Viking's new 50 takes the sportfishing world by storm.

THESE DAYS, BOATS aren't "built," they're engineered. The interiors aren't "decorated," they're styled. One reason, I suppose, is that boats aren't simply "purchases" anymore, they're investments.

Long before this newspeak became fashionable, Viking Yachts was engineering and styling their clients' investments. They did it with boats such as the popular 48 Convertible. And now, they are taking this approach one step further with the replacement for that venerable fishboat, the new Viking 50 Convertible. This boat is more than a typical change in the product line-up. The 50 represents all that Viking stands for and demonstrates this builder's commitment to the sportfishing fraternity well into this decade.

PASSING LANE - Twin DDC 8V-92TAs with DDEC topped out at nearly 40 mph. Well-equipped galley and dinette will satisfy bluewater appetites.

Viking Yacht has used computer-aided design (CAD) for quite some time. With it, they can "see" the boat come together in 3-D form before building the first plug for the tooling. Endless fine-tuning and reworking of minor details results in a boat that hits the water running. In this case, 30 tons of seagoing machinery runs close to 40 mph.

But to appreciate this speed, you must step back and study the 50 from the keel up. In this way, you can discern how the minds at Viking work. How many months go into design. How planning and engineering have the front seat at this company.

FLARE THEE WELL

The 50 shares the same 15 1/2-degree transom deadrise and reverse chines as other Viking Convertibles. This approach puts plenty of beef below the waterline. You want this in a boat that is likely to serve as a weekend retreat 100 miles offshore. Forward, the sharp entry, stepped chines and lots of bow flare act in concert not only to keep spray from climbing up the hullsides and drenching the bridge, but also to give the boat superb handling characteristics. You find yourself peering over the broad foredeck looking for six-footers to play with.

A sand-and-resin-filled keel adds tracking ability, and overall construction is sensible and rugged. The hull is solid glass below the waterline. Endgrain balsa is used to core hullsides, cabin tops and decks.

By virtue of the CAD system, the 50 is built with surprisingly few parts. The superstructure, for example, is one-piece, extending from the pulpit to the cockpit liner. A minimum of parts makes for a cleaner looking boat with no need for teak trim to cover joints. But more important, it means the boat is inherently strong, unlikely to leak and very quiet, with none of the creaks or groans that can be the trademark of lightweight construction.

Note too, the radius of the flying bridge mirrors that of the solid windshield, proof of well-spent overtime by the R&D team. No sharp angles anywhere that impede air flow and increase drag. There's even a bit of tumblehome at the transom, which makes the hull slippery in reverse - helpful when backing down hard on a fish, and it gives better control in a following sea. Creamy smooth rounded cabin trails and powder-coated window systems create a curvy, sexy look. Even the black Lone Ranger mask has been traded in for the much fresher look of white gel coat.

These features you can see. But other construction facets that get buried in the hull or below the waterline are even more impressive. Take struts, for instance. Viking fairs in the forward ends of the struts to mate flush with the hull bottom. Less drag, no unnecessary turbulence here. The result is better use of horsepower and probably better fish-raising. Rudder pads also get recessed.

Inside the hull, the manganese bronze struts and rudder pads are backed with five extra layers of knitted mat in addition to the regular bottom laminate schedule. This provides extra strength in case of grounding, and helps to dampen the vibrations of water rushing under the hull.

Longitudinal stringers are fabricated from two lengths of 3/4" marine plywood stapled and glued together then encapsulated in two layers of Bi-Ply tabbed at least 4-inches inside the hull. Bulkheads get identical treatment plus encapsulated wooden cant strips where the transverse members join the hullsides to soften the radius and increase strength and loadbearing ability. Other transverse stiffeners are gussetted in all corners to eliminate hard joints.

To accommodate the floor plan, notches are cut in the top of the bulkheads. "Lamibeams" fit into these notches running fore and aft. Two layers of 1/2" plywood are then screwed in place and sealed with 3M 5200 to anchor the flooring. This sub-floor is then tabbed into the hullsides with Fabmat. Finally, it is painted and covered with carpeting.

To some this might be considered overkill. And it is. However, all these steps mean the Viking 50 will be quiet underfoot and in a seaway. I've been aboard some high-hour, yet relatively new custom boats that creak and sound like you're walking on an empty drum. You are not likely to hear the same sounds aboard this 50.

WOOD IS GOOD; STEEL IS REAL

You also are not likely to see an engine room quite like the 50's unless it's aboard another Viking. Viking employs powder-coated structural steel engine beds through-bolted to dedicated bulkheads. Because the engines "float" on their own beds, sound and vibration are isolated from the rest of the boat. This means you don't realize how fast you're going because extraneous noise never gets up to the flying bridge.

And it's not just the engine beds that make this happen. Viking builds their own vertical-lift fiberglass mufflers for the engines and the generator. The mufflers are installed, not under the cockpit sole as on some other boats, where you can never outrun that close-following, groaning whine, but in the engine room very near the machinery. This traps the noise immediately as it leaves the engines. It doesn't filter topsides or escape and exaggerate the rumble. And since the mufflers are waterfilled, the sound also must penetrate the water before exiting the boat. When it finally does get out, the transom exhaust tubes angle outboard and downward, burying residual noise and smoke in the slipstream. Combined with composite sounddeadening material in the engine room, it's no wonder the boat turns in such low decibel readings at the helm.

STATELY MANOR - Master stateroom is mid-ship to take advantage of wide beam. Guest head and forward stateroom are designed for maximum comfort.

This passion for detail is evident throughout the engine room. Wiring runs in neat raceways, through-hull fittings are clearly labeled and properly bonded. Raw-water strainers are easily accessed, as are the Racor fuel filters and batteries. A set of remote engine gauges can be seen by opening the cockpit door. The equipment is spread out and there's no crowding. I like that.

Admittedly, this is a big engine room. You can just about stand up in it, and getting outboard and around either engine is a breeze. With a pair of J&T Airseps on each engine to trap blowby gases, this white gel-coated engine room should remain sparkling clean.

TUNA WISHIN'

Taking the place of the famous 48 Convertible is no small feat. But the new 50 doesn't let sportfishermen down. In fact, it's amazing how Viking continues to improve upon and redefine standards in offshore fishing.

The cockpit is BIG. Almost 144 square feet. The recessed fish box is 7'6"l x 1'6"w x 1'7"d and can be refrigerated as an option. It takes two people to lift out the empty box. But it's worth the effort and your friends will be impressed when they look in the bilge.

Every inch is gel-coated, and not just for appearance; it provides an inner seal for the hull laminate against blistering. You also might want to tell your friends that the Viking crew sands between each layer of glass for a positive bond and a flawless finish. Yes, I know it's the bilge, but it's a Viking bilge. There is a difference.

Another access hatch is at the transom. A livewell can go here. The lazarette contains a Fireboy Halon system, Bennett trim tab and Hynautic hydraulic steering reservoirs, and a Rule 2000 bilge pump with auto and high-water alarm switches. Two aluminum rods support the deck. There's a ton of room below the deck for flying gaffs and extra gear. While the hatches are up, note the gasket material in the deep gutters to keep them from rattling. And the heavy, twist hatch pulls are positive locking mechanisms, too.

The fishing center features a rigging station, freezer, four tackle drawers and engine room access.

INNERMOST BEAUTY

Standard interior layout for the 50 is three staterooms and two heads, much like the 53. But there's nothing ordinary about the teak joinerwork nor the size of the staterooms. The master stateroom is huge and even contains a vanity. Forward, the upper and lower berths make you feel you're aboard a larger boat.

One item that did concern me was the location of the head off the companionway. The master to starboard has a private head. Overnight guests will likely use the head off the companionway. So will day guests. Seems like a long walk, and on rough days you could be bouncing off the walls. Maybe it's just a throwback to my charter-fishing days, but I always liked having a head where customers didn't have far to walk with wet feet and fishy hands.

At nearly 60,000 pounds, there's no need to worry about this 50 wandering off course when you leave the wheel. 

The salon and galley show several good ideas that also were proven on the 53. There's rod stowage beneath the convertible sofa, and with the angled Kenmore refrigerator, you can see the 27" JVC stereo television from anywhere in the salon. Hand-finished teak cabinetry conceals a second entertainment center with stereo, cassette and VCR.

DRIVING MR. DDEC

Detroit Diesel's DDEC electronic engine monitoring and control system is standard aboard the 50. With LCD displays for the helm, these electronic controls are the icing on the cake. By eliminating the usual duplicate banks of gauges, the helm looks stark until you realize all the data you need is at your fingertips.

With instrumentation housed in a pair of DDEC pods, there's room at the helm for the Viking systems monitor which alerts the skipper of various safety and mechanical functions, plus dual Datamarine units to display speed, water temperature, log and depth. A watertight console for electronics is optional.

Engine response is very strong. Smoking is minimal, even when the throttles are pegged, because DDEC controls the injector timing to match the air flow. If you experience this system, you'll want it. Viking feels this way also, and that's why it's standard. I think I could even get used to this digital rpm readout. Other neat DDEC features include the low-idle switch, pre-set trolling mode, engine synch, built-in diagnostics and a back-up system in case of electrical failure.

At nearly 60,000 pounds, the 50 feels heavy and rugged. She doesn't handle like a runabout, yet the Hynautic steering gives good control, though you need some muscle to put her hard over. Negotiating abrupt turns through the salt marshes of the Bass River showed me that you won't have to worry about this convertible wandering when you leave the wheel to pull in a teaser.


COVERING THE BASES

With a base price of $636K, the 50 Convertible comes in at less than the 50 Hatteras, which retails for $671K. And that includes DDEC, while the Hatteras does not. The Post 50 runs about $620K and the Bertram 50 has a base price near $702K.

There's a lot of competition in the 50-foot class, but this Viking comes to the fray with exceptional speed, fuel efficiency and liveability. As for fish-raising, time will tell.