Viking 72: Peace through strength. 

I WAS RUNNING A BOAT OUT OF CAMERON, LOUISIANA, at the time, the Point Liberty, a brand-new Halter-built amalgam of EMO engines, fresh steel, odiferous Glidden paint and top-shelf electronics.

But the Liberty's newness was belied by her behavior of the moment - her EMDs were surging like they were fixin' to die. Moreover, we were inbound, eight miles south of Cameron's jetties, in fog thick enough to hold nails, with a monster survey boat bearing down on us.

"Jeff," I grimaced, "did you change the filters on the mains the other day?" "I forgot," the Chief Engineer replied. A youngster, onboard less than a week, his oversight was now putting us behind the eight ball, big time.

But fate was kind. A redundant feature built into the Liberty's fuel system saved the day, a redundant feature I bumped into on a recent boat test in Ft. Lauderdale, on Viking Yacht's new flagship, the 72' Convertible.

Each main engine on the 72 has two big fuel filters instead of one. And each of the two filters is paralleled with its mate so that, without shutting the engines down, the filters can be swapped, dirty for clean. It's a fast swap, too. I'd say Jeff was able to pull it off in less time than it takes to scream, "You forgot?" 

MAAAAAAAAAAAVELOUS.

Sure, the 72 is a floating chateau. But it's also a commercial-grade vessel in the finest sense. And nothing onboard makes the boat's savvy, robust essence clearer than the way Viking does the engine room.

For starters, there's oodles of clearance on every piece of equipment, including the engines. Our test boat was fitted with performance-option powerplants - big, bodacious twin 1,795-hp Deutz-MWM V-16s. Despite the immensity of raw power these babies represent, I could see over the tops of them as I hunkered down to install BOATING's test gear. I felt like a tall guy in a short crowd.

Velvet-gloved fist! The luxury level is sky-high but the basics are Marine Corps gutsy. Top speed: 36.9 mph.

Of course, the improved topside accessibility, air flow and well-lighted ambiance this sort of thing engenders is in part due to the compactness and high power-to-weight ratio of modern diesels. But it also has a lot to do with the 72's low-slung engine bearers. Bolted into shallow, interstitial bulkheads, these massive, structural-steel wideflanged beams not only support each engine, one per side, they also help evenly disperse thrust and weight throughout the whole hull.

In addition, the lowbearers produce a decreased shaft angle for better prop/water interface and running efficiency, and a lower center of gravity for improved transverse stability and balance.

AHHH ... IMPERFECTION!

Once I'd perfectly melded the test gear with the starboard Deutz's supply and return fuel lines, I did a very imperfect thing - I cranked the starboard engine without reopening the "supply" shutoff on the crisply engineered, easy-to-understand manifold panel. The wrath of the Boat Test Faerie was swift and sure. The starboard Deutz air-locked, then stalled out.

"Don't sweat it," said Capt. Richard Coolbaugh of Ft. Lauderdale's HMY Yacht Sales. "Viking installs its own electric fuel pumps on the 72."

As a guy who abhors even the bleeding of injectors, I perked up dramatically when Coolbaugh then flipped a switch and energized a gizmo mounted abaft the disabled engine. Presto. The 72's Aeroquip fuel lines vibrated with a delicious whirring sound.

Counting my blessings - which soon included a roaring starboard engine, engineer's muffs to drown it out and cool breezes wafting about, courtesy of an optional Cruisair chilled-water airhandler in the machinery spaces ($6,255) - I sat on a five-gallon bucket looking around appreciatively.

What a heck of an ER. Its logical layout and equipment placement, I'd been told, were part computer-assisted design and part hands-on tweaking via a life-size mockup, with real engines and ancillaries.

Mix this kind of conscientiousness with the raft of redundancies I've only touched on briefly here, and then throw in chandelier-hanging headroom, a host of a.c. and d.c. lights, a coat of white Awlgrip paint that brightens everything from bulkheads to bilges, stainless-steel muffler supports that are hefty enough to double as kedge anchors, ZF trolling gears with an integrated preventer system that niftily nixes the chance of over-rev damage ... and you've got engineering that rivals the best you'll see on commercial vessels.

One problem. The centerline clip-on aluminum deck sections on the 72 tend to come unclipped. Then they ride up over each other, which makes walking around difficult. Hey, Viking. Ditch the clips in favor of more positive locking. 

HOT SHOT ... HOT SPOT.

The joinery of the 72's interior is on a par with what's in the ER. Joints in the Burmese teak cabinetry on our test boat were tight, whatever the level of complexity. The rich, satin finish that protects and glorifies outer surfaces is produced by applying six coats of emissions-compatible clear lacquer, with hand-sanding sessions between.

Both the lavishness and the gutsiness of the 72 are obvious from the photos here, although numerous options are shown. In the galley: countertops of jade granite ($6,260) and a galley/flying bridge dumbwaiter ($2,500). In the salon: a spiral teak staircase ($19,000) and leather furniture upgrade ($24,010). On the flying bridge: pricey Stidd helmseats ($8,990) and two extra engine-control stations, a set of backup Kobelts ($2,040) and a pod for aft controls ($2,000).

Coolbaugh and I ran the 72 in the open Atlantic. Conditions were pretty calm. From the helm in the enclosed flying bridge, the boat ran like a scared rabbit and cornered like one too, although visibility at the helm was slightly restricted by on-dash cabinetry for flush-mounted electronics.

Back dockside , with our performance data in the bag, maneuvering was dramatically expedited by an optional 30-hp Westmar bowthruster ($26,665). I'd say two people who know what they're doing can easily handle this boat all on their lonesome.

How much does the 72 cost? Base price with standard 1,407-hp Detroit Diesel 16V-92 DDECs is $2,249,000. Add options like the ones listed above, as well as delivery and make-ready charges, and you're looking at close to $2,900,000.

That's a lotta money, but there are more expensive boats. The 72' Donzi Roscioli, a narrower convertible that because of its custom-built nature just barely compares with the production-built Viking, costs $2,800,000 with DDC 16V-92 DDECs. Gotta pay to play.