James C. Ray is a man who knows what he wants and how he wants it. At 85 years old, this salty boater has earned the right to have things his way. In his six-plus decades of being on the water, he has owned eight sailboats and seven powerboats and has put enough nautical miles in his wake to have easily circumnavigated the globe. "I'm a deep-water cruiser," he said with a bit of steel in his voice as we sat in the comfortable galley settee of his Viking 60 Enclosed Bridge at his dock in Naples, Florida. "And when I'm done for the day, I'd rather anchor out than spend the night in a marina. That's why I carry some 400 feet of anchor chain up there. That's chain, not line," he said as he gestured towards the bow.
Ray made the decision to find his next boat last winter and used his experience to make sure it was the right one to fulfill his needs at this particular stage of his life. "You'll notice I named this boat Last Dance," he smiled. "I guess it's gonna be time for mine some day but y'see, I'm planning on a few more fandangos before I'm ready to wrap it all up." And his partner on the nautical dance floor for this go-round is the Viking 60 Enclosed Bridge Convertible.
The 60 is a collaboration between Bruce Wilson and the Viking Design Team, and it was was an immediate success at its premiere at the 2007 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. With a hull capable of 40-plus knots and a sleek, well-proportioned profile, a fully-dressed 60 would not only be a fine-looking boat but, in typical Viking fashion, a formidable horizon-chasing, tournament-level fishing machine as well.
But for a boater like Ray, it's a different story. You see, he's not your typical Viking convertible owner. "Me, I like to do my fishing from kayaks. For my cruising needs, I liked everything about this boat; the look, the great visibility from up there, the performance, the quality of the build. And with the enclosed bridge option, well, that's all I needed to make my decision," Ray said as he gave me a tour of his Viking 60.
We started in the galley as Ray began pointing out some of the features he enjoys. "Since I cook a lot, I made sure my cabinets would be big enough to hold all my pots and pans," he said, as he slid out two large drawers from a cabinet above the four burner electric cooktop. Inside were utensils, varied and plentiful enough to prepare anything from a quick snack to gourmet sauces and meals. One of the under-counter cabinets also held a slide-out drawer filled with canned and packaged goods that would last a good two weeks away from the dock.
"I had the choice to get a standard refrigerator and freezer but I chose the drawer-type units because I like the wide-open spaces here," he said as he gestured around the galley and accompanying salon area. "And check out all the prep and serving room I have on these solid granite countertops."
The OctoPlex System, a high-tech touchpad that provides access for all AC and DC circuits, is housed in its own cabinet just aft and to port, and inside the salon door. Ray also opted for the spiral staircase on the port side of the salon, commenting that the corner it takes up was not much of a sacrifice for gaining this easy access to the bridge. "Besides, it makes for a nice little kennel area for Mac, underneath," said Ray of his Norfolk terrier and constant companion on all his travels.
The living accommodations aboard the Viking 60EB are available as standard three- or four-stateroom layouts. But Ray chose the other option, a three-stateroom layout with VIP plan. The master is amidships and to port with the guest quarters directly opposite. The VIP is in the forepeak and features a center island berth or, as on Last Dance, a single elevated berth to port and an offset double to starboard. "For my purposes, I just liked the way things were laid out," he said. I found the décor tastefully done and noticed plenty of stowage space in all of the staterooms, certainly enough for extended periods away.
We worked our way back into the salon area as Ray stopped to pick up Mac. "He likes to go topsides," Ray smiled as he picked up the little pooch, tucked him under his arm, and gestured for me to take the stairs. Besides its sea-proven hulls, Viking convertibles are known for their spacious bridges. And the enclosed one aboard Last Dance is like having another salon.
"Besides the obvious height advantage for great visibility while underway, I get all this space as well," he said as he ushered me into the leatherbound Stidd centerline pedestal seat. Before me was a destroyer-type wheel and a massive helm console, arrayed with $102,445 of navigational electronics-including three 17-inch VEI monitors, a Garmin GPSMAP 4212 with satellite weather, a Furuno NavNet Vx2 radar, an autopilot, and a fishfinder. As I scanned the array from port to starboard, I also noticed a pair of ICOM radios, Cat electronic engine readouts for his 1,825-horsepower Cat 32A diesels, genset controls-Ray has two 21.5 kW Onan units-satphone and television, and lots of additional room for anything else he might want to add in the future. "I like the separation up here," he said from his seat on the settee aft and to port of where I sat. "It's like my own private space. I just like it." Ray also opted for the aft steering station right outside and to starboard.
Ray and I made our way back down the stairs and after depositing Mac in his kennel, we stepped out the salon door to the 170-square-foot cockpit. "I took this space ordinarily reserved for all the fishing gear and made it extra storage for all my cruising activities," Ray said, as he showed me the space in one of the deep in-sole boxes for his Brownie Hookah dive system. "And I still got all these spaces I can use up here on the mezzanine sole, but instead of keeping bait fresh, I got extra room for all my diving equipment. When you move around like I do, having the added stowage space is key."
As far as fishing is concerned, Ray plans to use Last Dance as a mothership from which he will launch his angling kayaks-a pair of Hobie Mirage Revolutions that he will keep secured on the foredeck- for fishing adventures while cruising. "I'm through with all that big stuff. Now, it's all finesse and having fun." Like everything else aboard, this too fits into Ray's plan for how he uses his boat.
Ray saved the best for last as we toured his boat's engineroom. Awlgripped white and lit like an operating room, Last Dance's machinery space is a lesson in practicality, organized so that everything, including all vital systems, are easily accessible. "I'll tell you this, in 60 years of boating, I've been treated well. But working with the Viking people and the Galati team has been as wonderful an experience as I have ever had," he said while showing me the space he had for all his spare parts, the full Craftsman toolbox, as well as the easy access to the pair of gensets and watermaker.
With lots of unsettled weather in the area, including major lightning strikes and some heavy downpours, we didn't get Last Dance out to sea. Not that she wasn't up to it, but why court trouble? However, both Viking and Ray did do a comprehensive sea trial off of Palm Beach just after the boat was delivered this past March. "Performance, handling, and cruising were just as I expected. I couldn't be more pleased," Ray said. According to the report, Last Dance hit a top speed of 40.1 knots, with a cruise speed, at 2100 rpm, of 37.5 knots and a mere 70 dB(A)-65 is the level of the normal speaking voice-recorded at the helm.
So, what's next for Ray and Last Dance? He has a lot of travel up on his radar and GPS screens but he did invite me down to his Bahamas home in the Berry Islands at the Chub Cay Club, to do a little bonefishing using those Hobie kayaks. "We'll anchor the big boat out a bit and get the Hobies in the water to get into the flats. You, me, and Mac. It'll be fun." I have no doubt that it will.
Viking Yachts; (609) 296-6000, www.vikingyachts.com