While driving to Sarasota, Fla., to test the new Viking Yachts 44 Convertible (44C), I had a few hours to ponder the universe. What is it that Viking is offering with this 44C? What will be different? What will be the same?
As I put the minutes and miles in the rearview mirror, my anticipation grew. I didn’t just want to see any new innovations; I wanted to validate that Viking continues to build world-class fishing machines, regardless of size.
Viking’s fleet of pelagic pursuers tops out with the 92 Convertible, and there are a few models smaller than the 44C, but Viking ensures the same level of quality, features, craftsmanship and ride through the entire line.
At first glance, the 44C carries the same signature profile and lines of other Vikings. An unbroken sheer line runs from stem to stern, and the blacked-out windshield and tinted side windows give it the look of a “lean and mean” fishing machine. Add in the raked bow’s generous flare, sharp hull entry, strakes and hard chines that knock down the seas while providing lift, and the swept-back angle of the deckhouse, and the 44C can run with the big dogs.
Viking doesn’t skimp on the business end. The cockpit measures in at 119 square feet of fish-fighting room, and the transom door has a lift gate, for landing the big catch. Rod holders, salt- and freshwater washdowns, tackle storage and an in-deck fishbox make the 44C a serious contender for fishing inshore or heading to the offshore canyons. Viking does build a live baitwell into the transom, which is an extra place to keep the cocktails on ice, for the non-fishing days.
We used to sit on lawn chairs on some of the 1960’sera sportfishers as we headed out. Viking wants anglers and spectators to be comfortable, so it includes Ultraleather-cushioned mezzanine seating along the aft bulkhead, facing the action in the cockpit.
Galati Yacht Sales of Sarasota supplied the Viking 44C for the sea trial, and Michael Galati made sure I had all the information I needed to appreciate what Viking is offering with its new model. My ride included optional Rupp outriggers, a refrigerated cockpit step box and transom coaming.
As Capt. Rob fired up the twin Volvo D13 engines, the throaty groan of the 1,000 hp powerplants cut through the air as he slipped each in and out of gear and deftly maneuvered the 44C off the dock and between two other don’t-you-dare-scratch-these yachts. The 44C responded quickly and assuredly to the shifter commands, easily getting us out from between a rock and a hard place.
Engine room access is via a hatch in the mezzanine section, leading to all the working parts of the 44C. Fuel and oil filters are on the centerline, and the oil changing system is forward. Dometic AC units are mounted along the back bulkhead next to the 13.5 kw Cummins Onan generator to port.
Our test ride had a Seakeeper 6 gyro stabilization system on board. We were cruising in relatively calm Sarasota Bay, but I have experienced the Seakeeper anti-roll systems on other yachts multiple times, so I know it would work as expected in the 44C.
A quick climb of the ladder to the flybridge reveals enough seating for a party. The centerline helm is complete with a teak pod and single-lever controls, and port and starboard padded bench seats with backrests offer lounge seating. Additional seating is in front of the helm console, but it doesn’t impede the captain’s line of sight. Twin pedestal helm chairs allow the captain and companion to work together. Visibility from the helm seat down to the cockpit is unobstructed, which is perfect for maneuvering the 44C when a fish is on.
True to Viking layouts, the helm has several compartments to house the electronics and keep them out of sight when the owners are away. Flanking the steering pod are two recessed boxes that house the radios, search light controls, plotter mouse, switches/breakers and more. In front is a dash with a flip-up clear cover that houses three Garmin multifunction displays, two Icom M506 VHF radios, a Furuno RD-33 log display, a Seakeeper controller and other electronics that need to be accessed regularly. Additionally, there’s a Lenco trim tab display for the three tabs, port, starboard and center.
Housed in the fiberglass hardtop with the built-in spreader lights is a dropdown console that contains the dual Volvo Penta engine monitors. Enclosed also is a compartment for the optional electric teaser reels. Visibility is perfect from any seat, and thanks to the Costa Clear Bimini curtains around three sides, this open bridge model can beat the elements.
Our test 44C was hull #1, and sometimes that makes it difficult to lock down the running specs. But on our ride, and thanks to the twin Volvo D13 engines, we saw some impressive speeds. Idling at 600 rpm, the engines moved the boat at 7.5 knots and burned 3 gph combined, while a push of the sticks to 1500 rpm yielded 18.4 knots and a 44 gph burn rate. We reached 31 knots at 2000 rpm and 70 gph, and WOT pinned the tach at 2350 rpm, where speed was 37.9 knots and fuel burn 100 gph. Range at 1500 rpm would come in around 260 nm, with a 25 percent reserve, based on an 825-gallon fuel capacity.
The ride was smooth and fast as the 44C hull came up on plane. At low speeds the 44C’s hull displaces a lot of water, and it feels best riding up and out of the hole. Maneuvering was easy and very controlled, with tight circles exemplifying the ability to chase and back down on fish in any direction.
The interior, as would be expected, shows Viking at its finest. Up a few steps from the cockpit and through the acrylic door, the salon is surprisingly roomy for a 44-foot yacht. A large L-shaped settee is in the aft starboard corner with a highlow teak table. Forward are two barstools at an extended Corian counter off the galley. To port is an even larger L-shaped dinette with a teak table, easily fi tting fi ve or more people. Finished throughout in high-gloss juno teak wood on the walls and cabinets, Ultraleather on the seats and settees, brushed nickel hardware and carpeting, the interior is classically styled yet elegant, and ready for guests. A 40-inch fl at TV is mounted catty-corner by the dinette.
Down two steps is the galley, to starboard. It’s a split-level setup and out of the way, but not away from guests and the action. Impressive are the four undercounter refrigerator/ freezer drawers, a two-burner Keyon cooktop, a Samsung microwave oven, a deep stainless sink and about a mile of Corian counter space. Storage drawers and cabinets are plentiful. Opt for the Amtico fl ooring for ease of maintenance.
I did check several cabinet doors in the galley for their serial number. This is key, as Viking numbers all of its components, so if one breaks, Viking can manufacture a new piece, with the same grain pattern, color and finish, and the replacement will be just like the original.
Two large hatches in the galley sole reveal access to the water pump and water heater, which works well because they are protected and not in wet areas. It also leaves room for additional storage, for containers and dry goods. And the workmanship is evident in the well-structured floor and hatch covers, which are thick and lined with backstays to prevent flexing.
The 44C has a two-stateroom configuration with two heads. Forward in the peak is the guest VIP, with an upper/lower double and single berth. Midship to port is the master stateroom, with a walkaround queen berth, nightstands, a 22-inch flat TV and an en suite head with a shower stall and bench. A day head off the hall has a Sealand toilet system, a storage cabinet, an in-counter sink and a spray curtain, since the head is also the shower space.
To increase building capacity for the 44C and other models up to the 50-footers, including the Billfish series, Viking purchased the former Ocean Yachts manufacturing facility on the Mullica River in New Jersey, not far from Viking headquarters on the Bass River, just down the road. Once business rivals, the Healey family of Viking now has John Leek IV as the general manager of the Viking Mullica plant. Leek is the grandson of Jack Leek Jr, who founded Ocean Yachts in 1977. These two names are historic in southern New Jersey boatbuilding circles as well as fishing tournament circles. Bragging rights were usually at stake.