Viking Yachts has always been serious about building fishing boats. While most production convertible builders were focusing on fishing and cruising flexibility, Viking built boats that would appeal to ambitious anglers. Those who are serious about fishing should take a close look at Viking's latest boat-the new 50 Convertible. While the 50 is small by current tournament-boat standards, she is full-sized in terms of features and performance.
Building production convertibles has become a challenging business. As anglers travel farther from home in search of the bite, boats have grown in sophistication and length overall. In addition to well-founded production competition, a fleet of boutique builders has flourished by delivering custom creations that are limited only by an owner's checkbook. This "latest-greatest" atmosphere is driven by competitive anglers and crews who are rewriting the book on angling technique. Viking is a player in this world and the boats it has delivered in the last few years have demonstrated its understanding of this market. This is what makes hull number one of the 50 notable-she is cutting edge.
To begin with, she's got the basics-performance. Her 1,360-horsepower, 12-cylinder MANs delivered a top speed of 40.3 knots. Easing the throttles back to 2050 rpm yielded a bit more than 35 knots and a fuel burn of 96 gallons per hour. With her optional fuel capacity (1,200 gallons) this should allow a range of more than 400 nautical miles-enough to make it from Key West to Mexico. With the standard 1,100-horsepower, 10-cylinder MANs, Viking expects a respectable 32-knot cruise and 36-knot top speed.
Given the competitive nature of the market I suspect most anglers will opt for the additional horses. After I recorded our speed and sound-level data we headed for the inlet. There weren't many folks pointed in that direction since the wind was blowing 20 knots from the southeast and seas in the inlet measured 8 feet and were complicated by a strong outgoing tide. The 50-footer took it in stride as we eased our way out. Once clear of the inlet she had no problem running at moderate speed in a beam sea and was more than capable of punching through head seas and tracking across following seas-a very impressive performance given that most boats spent the day at the dock.
The 50's hull form was tank-tested at the Davidson Laboratory in Hoboken, New Jersey. "Our 50 is really a smaller version of our 60 so we didn't expect any surprises and we were pleased with the first cut," said David Wilson, design manager at Viking. She has fine, slightly convex sections forward and a 12-degree deadrise at the transom. "This is a bit less than we have used in the past but it makes sense given the volume that her propeller pockets consume," said Wilson. "The forward sections soften the seas and a bit less deadrise aft is an advantage in terms of efficiency." The 50's chine flats have slightly more radius at their intersection with the bottom than is common-a feature that Wilson suggests will reduce slapping in a quartering sea. Three trim tabs are used as the propeller pockets divide the transom. Each operates individually, which Wilson claims allows the skipper more control. "Outboard tabs handle most trim issues, but if you need a bit more to muscle through a head sea, the center tab is available."
The 50's performance would be wasted if she did not fit in dockside. Serious anglers have serious opinions about how a fishboat should look inside and out-the 50 should please even the most critical. Viking subscribes to the "form follows function" school of design that's common to custom tournament boats. The 50's stem has a bit more rake and her superstructure a bit more shape than before, but there is nothing trendy or frivolous about her. Her machinery space and systems are organized with thought and the squeaky-clean appearance of her Awlgrip-finished engineroom is in keeping with custom fishboat fashion.
Her cockpit will accommodate a full-size fighting chair. A freezer within the mezzanine bench seat has a divider for food and bait and a cabinet beneath the bridge ladder is organized with tackle drawers. Two in-sole boxes can be configured in a variety of ways with either one or two wells. Hull number one had a fishbox, a live well, and an ice well fed by an ice maker. A drink box under the step is refrigerated and a molded-in transom fishbox is available. Shore water connections, a washdown tap, and gaff stowage are hidden discreetly beneath the gunwale, as is the fixture for the Cablemaster shore cord system. A transom door with a lift-gate is standard and a teak cockpit sole and covering boards are available.
The flying bridge console has moldedin electronics bays with weather-tight clear acrylic lids. A varnished teak helm pod is fitted with single-lever controls and a tournament-style wheel in polished stainless steel. Ladder-back teak helm and companion seats share a clear view of the transom and an adjacent bench seat has a removable backrest for an observer.
The 50's salon has L-shaped seating aft with easy-to-lift seat tops that allow access to a cavernous storage space ideally suited for tackle. An L-shaped galley has an island counter with two stools and a dinette is a few steps away. The three-stateroom, two-head arrangement has a midship master with an island berth and two guest staterooms with upper and lower berths. There is a washer/dryer in the amidships guest stateroom. The 50's interior is finished with the same processed teak product used throughout the Viking line and the result is a consistent highquality, high-gloss finish.
In my view the 50 is proof that bigger is not always better. She has the range to reach the bite, the speed to impress, and her smaller size is an advantage when working a hookup. Viking's vision of building a smaller boat capable of competing farther from the dock makes a lot of sense. Before you set your sights on something larger, take a look at the 50 Convertible-she's right on target!
Viking Yachts, (609) 296-6000; www.vikingyachts.com