Can a bunch of anxious boaters be wrong? We think not, after we drive the new Viking 55 Convertible.
Getting aboard a new Viking 55 Convertible is a challenge these days, because anxious owners snatch them up as soon as the boats leave the plant. Viking reasons that the new design is the best boat it has created in 35 years of yacht building, and the 26 units already delivered and the 14 on order support this notion. I got lucky this time - my friend Joe Schepis recently took delivery of a new 55 and offered to let me take a close look. I discovered what Joe already knew. The 55 is an impressive ride.
The Viking 55 is fast, able, handsome. Take her to the canyons or your favorite gunkhole.
In the past 20 years, Joe has owned more than a dozen yachts, and the 55 is his third Viking, following 38' and 47' convertibles. The move from the 47 to the 55 was inspired by the need for more space for family and friends (myself included I hope) and Joe's desire to carry a tender on deck forward, where his 13' Novurania resides.
Sport fishing addicts have already seen the 55 prove itself as a capable tournament platform, but Joe and his wife Peggy run PJ themselves and use her for cruising. She is fitted with Viking's attractive fiberglass hardtop, but she lacks outriggers and a fighting chair. Frankly, this absence of ornamentation helps focus the eye on the 55's clean lines. Frameless windows, softer corners and a bit more rake make this 55-footer the best-looking Viking yet.
The 55's cockpit uses up 153 sq.ft. of sole and incorporates a recessed live well and a fishbox beneath flush, hinged hatches. A bait prep center is molded integrally with the cockpit liner and has a sink and a top-loading freezer. Gaff storage is neatly hidden within the hull side, and an insulated drink cooler is under the step. The generous 54" bridge overhang offers protection from the sun without compromising the view from the helm. Above, the flying bridge has seating for 12 and is available with an optional tournament style helm pod with single lever controls. An integral electronics console and radio cabinet have hinged covers. An insulated drink cooler is forward and convenient to the helm. All exterior hatches have gutters, and the compartments drain overboard.
The helm is meant for serious business, housing all the navigation and communication gear.
Within, the 55 offers a fine example of Viking's new, more contemporary interior theme. Flush cabinet doors with hidden hinges have replaced traditional raised-panel doors, and accents include designer fabrics and Corian counter tops. The joinerwork in PJ's interior is second to none. Everything fit with micrometer tolerances, and the high-gloss finish of her teak will dazzle even the jaded boatman. The saloon has L-shape seating aft. A dinette that seats four is forward, adjacent to the galley. PJ was fitted with optional under-counter Subzero refrigeration, which creates a more open arrangement, as well as additional counter space. Below, the master stateroom is amidships and has a private head with a shower. An adjacent guest stateroom has upper and lower berths. The forward guest stateroom is available with an island queen berth or two berths, one of which can sleep two in a pinch. The guest staterooms share a head with a shower and have independent access. A third door to the passageway is for day head use. Storage on the 55 is exceptional and includes several large cedar lined lockers and suitcase storage beneath the master berth. A linen locker and washer/dryer are in the passageway.
Access to the engine room from the cockpit is excellent.
PJ's twin 1,150 hp DDC/MTU 1830-V12s are nestled in an Awlgrip-finished engine room that literally glistens. Standup headroom (well, almost standup) and excellent lighting make routine maintenance a breeze. Redundant engine gauge packages are placed conveniently near the engine room's cockpit access. Machinery and systems are well organized and accessible. A 20 kW Onan generator with a sound shield is standard. Fuel management valves direct fuel from the 55's two fiberglass tanks, which hold a total of 1,250 gallons. Main engine exhaust exits the topsides near the waterline aft, and linear mufflers help increase the usable space beneath the cockpit. The engine raw-water system is plumbed with external wedge style strainers and a bypass for emergency bilge suction. I prefer internal raw-water strainers, but this is nit-picking. The machinery space and systems are first class.
The lower berth in the guest stateroom will sleep two in a pinch. The master stateroom is amidships and elegant.
Our performance data clearly illustrates that Viking's focus on the 55 was not limited to styling and interior design. Fully loaded with fuel, water and tender, we recorded a top speed of 36.4 knots and a cruising speed of more than 30 knots at 2100 rpm. This is competitive in tournament circles, and for Joe and Peggy, adds up to less time to and from the Bahamas where they spend the summer. On their shakedown cruise, they made the 200 nautical mile run from Stuart, Fla., to Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, in 6.5 hours averaging more than 30 knots in 4' seas. Joe maintained 27 knots in 7' beam seas on the return trip. The 55's modified-V hull form has chine ledges and straight, relatively deep sections forward. A shallow keel melds into a centerline flat that widens until it intersects a deadrise of 15 degrees at the transom. According to Viking, this pad allows the 55 to plane more efficiently. During our sea trial, PJ planed off at 18 knots (1500 rpm).
It seems a shame to submit this interior to the ravages of an offshore fishing trip, but don't let its luxurious finish fool you; it's plenty durable. The 55 marks Viking's switch to more modern joinery.
The 55's molded fiberglass hull is laminated with a blend of knitted multi-directional reinforcement. Balsa coring is used in the topsides and in the structural bulkheads. An interlocking network of cored fiberglass stringers and web frames stiffens the solid bottom. The engines are mounted on steel I-beams that are fastened to the engine room bulkheads. Viking feels this arrangement transmits engine weight and thrust more evenly to the hull. The superstructure and deckhouse are molded in one piece, and coring is used to stiffen the decks and house sides.
The base price of the 55 with the standard 1,050 hp 10 cylinder MAN engine package is $1,321,000. Add $45,000 for either the 1,200 hp 12 cylinder MANs or the 1,150 hp DDC/MTUs. Expensive, perhaps, but in the case of Viking and the new 55, you get what you pay for.