When brothers Bob and Bill Healey bought Peterson-Viking Builders in April 1964, there was no way they could have foreseen a future including two New Jersey manufacturing facilities totaling over 910,000 square feet; about 1,500 employees; close to 5,000 hulls delivered; ownership of companies that handle aluminum tower fabrication, marine electronics and marine service; and dominance of the production sport-fishing yacht market. Yet, that’s where five-plus decades of boatbuilding has brought them.
Today, Viking Yachts produces 90 percent of every boat in-house, leaving only components such as engines to other companies. The builder offers six different lines of boats ranging from 38 to 93 feet length overall. And the brand is constantly upgrading, re-engineering and refining its designs and construction methods. Even the most successful models have been regularly retired through the years, to make way for new and improved versions.
“Take our 55 for example,” says president and CEO Pat Healey. “That boat was a total icon. It had new styling, a new bottom, a new layout and used new materials. And it started an entire family of yachts leading to the 61, the 65, the 74—all were insane successes.”
Whether it’s utilizing resin-infusion construction, tweaking engine-room vents, or developing a unique electrohydraulic rudder-steering system, the company has maintained a forward-looking attitude, harnessing the latest tech to build better yachts.
“We can do almost everything by computer today. We even tank-test boats virtually now,” Healey says, “and we can do it over a dozen times in a couple of days. We can move strakes, change the center of gravity and tweak just about anything. As a result, our latest models don’t just meet our projections—they beat them.”
Also recently, Viking entered the center-console market with the Valhalla Boatworks brand. Valhallas range from 33 to 46 feet length overall and are powered by twin to quadruple outboards. Running on a Michael Peters stepped-V ventilated-tunnel, twin-step hull design, these boats can hit hat-stripping speeds of 60-plus knots. While on board the V-41, I found that it comfortably cruised in the mid-40-knot range through 2- to 3-foot seas.
Why did a builder so successful with yachts decide to enter the center-console market?
“The project was actually in the works on and off for nearly two decades,” says Viking’s director of communications, Chris Landry. “It didn’t get off the ground until now due to the market, business strategies or other reasons, but it’s something we always wanted to do.”
Innovation is in Viking’s DNA. The fact that the company builds everything it can in-house is part of the innovative philosophy, and Healey says the technique is vital to success.
“We found 30 years ago that building our own parts in our own facility gave us timeliness, quality, and the ability to trace what works best and what can go wrong,” he says. “And it’s part of why we’ve turned into what’s really a marine group, with our subsidiaries Palm Beach Towers and Atlantic Marine Electronics. The vendors were good, but we wanted better. We wanted the best of the best. So, we took control and did it ourselves.”
In-house construction means quality control, whether it’s finely finished cabinetry, ramrod-straight and labeled wiring harnesses, or baffled fuel tanks. That quality also lets Viking service all aspects of the yacht post-purchase. When something does go wrong—we are talking about boats, after all—Viking knows how to remedy the situation. Being able to do so quickly and with minimal effort is one reason Viking purchased a South Florida service center in Riviera Beach and staffed it with Viking-trained personnel.
“It’s part of the commitment we have to our owners,” Healey says. “We pick up the phone. We take care of our customers. You can talk to a Healey. That’s the kind of boatbuilding team my father wanted us to be.”
Viking’s latest projects include a $1.4 million dredging and dock replacement at its New Gretna shipyard in New Jersey. At Viking’s Mullica facility, also in New Jersey, the builder is developing an additional 12,000 square feet of space where the four Valhalla production lines are located. Despite the line’s fledgling nature, Viking expects to build 90 Valhalla hulls in the next fiscal year.
Research and development into new tech also continues on the inboard side. To say that Healey gets animated when asked about the future of Vikings would be an understatement.
“I 100 percent believe that diesel-hybrid technology is close and will be a game-changer for marine,” he says in a rapid-fire staccato. “I can envision running to the fishing grounds on your mains, then shutting them down and ramping up a variable-speed diesel-electric generator. You could then troll all day on electric before running back home on the mains. That could cut engine hours by 70 percent, which alone is huge. But there’s also the potential to use the electric with the mains to get extra horsepower. We’ve been working on this for five years, and it’ll be a few years more, but it’s coming.”
Note Healey’s use of the word “we” when he talks about developing these systems. Viking isn’t waiting for other companies to announce new diesel-electric tech. Viking is hands-on in the development.
Because after nearly 60 years, that’s exactly what everyone has come to expect of Viking Yachts.
Take the next step: vikingyachts.com