For serious fishermen, bigger is always better and the search for the bite is now charted across distant waters. Given this, the demand for larger tournament-level convertibles has been red-hot and both custom and production builders have responded. One of the latest entries is Viking Yachts' new 74 Convertible.
I caught up with hull number one hot off the tournament trail at Viking's South Florida sales and service facility in Riviera Beach. She'd had a busy summer campaigning up and down the East Coast and in the Bahamas. The demanding schedule required an ambitious float plan that included one dash in which she covered almost 1,000 nautical miles in less than three days, averaging 30 knots.
I took my turn at her wheel in seas off Palm Beach that offered little challenge. The thought that cold Kalik, conch and gin-clear Bahamian water were just a few hours away made our trial runs along the beach a bit of a tease. Fitted with 2,000-hp, MTU 16V 2000s, the 74 gets up and goes-responding so well to helm input that it was easy to forget that she had a full tower and weighed in at 135,000 lb. She reached a maximum speed of 35.1 knots in about 40 seconds. At 2100 rpm I recorded a speed of 32.0 knots and a fuel burn of 156 gallons per hour. This performance is a bit off the 36-knot speed Viking expects but this is splitting hairs. The 74's captain suggested a dinged prop was the problem and I did notice a mild vibration above 1800 rpm. The 16V 2000s are an upgrade. With the standard 1,500-hp, MTU 12V 2000s, Viking's data suggest a maximum speed of 30 knots and a cruising speed of 26 knots.
The 74's tank-tested hull form has a moderate entry, a shallow keel and a transom deadrise of 15 degrees. Propeller pockets reduce draft to 5 feet, 7 inches. She trims nicely at speed and I found her tabs necessary only for minor adjustments, making her third trim tab on centerline unnecessary. Loitering at live bait speeds is no problem as her electronic controls have a low idle setting and she is fitted with trolling valves. While she has plenty of horsepower to wiggle about, her bow thruster is useful. The sound levels I recorded at the helm and in the saloon are reasonable considering her muscle and the 78 dB(A) I noted in her master stateroom at cruising speed would allow an owner to sleep in while headed for the fishing grounds.
The machinery space is accessible from the cockpit as well as the crew's quarters. Alternate entry/exit ways in this compartment are an important safety feature and I was pleased to note that gasketed aluminum doors were fitted. I found it easy to move about the 16V 2000s; in fact, there is almost seven-foot headroom on centerline. Two 27.5 Onan generators with sound shields are standard. An emergency de-watering system with an engine raw water bypass is plumbed to serve three compartments and an isolation transformer prevents questionable shore power from coming aboard. A Delta "T Systems cooling/combustion air system controls the engineroom atmosphere and automatic dampers are fitted to the air-plenums in case of fire. Redundant fuel transfer pumps and a fuel-polishing system were also fitted. While uncommon on smaller convertibles, these are in my view essential on a boat like this.
The 74's hull and superstructure are built in female tooling with stitched and woven reinforcements and polyester resin. The hull is skin-coated with a blister resistant epoxy resin. The hull bottom is cored with balsa, which is vacuum-bagged in place. A network of foam-filled fiberglass stringers support the bottom and the engines are mounted on steel I-beams fastened to hearty fiberglass web fames. Hull sides, superstructure and decks are stiffened with balsa and major structural bulkheads are a vacuum bagged, foam/fiberglass composite. Water and fuel tanks are built of fiberglass independently of the hull structure and fiberglassed in place.
Having built and sold more than eighty 65s and over one hundred 61s, Viking understands the large convertible market. Dockside there is no mistaking the 74's pedigree. She has the silky S-sheer and the crisp deckhouse lines that have defined the brand for the better part of a decade. Her proportions are so well balanced that if you were to see her at a distance you might underestimate her size. Any confusion is put to rest the moment you step aboard-her formidable Murray Products fighting chair is dwarfed by her 218-square-foot, teak-sheathed cockpit.
The "mezzanine deck design (saloon-level exterior deck), makes sense for a large convertible as it creates practical seating, rod storage space and masks the vertical distance from the saloon to the cockpit. The cockpit cabinetwork includes a bait prep center, a barbeque grill, a freezer and a bait refrigerator with removable stainless steel racks. A chilled drink box is located under the steps. There's a molded-in fishbox in the transom coaming, a transom door and an in-sole live well and fishbox. An in-sole stowage well is plumbed with an ice machine.
The bridge has a tournament-style layout with a varnished teak helm pod, single-lever controls and electronics bays under clear acrylic. A large built-in, top-loading freezer forward of the helm will consume enough food for a month and the lounge area has a wet bar and a drink box. A hose on an automatic reel, hidden in the cabinetwork, and a hose tap on the tower, suggest that Viking has an eyeball on the custom competition and understands the way a competitive boat is fished.
The open saloon layout follows the successful tournament-boat thinking of Viking's smaller designs. L-shaped seating aft and a dinette forward are positioned to take advantage of a home theatre system with a "pop-up flat-screen display. The galley has drawer-style refrigeration and a countertop service area with three bar stools. There is a day-head forward with access to an electronics/systems compartment where navigation and communications equipment reside in climate-controlled comfort.
Stairs lead below to crew's quarters for two and a side passageway that leads to the master stateroom and two guest staterooms. Each stateroom has a private head with a separate shower. Interior craftsmanship reflects Viking's typically high standard, and the teak-veneer interior finish is accented with high quality soft goods and granite surfaces.
The 74's base price is $3,395,000. Our test boat, equipped with a full tower and electronics, tipped the scale at $4,391,832. Options include an enclosed bridge arrangement with interior access from the saloon. Clients can choose from six pre-designed interior décor packages or work with Viking's in-house team.
Considering the 74's performance and Viking's reputation, it is clear she is a competitive player in a specialized market segment. If you are serious about fishing at this level, the 74 Convertible is worth a serious look.
Contact: Viking Yachts, 609-296-6000; www.vikingyachts.com.