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The Viking Yachts Story - Page 4

By Capt. Bill Pike

Fathers, Sons, and the Future

The Healey Men From left: company cofounder Bill Healey, his son Pat, and Pat’s uncle, cofounder Bob Healey, at their New Gretna facility.

At the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show in 2014, Viking will debut a new and very large model—the Viking 92 Convertible, with a dual mezzanine, six staterooms, an open-air galley (in addition to an interior galley), a couple of 2,600-brake-horsepower MTU 16V-2000-M94 diesels in her engine room, and an estimated 30-knot cruise speed. According to Viking, she will reinvent the sportfishing genre, taking it to previously untapped heights of luxury.

A new motoryacht—a roomy 75-footer designed by Michael Peters,with a performance edge and probably an enclosed bridge—will also debut at Ft. Lauderdale that year, an event that harks back to the ’80s and ’90s, when Viking built and sold large motoryachts as well as the sportfishing vessels it’s famed for today. The years that come afterward will see additional models hit the market, some motoryachts, some sportfishermen. The point of the split in offerings, sources at Viking say, is to diversify and thus better deal with the cyclical nature of the market.

Regardless of what sorts of boats it offers in the future, Viking Yachts is expected to remain a family-run affair. Founders Bill and Bob Healey have created a trust (and taken other legal measures) to ensure the health and safety of the company as well as its employees well into the years ahead, and, perhaps even more importantly, it appears that the next couple of generations of Healeys are thoroughly synched into the boatbuilding life. 

“My son Sean is 20 years old and he’s pretty involved these days,” Pat Healey says, “and my son Justin’s in there too—he’s 19 years old. To say nothing of my daughter Kaitlyn, who’s 13—I take her flounder fishin’ these days, you know, and she fishes three rods at a time. She’s phenomenal.”

Healey’s obviously proud of his kids, but the same emotion surfaces when he speaks of his father and his uncle Bob, particularly when the conversation turns to the way the two men helped fight and ultimately defeat the ill-conceived federal luxury tax that did great damage to the boatbuilding business back in the early ’90s. As the tax continued to nix sales and force plants and ancillary businesses to close, Bob Healey not only lobbied for repeal on Capitol Hill, he also lead demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and in other parts of the country. And concomitantly, Bill Healey worked within the marine industry to organize and boost support for repeal as well. And even as Viking struggled forward with a workforce of only 80 employees (down from roughly 1,500), he not only kept his company’s doors open but also continued to emphasize and fund his cherished R&D.

Boatbuilders at Viking’s New Gretna facility (which is so clean you can eat off the floors) prepare a hull for resin infusion.

“My dad’s 85 years old now,” says Pat Healey, “but he still comes down here a lot. He was here about five or six hours today as a matter of fact. We’re installing an elevator so he can get around better.”

“It’s funny, though” Healey concludes wryly, “But I bet when I’m 85 years old you’ll see me doing the very same thing.”

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