The one safe bet you can make in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is that there are few safe bets to make. However, on a recent trip to the coastal gambling mecca, I did find one way to increase my angling odds. She was docked in the marina adjacent to the Golden Nugget casino, and she appeared to be as close to a sure thing as they come. The 68 Convertible is a quintessential Viking. She’s sweetly sized for the tournament scene or overnighters in the canyons, but not so ostentatiously imposing that she becomes cumbersome. This is a vessel that can cruise or fish, and that can do both in style and comfort. Viking Yachts, which is a behemoth in the fish-boat industry, had already sold 18 of these boats as of mid-August, just six months after the 68C’s debut at the Miami International Boat Show. (That demo boat, even before the show, had already won the Buccaneer Cup Sailfish Release Tournament in Palm Beach, Florida.) A lot of people, it seems, agree that this boat is a good bet. As with most Vikings, the 68C’s story starts with her ride. As I pushed her throttles forward in choppy 2- to 4-footers off the New Jersey coastline, the yacht got up and out of the hole with ease, thanks in large part to a hull with a fine entry that flattens to 12.1 degrees of deadrise at the transom (a design that also helps with stability on the hook or when drifting). The 68C has a Viper steering system, meaning her rudders are independent of each other, a setup that gives the captain a high level of control. As I carved S-turns through the slop, there was no doubt as to the system’s efficacy. She cruised easily at 35 knots at 2,150 rpm, and when I dropped the hammer, she climbed briskly up to 41 knots — a speed that any fisherman trying to beat the clock back to the docks for a weigh-in will appreciate. And even at that speed, she remained dry, with the spray coming off her hull just abaft amidships.
I manned the 68C from her flybridge, where the helm had a slick-looking, highly varnished teak pod that I’d personally consider to be a must-have option. Three Stidd helm chairs provided sturdy and comfortable seating for the captain and mates while a crisp-sounding JL Audio system helped to keep everyone in buoyant spirits. Florida-based Viking subsidiary Atlantic Marine Electronics had installed triple 17-inch Aydin screens, while another Viking subsidiary, Palm Beach Towers, had provided the tuna tower, which stood out with smooth welding.
The Viking’s 176-square-foot cockpit had all the amenities I expected to find aboard a fishing machine of this caliber. There were two in-sole fish boxes as well as a livewell in the transom. A beefy fighting chair made by Release had been installed for battling the big ones. A starboard-side tuna door was designed to let fishermen get their catches on board more easily. Mezzanine seating was a pleasant touch, creating a good perch for keeping an eye on baits, or for using as a place to hang while the 68C headed out to the fishing grounds.
The boat’s salon comes in satin-finish or high-gloss walnut, and the joinery was tight on my test boat. A day-head to starboard meant nobody had to tromp all the way down to the accommodations level for a break. An L-shaped settee to port had a good view of the forward-situated TV.
The galley was forward with an island counter and three bar stools, making it an excellent place to pop a cold one after a long day of fishing. The island counter was a useful design choice for a fishing boat. As opposed to a traditional U-shaped counter, which hems people in, the island makes it much easier to drop the turkey sandwich and get out to the cockpit fast should the bite start.
Viking built a stowage room forward in the salon, good for extra rods, bedding or other bulky items. Down below is a standard Bosch washer and dryer amidships; it should prove useful on longer sojourns.
Accommodations are laid out for comfort on weekend or longer fishing and cruising itineraries. The en suite master is also amidships, though it’s not full-beam. Instead, it’s to port with an athwartships island king berth; a 6-foot-8-inch-tall, maple-lined hanging locker; and a standard 32-inch TV at the foot of the bed. The yacht comes with a standard three-stateroom layout, including a guest stateroom across the companionway from the master, and a forepeak VIP. The VIP on my test boat had a walk-around queen-size berth, though the space is available with dual scissoring berths for owners who need more room for a tournament team. Crew quarters are aft with a head and access to the engine room.
There are four options for the 68’s power plants: twin 1,945 hp MTU V-12s, 1,925 hp Caterpillar C32s, 1,900 hp MAN diesels, or the base engines, twin 1,550 hp MAN V-12s. Regardless of engine choice, they’re bolted to the center stringers for strength, and are well-ventilated. There’s walk-around access for maintenance checks, and the twin 29 kW Cummins Onan gensets are easy to reach.
Viking has plans for an enclosed-bridge version of this model, which should appeal to more cruise-centric boaters and denizens of colder climes. Yet regardless of the 68 Convertible’s configuration, when it comes to having a sweet ride, a well-appointed interior and fishing-ready features, Viking Yachts has hit the jackpot.
The reason we tested the 68C in the waters off Atlantic City, New Jersey, is that the yacht was built at Viking’s facility a stone’s throw away in New Gretna. The company builds boats under 50 feet length overall in nearby Mullica.
The Viking Legend
Back in 1964, brothers Bill and Bob Healey founded Viking Yachts. Today, Bill’s son, Pat Healey, an avid billfishing enthusiast, runs the company, which is reportedly debt-free and is still privately held. Viking has a majority share of the U.S. market for upscale production sport-fishermen and is a major presence at boat shows and billfish tournaments. The builder employs about 1,300 people at two yards in southern New Jersey and builds 90 percent of all its boat components in-house. The company owns CNC routers for cutting wood and composite parts and has a million-dollar, five-axis profiler for creating detailed foam plugs. The current Viking range of models stretches from 37 to 93 feet, though there always seem to be whispers that the company is going to go even larger.