I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve tested enough Viking Yachts models by now to know the builder’s hulls float like ducks. But still, I admit, I was surprised. I ran the Viking 44 Open off Atlantic City on the same day I tested the company’s flagship, the 93 Motoryacht, in testy 5-footers chopped up by strong currents stirred by a distant hurricane. The 93 barreled right through the considerable slop. I was curious how the 44, about half the bigger boat’s size and weight, would handle the seas. The 44 shrugged off the swells almost as easily as her big sister did. Her fine entry sliced right through the whitecaps, and the relatively flat after section of her balsa-cored, resin-infused fiberglass hull, with a 14.3-degree transom deadrise, helped her to get out of the hole easily. The hull design also allowed for good tracking in following and head seas. Two lifting strakes further aided handling, and she landed softly in the troughs, without a creak or groan. The first few times we launched off a peak, I braced myself. But the 44 performed so well that I became fully relaxed splashing through even the largest swells. And the boat was dry thanks to that fine entry, along with the 44’s spray rails and more than 6 feet of forward freeboard. All of the spray that day broke abaft the steering station, keeping sightlines unblemished.
With the hammer down on the boat’s standard twin 800 hp MAN diesels (1,000 hp Volvo Penta D13s are optional), the 44 sped along at 34.5 knots. She cruised at 30 knots while ripping through the chop. And her power-assisted hydraulic steering was extra crisp, not to mention stylish, thanks to an optional teak helm pod. The helm also has three comfortable Stidd helm chairs and twin 15-inch Garmin displays, all within an enclosed space — a nice place to be, given the snotty conditions outside.
Viking hopes the 44 Open will appeal to yachtsmen who are stepping up from rough-and-ready center consoles, or stepping down from larger convertibles. I think the builder might be right. Those looking for more features than typical center consoles offer will find them on the 44, and those stepping down from convertibles will still find angling amenities.
On test day, Viking CEO Pat Healey touted the boat’s maneuverability. “That’s my favorite part about this boat,” he said with a smile. “She’s just really fun to drive.” Healey also said the 44’s layout is noteworthy. With just the one deck, the vessel lets families stay together, so Mom and Dad can keep track of the kids. And, as Healey said, it’s a heck of a lot easier for a kid to learn how to fish when Dad’s on the same level, not up top on the flybridge hollering down instructions.
For owners who prefer a bird’s-eye view from above, or who want the option of time to themselves while driving, Viking subsidiary Palm Beach Towers can build a tuna tower for this model.
Belowdecks, the 44 Open has a two-stateroom setup with a forepeak master that is outfitted for a couple. There’s private access to the day-head from the master, and the shower has 6 feet 8 inches of headroom.
The guest stateroom is amidships and would be a good spot for the kids or for use as extra stowage. Adults staying here for just one night would also likely be comfortable.
The 44 Open’s galley is on the accommodations level and has a two-burner Kenyon cooktop and a sink, to service the portside dining settee for four. The accommodations setup seems about perfect for a couple to make a run over from South Florida to the Abacos for a long weekend. Also, because this boat draws 3 feet 10 inches, she’s well-suited for cruising and fishing in skinny Bahamian waters.
In the engine room, which is accessed via a hatch in the mezzanine, the twin MANs are easily accessible, as are the 13.5 kW generator aft and the twin Racor fuel filters on the centerline — no small layout feat on a boat this size. And the sole is coated in white Awlgrip so that owner-operators can spot drips and spills. There is a dedicated space for the optional Seakeeper 5 gyrostabilizer, which pinned the 44 Open in place even in the tough conditions.
The Viking 44 Open is a boat that is cruisable for young families, a solid fit for boaters who don’t want the hassle of climbing a ladder to the helm, and a piscatorial platform for anglers who want a nimble fish-chasing vessel. She’s also fast, solidly built and well laid out.
She is, in essence, a Viking. Nobody should be surprised about that.
Viking Yachts recently debuted the 44 Open’s closely related sistership, the Viking 44 Convertible. That boat is a bit more fish-centric and better suited to longer voyages because of her enclosed salon. The 119 square feet of cockpit space should keep fishermen happy, while the interior serves as a welcome escape from hot or otherwise inclement weather. (I sought respite there during one particularly steamy day at the Miami Yacht Show, and the space was great.) Both models have the same hull and smooth ride, so owners comparing and contrasting can look at layouts and features to decide what’s ideal for them.