Boat Review: Viking 52 Open

Enjoy the wide-open spaces

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It's been a while since Viking introduced an express-style boat - and certainly never one quite this big. But as I get older and seek greater comfort, I've discovered that express layouts appeal to me more and more. There's no flybridge ladder to climb, you can reach the cockpit from the helm in a flash, and I don't have to separate my guests into cockpit and flybridge teams. And on the larger models like the 52 Open, the interior boasts just as much space and amenities as a convertible.

Performance
The first thing we encountered on our way out of Port Everglades on Florida's east coast was the 5-foot wake of a 65-foot Hatteras as she came down off plane to enter the inlet. We dropped back to about half-throttle and hit the wake without a drop of spray or the slightest jar - it was a nonevent.

The seas, just 1 to 3 feet out of the southeast, offered little challenge to the 52 Open - nor did a hard-over turn at 30 knots. With the tabs at zero, the power-assist steering allowed me to use a single finger to change course by 180 degrees in the space of just over two boat lengths. I might add that throughout it all, the Furuno sounder, with its transducer mounted amidships, never once lost bottom lock.

The 52 backs down with total control at an amazing 8 knots and spins rapidly. When stopped and drifting beam to the seas, the 52 exhibited a medium roll moment (distance it rolls side to side) with very gentle transitions (roll direction change).

It also boasted a remarkably quiet ride at all speeds for an express design, where you don't have the benefit of the flybridge between you and the exhausts.

At trolling speed, the 52 produced an average wake, with subsurface turbulence from the props extending back to about the third wave and not enough surface white water to cover up the twin alleys.

Bridge
The entire starboard side of the bridge deck consists of a molded module containing a refrigerator, storage shelves and the Eskimo ice maker. Opposite to port, an L-shaped settee cradles those less enthusiastic guests who don't want to watch the action from the mezzanine. Under the settee, you'll find cavernous storage space to hide rods and gear.

I particularly liked the Murray Products helm and companion seats. With the centerline helm, the companion seats provide more than enough room for passengers to get in and out without disturbing the helmsman. Speaking of the helm, the traditional Palm Beach-style pod with single-lever controls looks good and incorporates excellent ergonomic characteristics. Hidden behind a hatch over the helmsman's head, you'll find a pair of Miya Epoch electric teaser reels with a wireless remote control that allows the captain to operate them from the tuna tower.

I would like to see one very minor change made on the bridge: The painted trim around the lift-up covers on the expansive instrument consoles cuts off your visibility of the bottom half of the lower tier of instruments with the cover closed. It shouldn't be a problem to narrow that trim band.

Visibility everywhere else from the helm -- all 360 degrees of it -- couldn't be better . And I saw no hint of distortion when looking through the windshield corners.

Engine Room
This deck doesn't lift on rams like you'd find on smaller express boats, so the headroom remains fixed. Generators and compressors lie along the aft bulkhead, while quieter machinery, such as filters and electrical equipment, lines the forward transverse bulkhead.

The engines mount on powder-coated steel beams supported by vacuum-bagged, foam-filled stringers. And while it's a bit of a squeeze to get outboard of the engines, you'll find all routine-maintenance points easily accessible on centerline.

Viking coats everything with white Awlgrip -- so the engine room gleams with the bright gloss of an operating theater. Cleanup couldn't be easier, and noticing any leaks will be a no-brainer.

Delta-T supplied the ventilation system that both brings air in (actually slightly pressurizing the compartment) for maximum engine efficiency, and exhausts air for cooling.

The valves for the emergency crash pumps can be reached from the engine hatch without entering the compartment.

Interior
Express hulls generally feel like they deliver less living space than convertibles do. The Viking 52 qualifies as an exception to that rule. As you head below, the L-shaped settee to port accommodates a triangular high-low table that could easily sit five adults for dinner. The galley takes up the entire starboard salon bulkhead, providing every convenient appliance you'd find in a luxury home, including under-counter refrigerator and freezer drawers and a four-burner ceramic cooktop. Of course, in the same room, the chef and guests can all enjoy the huge plasma-screen TV and Bose home theater while preparing dinner.

Moving forward, a guest cabin with over/under singles shares the day head just aft with the salon. The master stateroom lies forward with an island double berth on centerline, plenty of storage and its own stand-up head and separate shower. And when I say plenty of storage, I mean that if you fill every storage spot on this 52, be prepared to repaint the waterline an inch or two higher.

You'll discover numerous hatches in the cabin soles below, affording easy access to fittings, pumps, storage, valves and transducers.

Cockpit
I love mezzanines. They provide lots more storage space and certainly make more comfortable seating than hard, fiberglass modules. On the 52, the mezzanine hides (from port to starboard) two freezer units, dry storage, an insulated drink box and a set of tackle drawers.

You'll find five hatches cross the aft half of the cockpit that contain a livewell, a huge fish box, an ice receiver for the Eskimo and lazarette access to steerage and plumbing. Another sizable fish box graces the transom on centerline. Under the gunwale and side walkway to port, you'll also find the washdown spigots and storage for gaffs, mops and other items. The shore-power cord and the oil-change outlet lie to starboard. As you'd expect, Viking provides a tuna door with a lift-up gate. But thankfully, it also mounts several steps with handholds on the outside of the transom below the waterline, so whether you fall in unexpectedly or intentionally take a dip, you'll be able to climb back out of the water.

Even with the mezzanine, this 148-square-foot cockpit accommodates numerous anglers and crew without collisions. I also like how clean and uncluttered Viking built this arena - all of the storage compartments come with hidden latches, and the rounded coamings remain comfortable to lean against even without pads.

Design and Construction
As usual, Viking designs its boats in-house. And, like other sister ships in the fleet, this 52 boasts a solid fiberglass bottom and end-grain balsa-cored topsides, decks and house. Viking also injects the fiberglass stringers with high-density foam.

Other than the obvious items such as engines, electronics and pumps, virtually every part of a Viking is manufactured in the company's 600,000-square-foot plant in New Jersey. Viking has always been populated with progressive thinkers, from the Healey family on down the line. Viking was one of the first companies to utilize frameless windows in cabin sides, underwater exhausts, and dedicated tower and electronics companies as Viking divisions. The company even heats its plant in winter with the wood scraps left from building boats in a furnace the company designed itself - that's Viking innovation personified.

LOA...... 56'11"
BEAM....... 17'3"
DRAFT....... 5'
WEIGHT...... 57,040 pounds
FUEL...... 1,200 gallons
WATER...... 200 gallons
MAX POWER...... T 1,360 hp MAN diesels
BASE PRICE...... $1,509,000

Viking Yachts / New Gretna, New Jersey / 609-296-6000 / www.vikingyachts.com