” I chortled, shaking my head. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed drivin’ a boat this much!”

More excitement was in the offing, though. After I’d had enough of the zoom mode, I pulled the 42’s Palm Beach-style throttles back and simulated a fast, fish-fighting backdown. The ability to almost instantly dodge and feint, one way and then the other, while going astern, darn near startled me, whether I used one throttle lever (in conjunction with the synchronizer) and the steering wheel, or both throttles with the wheel centered, a less-responsive scenario, I’d say, due to the relatively small diameters of the Zeus propsets compared to conventional wheels.

I returned the boat to a Yacht Service Center slip that was less dicey than the first. A light touch on the Zeus joystick, a stoic resistance to hurrying, and a mixture of wind and tidal effects that were benign, produced an easy backdown. Still, the shift-throughs entailed seemed a bit rough in spots, a foible that could probably be addressed with a software tweak.

My dockside exam of the 42 went quickly, thanks to her elegant simplicity. Layout-wise, there was a master stateroom forward (with innerspring-equipped berth, hanging lockers and adjoining head/dayhead), a guest stateroom aft (with two 40-inch-wide innerspring-equipped berths and 6'0" headroom), and a galley/dinette in between. The finish throughout was top-notch and noteworthy standards included Amtico flooring and cabinetry with drawers with finished-maple interiors. (An optional three-stateroom layout substitutes a small, bunk-type stateroom for the dinette area.)

Engineering was solid. Accessed by raising the bridge deck on actuators (or via a day hatch), the engine room was both crisply finished and, thanks to Zeus’ systems integration, simple. Engines and drives were easy to get at and separated by jackshafts approximately 5'0" long. The ancillary arsenal featured six schedule 31 Odyssey batteries, Livos Technologies air intakes, and massive Groco ARG-2520-P sea strainers. Electrics were loomed elegantly. And the cockpit, with the bridge deck back down, was fully stocked with fish-fighting essentials.

“See you next time,” said Higgins, exhibiting an uncharacteristic level of verbosity at our parting. The comment caused me to reflect. Viking’s new 42 Open is a straightforward, finely engineered beauty with standards galore. But driving her is the clincher—she’s poetry in motion, I’d have to say.

Viking Yachts

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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