At home in any waters, the 37BF is an express fishing cruiser that fills an underserved size range.
We’re backing down on a fish I haven’t hooked with a rod that doesn’t exist. But I’m less interested in whether I can reel in the pelagic behemoth on the business end of the invisible line than I am in how the boat performs in reverse — that boat being the Viking 37 Billfish, a new model from a storied builder that seeks to give anglers an option in the 35- to 40-foot range that isn’t a center console and isn’t outboard powered.
Our back-down goes well. The swim platform helps to knock some of the water down, and when the timing is just right and a small wall of water does come over the transom, cockpit scuppers quickly send the salt water back from whence it came. And an 86-square-foot cockpit gives an engaged angler plenty of room to roam.
As the model name suggests, the 37 Billfish is outfitted as a sportfishing boat. The cockpit alone includes a bait freezer, insulated fish boxes, a transom livewell, mezzanine seats that conceal tackle stowage and a cooler and a sink, a transom door with a lift gate and five in-gunwale rod holders. Five more rod holders are in a rocket launcher rack on the flybridge.
But let’s back up a bit. Viking wanted to design and build a boat of less than 40 feet that would meet the demands of hardcore anglers who didn’t want an outboard-powered center console and who wanted accommodations beyond a couple of mattresses to crash on at night. As luck would have it, the builder purchased Ocean Yachts’ manufacturing facility and its accompanying accessories, and the Ocean folks happened to have a hull mold for a 37-footer with angling chops and express cruiser potential. Viking made some tweaks, gave the boat a Viking look, added a little of this and subtracted a little of that, and a new boat was born. For hull #10 under Viking ownership — the first one on the West Coast, and the one we tested — the Stan Miller Yachts crew got involved and provided the 37BF a West Coast makeover.
The most obvious addition to our test boat has to be the bow pulpit, which, according to Stan Miller president John Buettner, is a must for West Coast fishing. It is integrated nicely into the forward deck, serves as a roof for the anchor, has a groove down the middle for the anchor chain — 300 feet of it — and houses the Lewmar windlass. To contain eager anglers, polished aluminum rails border the bow, and in a further nod to safety, they extend aft to the back of the superstructure, instead of stopping about halfway. Basically, where the cockpit meets the main cabin bulkhead is where the railing begins, and it runs to the tip of the pulpit.
At the stern is a swim platform, which might be more of a nod to the boat’s multi-activity chops rather than a West Coast thing, but it’s definitely a different look for the model. It includes a ladder that’s tucked underneath, making reboarding easy for swimmers, divers or anglers unlucky enough to have been pulled overboard by the big one. A starboard-side transom door delivers access to and from the platform.
In the cockpit, in addition to the fishing features mentioned previously, buyers can opt for a leaning post that comes with six rod holders and two cupholders. Optional is teak decking, which extends through the salon and helm area, to replace the nonskid surface.
Through the Costa canvas bulkhead (a solid bulkhead is an option) is what Viking calls the command deck, which is mostly encircled by windows and canvas. Both aft corners are fiberglass instead of window glass. In the salon, a sofa settee to starboard can seat two or three people, and a C-shaped dinette to port can accommodate five or six more. And its table can be lowered to serve as the base for an extra cushion, which turns the settee into a berth. The base of both settees lifts hydraulically at the push of a button to reveal the engine spaces, where the Cummins QSB6.7 diesels reside and crank out their combined 1,100 hp.
Forward to starboard is a doublewide captain’s seat and helm console. This is where I discovered another 37 Billfish first. The seatback of the captain’s seat, instead of being a molded component, is on posts that can be secured in holders that create a forward- or rear-facing seat. Two holders are set into the rear of the base and two are forward. With the boat on the hook or at the dock, the helm seat becomes the short part of an L-shaped settee, and its base conceals a four-drawer tackle station. Captains who prefer a bolster might not love the arrangement — the seat doesn’t have one — but it definitely enhances the boat’s entertaining factor.
The helm station is composed of a forward leaning upper section that can house a couple of 12-inch MFDs or one 12-incher and several smaller instruments, including an engine display, and a lower section that angles downward and includes a steering wheel, engine throttles, a joystick (if so outfitted), a VHF, a stereo head unit and switches.
Down a centerline set of stairs, in an ode to efficient use of space, is an accommodations deck that’s dominated by high-gloss teak paneling and cabinets and includes a galley, a head with a shower stall and a stateroom.
An L-shaped Corian countertop defines the galley space to starboard. Above it are cabinets and a microwave/convection oven, and below it are refrigerator/freezer drawers and storage. A stainless sink is in the corner of the L, to leave as much work space as possible, and an electric cooktop in the short part of the L can be covered by a Corian lid when it’s not in use.
Opposite the galley, the head includes a Corian countertop and backsplash, and storage under the sink and in cabinets behind a large mirror. A head and a separate standup shower stall complete the space.
An island queen berth anchored the stateroom on our test boat, but fans of a more traditional sportfisher can opt for an over-under scissored bunk arrangement. Cabinets hug the starboard hullside, while to port is a large fishing rod shelf that can hold an assembly of rods. Twin maple-lined hanging lockers round out the accouterments and the storage, and an overhead hatch brings in natural light and air.
Up a portside cockpit ladder is the 37 Billfish’s flybridge. A centered helm console is surrounded by seating. To either side are cushioned bench seats with room for two or three rear ends. Forward, built in as part of the helm console, is a two-person bench seat that provides a great forward-facing view. Our test boat had two captain’s chairs at the helm, the second one being a sensible option. Combined, there’s room for eight to 10 anglers to sit and exchange lies.
The helm console provides room on its forward-leaning dash section for twin big-screen MFDs and smaller instrument displays. The steering wheel is front and center on a prominent pod that’s integrated with the console, and tall Palm Beach-style throttles are split to either side to ensure an aft-facing captain can keep the boat in pursuit of a fish.
A molded fiberglass hardtop covers the bridge, and a canvas enclosure is an option.
We made plenty of at-speed runs on test day, both to gather numbers and to pose the boat for photos, and it can hold a sporty lean during hard turns without sliding or skidding. The transition from hard port to hard starboard was smooth and quick. Some spray reached the windshield when we headed into the swell, but the sharp entry and hard chine did a good job knocking most of the water down and keeping the ride smooth instead of pounding.
The twin Cummins QSB6.7 diesels pushed the 37 Billfish to a top speed of 34.5 knots on test day, at which point the engines were burning a combined 56.5 gph, for a range of about 241 miles, with a 10 percent reserve. Owners can choose their cruise speed. We found a range of 270 miles at 3040 rpm and 30.7 knots, and 287 miles at 2850 rpm and 28.3 knots. Dropping down to 20 knots extends the range to 337 miles (23.5 gph). Slowing way down to 1020 rpm, which yields 7.5 knots, pushes the boat’s range to a little more than 870 miles.
Viking knows the 37 Billfish needs to be able to do more, so it is pre-plumbed for a DC bait system (fishing) and prepped for a Seakeeper gyro stabilizer (family cruising and fishing). High-gloss teak belowdecks lends a yacht-like feel, and available air conditioning on the command deck means the family can go out anytime.