The large, throaty MANs purr as the helmsman responds to the long-awaited hail of anglers and backs down the nimble Viking 48 Convertible.
"It's running deep!"
The enthusiasm of the day's first bite bubbles over, chasing away the heavy morning haze as we attempt to boat a sizable bluefin tuna. We back down, keeping the cockpit and crew dry.
"Keep some bend in the rod!"
I snap back to reality, realize I have just missed my turn to the New Jersey Turnpike and find myself wandering Cape May.
The trip home to Annapolis after testing the new 48 at Viking's factory in New Gretna, New Jersey, was filled with flights of imagination and recollections of exciting summertime fishing. This sexy battlewagon is built to create similar memories for anglers who thrill in the fight, and who want to turn as many heads with their boat as they do with their catch.
Viking incorporates subtle touches, such as oval exhaust ports in the transom, a pod with single-lever controls on the bridge and frameless saloon windows to create a soul-capturing convertible that just looks right.
Beyond her pretty face, she is built with quality systems and components. For example, her engineroom is laid out for easy service, taking full advantage of the 16-foot, 6-inch beam. Clearance outboard of the 860 hp MAN diesels is a respectable 25 inches, and there is 2 feet of clearance between the front of the engines and the forward bulkhead. White gelcoat overhead panels and Awlgrip surfaces create a sterile, bright environment enhanced by dual-voltage fluorescent lighting.
Also noteworthy is the wiring, which is labeled every 8 inches. Sure, numbering the wiring works, but I don't know how many times I've gone back to the manual looking for the schematic only to find it long gone or stained with grease from the last sap who tried to read it.
The 48's engine intakes are mounted abaft the engine and out of the way, without sea strainers. (The air-conditioning pump and generator have them.) My preference is to have sea strainers on the engine intakes, as well, but Viking Director of Communications Peter Frederiksen said they impede engineroom space. Viking has been using external strainers for decades, with no issues, he said. His point is valid if the boat does not sit too long, especially in warmer climates.
This questionable trend of forgoing sea strainers started with a few of the custom yards and is now accepted by some production yards, including Viking. Regardless of which system is on board, maintenance will be required.
The cockpit area is 130 square feet, designed to maximize space and increase fishability. A bait prep station includes five drawers for tackle, a freezer and a fishbox. Two stowage bins flank the fishbox, and one can be equipped as a live well.
A deep lazarette aft stows fenders, buckets and bulky gear. A gas-assist strut or safety strap securing the door when open would keep it from bashing knuckles.
On the flying bridge, the optional custom helm pod with chrome wheel, instrument panel and single-lever controls is a must on the purchase order. Electronics are easily absorbed behind two recessed electronics boxes with clear acrylic panels. Servicing behind these electronics should be easy, thanks to a compartment accessed from the side of the console.
Visibility is good, allowing the helmsman to see back as far as the fourth stanchion. A drink box is to starboard, making the perch perfect for watching baits.
Under way, the 48 felt more like an AWD sportster than a 50,000-pound fishing machine. She punched out of the hole quickly and danced onto a plane around 1350 rpm with no smoke or wallowing.
At maximum rpm, we reached a top speed of just under 36 knots, pushed by twin 860 hp MAN 2840LE407 diesels. Our boat was light on gear, but expect a high cruise speed of 30 knots.
Except for a few large wakes churned up by passing boats, the seas were calm during our test. The 48 did have a nice entry into the few swells. Based on past Viking experiences and the builder's consistency in design, the hull should perform well when the seas turn up.
Viking's consistency is also found in the 48's interior. I was struck by the glowing finish and overall volume. This is a big 48-footer.
The galley can absorb enough supplies for any angler with long-distance aspirations. Sliding drawers with fiddles above the forward counter are a whopping 3 feet deep. There are four Sub-Zero under-counter refrigerator/freezer boxes and space for an optional trash compactor or dishwasher.
I almost did a back flip down the 2-foot-wide passageway when I discovered an apartment-size stack washer and dryer. Trying to dry anything more than a sock and a washcloth in most washer/dryer combination units is as painful as watching Celebrity Fear Factor.
The guest stateroom has sufficient elbowroom for two people to get dressed and walk around. An optional three-stateroom layout is available.
The master has an island berth. The head has a large Corian vanity, an overhead hatch and a separate shower stall.
Viking's latest convertible is well-built and pleasing to the eye. The builder constantly improves its products and introduces new models, including the recent 52 and now the 48. Many owners are on their third and fourth Vikings.
"Once you're in the club, you're in", Frederiksen said. "It's all about the experience. He might just be on to something."
Contact: Viking Yacht Co., (609) 296-6000; fax (609) 296-4762; www.vikingyachts.com.