Video produced by John V. Turner
Viking comes out swinging with three new high-performance center consoles.
If the name Mankiller Bay makes you think of The Sopranos, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Falling within the limits of Atlantic City, within view of Harrah’s Casino, marsh-covered islands scatter the ominously named waterway: perfect cover, one suspects, for fitting a hapless crony with concrete boots in the dead of night. Fuggetaboutit. In the daytime, Mankiller Bay’s fishing grounds offer respite from the snotty conditions typically found nearby in the Atlantic Ocean. Ghastly names aside, you could do much worse when looking for a place to test a new center console—or three. With 3 feet of draft, the twin-stepped Valhalla flagship was right at home.
At a VIP event a few months ago, I found myself aboard the V-41 with Justin Healey at the helm as we headed deeper into the marshland. We were pushing over 60 knots when Justin eased up on the throttles to show off a critical feature of the Michael Peters-designed hull. I had déjà vu, after witnessing the same demonstration aboard the V-33 and V-37 earlier in the day. (Together, the three herald Viking’s first foray into production center consoles.) Justin threw the wheel to port, turning the boat in tight concentric circles, while at the same time ramping up the rpm. Had I not been coached on the powerful grip of the ventilated tunnel hull, I would’ve felt nervous. But the outcome was the same: the loss of control never occurred, as the grooves in the running surface held the 41 in place without any discernible slide.
How did this happen? How did Viking come out with not one, but three new center consoles? And why now? The project’s publicized genesis began at the 2018 Miami Boat Show, when Viking CEO Pat Healey met with Peters and described his vision; eight months later, Valhallas started rolling off the line. But it really started much earlier than that. For decades, the New Jersey builder, famous for a legacy built predominately on sportfishing battlewagons, had batted the idea around. It wasn’t until the third generation, brothers Justin and Sean Healey, came up through the boatbuilder’s facility on the marsh-lined Bass River that musings and sketches passed around the lunch table coalesced into a concrete idea.
Gallery: Visiting Valhalla
Sean can remember countless nights with his father, whether watching Monday Night Football or a Sixers game “and I’m poking him asking ‘When are we going to do it?’” When Pat finally acquiesced, and revealed his plan to start with three, “I took a step back and was like, ‘Holy shit,’” said Sean. I don’t think he was alone. Industry-wide, that earnest reaction seems to be the same.
For good reason. The Valhalla Boatworks V-Series has a similar look and feel, with the larger models upping the cockpit space, console space and available engine options. Altogether, the Healeys can see them utilized as hardcore fishing boats, sport cruisers or tenders. When I asked what has been the most popular model to date, the answer wasn’t surprising: the 37, since it hits a sweet spot in the lineup. All three feature a black acrylic panel that spans the width of the console for flush-mounted electronics. For seating, the standard layout includes a forward sunpad with storage; abaft the helm, a bench seat includes tackle storage and Gemlux rod holders with cupholders on the backrest. Up on the bow, forward-facing lounges with backrests are also available.
The Viking DNA is strong in this trio. Anglers will welcome a transom livewell, in-deck fishboxes, a sea chest and tackle storage. As with the parent company, over 90 percent of each Valhalla is manufactured in-house by a team of experienced craftsmen. (Add-ons such as hardtops, marlin or gap towers and electronics packages are installed in-house.) Power is supplied by Yamaha or Mercury outboards with horsepower ratings from 300 to 425 in twin, triple or quad configurations, depending on the model.
Aside from the performance, what I found most impressive in the Valhalla line was the fit and finish. And yet I kept asking myself, are we witnessing anything new? Not including the newest stepped-V ventilated tunnel design from Michael Peters Yacht Design, it is difficult to completely revolutionize this segment. (Even the ventilated tunnel isn’t new; it can be found on other center consoles.) Though these three aren’t miles-away different from other top center consoles on the market, what makes them unique is that Valhalla is bolstered by the backing of one of the most relentless boat manufacturers in the U.S. Everything seems to have been thought of: from the lazarette on centerline that will provide easy access to the Seakeeper, to the spare-no-effort finish of the bilge. Which speaks nothing of the benefits of joining Viking’s globe-spanning customer service and dealer network.
In the desiccated Pine Barrens, the Valhallas have come to dominate the Mullica facility as they move down the line on an eight-day schedule. According to Viking, the plan is simple: build 70 in the first year of production. After that, the sky is the limit. In Ft. Lauderdale, I snuck away from the boat show to get some more time aboard the 41. As we were coming back in, we passed a center console on the ICW. We were close enough to the other boat that I heard an audible, “What is that?” emanate across the water. They would know soon enough.