Viking Yachts’ new 66-foot convertible is not just a version of the well-received 64 with a face-lift; with her new sleek styling, powerful ride and subtle refinements, she was clearly designed to leave some highly custom-crafted sport-fishing machines in her wake. In recent years, relatively few production boatbuilders have aggressively revved up research and development. Completely new models — rising from blank pieces of paper — have been sparse. Viking Yachts is one company that’s bucking this trend.
“The mission of the 66 is to deliver to our owners everything we offer on our bigger boats in a slightly smaller package,” says Viking’s demo captain, Ryan Higgins. “The four-stateroom, 4½-head layout is what we offer on our 70, and we’re able to achieve 40-plus-knot speed without compromise. With the new day head, crew cabin and the styling, I think we’ve succeeded.”
Viking’s designers made a few very dramatic changes from the 64, most notably in the flowing profile with teardrop side windows and the wraparound black mask that continues her lines around the house. The foredeck is now completely flush, with a prominent crown, providing a lower feature line. There are no bow rails forward. That and the use of curved pipe by Palm Beach Towers finish off the Viking’s artful form.
The machinery spaces for this resin-infused, balsa-cored convex hull are accessed by either the traditional cockpit egress or through a stout door from the crew quarters. It’s prudent to walk through the engine compartment before a sea trial, which I did, so the inspection isn’t saunalike. Before departing the boat, I ran back to the machinery space, and it was actually quite comfortable after our sea trial; the Delta T ventilation system did its job admirably.
MTU Series 2000 V16 M91 2,030 hp engines sit atop Viking’s customary structural-steel I-beam supports. Viking has employed engine mounts of this style from the very first 40 convertible they built in 1979; the mounts help dampen vibration and isolate torque. Viking keeps the angle of the power plants as closely in line with the running gear as possible. That precise engineering contributes to the minimal bow rise the 66 exerted as we powered from idle to cruise.
Custom builds always get a lot of input from the captains and mates, the majority of which revolves around saving time and energy on maintenance, repairs and upkeep. Viking Yachts took notice of this phenomenon and wrote its own chapter. Instead of installing a battery of raw water pumps, Viking converted to a single, high-volume 2 hp central pump connected to a manifold system capable of isolating specific sections. The pump, with strainer, is located in its own compartment, and if it ever fails, a mirroring compartment and backup pump offer full, built-in redundancy.
The aft bulkhead of the machinery space holds a three-lever oil transfer system for the mains and generator. A quick-connect fitting is located in the cockpit, so there’s no need to lug five-gallon pails and oil-soaked rags. A compact Willy Vac installed below also helps the crew keep the engine room, and the entire vessel, clean.
A Moritz Octaplex and its touch-pad technology control the fuel management, and electric priming pumps for the main engines come standard. As to be expected, access to all systems is good, even outboard of the engines. All wire runs are bundled, compartment lids have gaskets and Viking smartly places a tool chest on the forward bulkhead. A fairing block is butted to the keel for mounting a large transducer.
The 66 also comes with the new Viking Independent Programmable Electro-Hydraulic Rudder (VIPER). The system has a hydraulic backup and can shut down individual rams independently. This gives this convertible great dexterity, not only when navigating tight and crowded channels, but also in the event that one engine goes down, in which case you could still maneuver this boat on the remaining one.
It means a lot when, ascending to another level, you find a dainty ladder angle, wide treads and well-placed grab rails once you reach the top — this Viking had all three. Once on top, I looked over the bow and down the narrow canal. There was certainly no room to spin a 66-foot boat; I was looking forward to seeing how Higgins backed down the entire stretch.
It’s a big bridge — available in an enclosed version as well — and it really gives you the feeling of a 70-plus-footer. The center-console-style helm and the extended overhang provide ample room to navigate around the three Release Marine chairs. Forward on the flying bridge, you find a huge freezer compartment, crucial for long-range provisioning. This, in essence, makes all the seating forward-facing. Two more comfortable bench seats with rod storage sit forward of the helm; additional storage is in the brow. A drink box and sink keep trips down the ladder to a minimum on long hauls.
The helm area itself is built for efficiency. The Octaplex can engage all systems from the console touch screen. Since Viking mounts all controls for the electronics within recessed and gasketed compartments, there’s no need to constantly lift any pop-up doors to configure or navigate the three 17-inch KEP displays.
Lenco trim-tab actuators — there is a port, starboard and center tab — are located below the wheel on the hidden flat. “With the size of our propeller pockets, our tab area isn’t that much, so the center tab really gives us more area. It absolutely drives the bow when you really want to get the boat into a big head sea,” Higgins says.
Higgins, with the help of the thruster, navigated off the dock and then proceeded out the canal with minimal room on either side for a miscue. As I sat port side, I did notice that the side rails on the tower were low in keeping with the profile, but I was missing a grab rail, especially at speed when I tend to stand most of the time. As the 66 powered up, her stance changed just slightly throughout the curve, and the 66’s sharper entry created an impressively soft ride.
The 2-foot chop obviously presented little resistance; with a half load of fuel and full water, we topped out at 42.2 knots. At 1,500 rpm, she lopped along at 25 knots and consumed a miserly 74 gph, but you could tell the next nudge to low cruise — at 1,800 rpm, 31.6 knots and 70 percent of load — was where the throttles would be more of the time. Fuel burn was slightly north of 100 gph. A further advance to 2,100 rpm produced a speedy high cruise of 38.2 knots.
I stand just under 6 feet, and I could see the bow spread and both corners of the cockpit; that’s without a venturi cutout. The VIPER steering system was carlike in the ease with which the wheel and vessel reacted. This system has the 66 making tighter turns than the 64.
We did a hard-over turn at 32 knots, a fish-fighting simulation with a back down at speed, and a 360-degree spin that proved how nimble 50-plus tons can really be. The cockpit remained dry with the addition of a new transom design that has a slight curve instead of a severe flat. A quick spin at the entrance had us positioned to back down the tightly packed canal; she truly backed down beautifully and tracked as if on rails.
Reaching the cleats with the dock lines was easy as we eased into the slip; the gunwale hits you at midthigh — appropriate for all fish-fighting conditions. The entire cockpit is nothing but a series of flowing radii; there’s not a hard line to be found.
Everything needed for a fishing mission sits concealed behind or under a well-fit hatch. Stainless-steel bait trays and a freezer hide under the mezzanine seat, and you’ll find an insulated cooler under the step and a four-drawer tackle center to port. The optional Eskimo ice maker dumps port side, and you can add a second dump if desired.
Livewells abound; you can outfit the space with two 60-gallon bait tanks. The transom door held an optional one, sans gate, and two fish boxes run fore and aft. Compartments on either side hold mops, cleaning supplies, gaffs and tag sticks — secure and out of sight. All hatches boast strong, positive latches.
The air-conditioned mezzanine seating is on the starboard side. There is no step up to the side deck — you don’t really need one, and once you’re on the side deck, the tower leg does not keep you from transiting to the foredeck. The newly designed foredeck features a flush surface that’s completely covered with an effective nonskid surface. A raised toe rail complements an anchor locker forward, complete with freshwater washdown. (You’ll also find freshwater outlets in the engine room and up on the bridge.)
Though Southern boaters rarely anchor, I personally am a bow rail fan for safety purposes, so I did feel slightly naked on the great forward expanse. Bow rails are standard, and grab rails can be placed anywhere the customer chooses.
Viking interiors have set the bar in a variety of ways over the years. As you enter the main salon through the electrically actuated door, the William Bales Interior Décor Package invites you into the island galley with a set of bar stools and rich, high-gloss teak random grain joinery. Cool air moves from behind finely crafted valances, and the countertops feature honeycomb construction with granite tops. (All doors aboard feature a Nomex Honeycomb core to reduce weight.)
A large dinette is set to starboard with a clean line of sight to the entertainment center; this one is outfitted with a KVH sat system. A walk-in pantry provides storage, and an ice maker is well placed at the head of the companionway.
A major addition to the 66 is the day head. Higgins sees it as a major improvement in keeping the interior clean during a day of fishing. No one has to track through the salon.
Belowdecks the master cabin employs an athwartship berth and a head the size one would expect on a 70-footer. Twin hanging lockers and a dresser could hold enough gear and clothing for a season. There’s no hunting for light switches; they are placed strategically on the dresser.
The forward stateroom sports an island berth while the crew and port cabins offer up bunk-style accommodations. The crew stateroom offers entry via the engine room, and Viking did a good job keeping the chatter from the ventilation system out of the crew cabin with a hefty bulkhead and door.
Viking managed to both create a new vision and keep its legacy intact. This 66 convertible delivers what the company set out to achieve; it presents style, ride and amenities in a precise package.
DEADRISE: 11.4 degrees
WEIGHT: 102,875 pounds
FUEL: 2,015 gal / 2,265 gal (optional)
WATER: 340 gal
POWER: Two MTU Series 2000 V16 M91 2,030 hp
Base price: $3,173,000 (MSRP) MAN V12 1550 CRM 1,550 hp
$4,453,094 (as tested)
MTU V16 Series 2000 M91 2,030 hp and options
Viking Yachts / New Gretna, New Jersey / www.vikingyachts.com