Boat Review: Viking 68

Bill Healey, the patriarch of Viking Yachts, never ceases to impress me.

Viking 68 2006 Main

Viking 68 2006 Main

Bill Healey, the patriarch of Viking Yachts, never ceases to impress me. Even in his late 70s he still does 100 push-ups a day, and I once watched him scale a 12-foot cyclone fence with ease when he had forgotten his keys. But those instances pale to his most impressive skill. I walked down a dock with him during a Viking owners' rendezvous one year. He knew every owner's name, the wife's name, every child's name and ... well, you get the picture. That kind of attention to detail carries over in Viking's boatbuilding, too. It's a boatbuilding family with a stern, competent taskmaster as the father figure.

**Flybridge
**The 68's flybridge sports a center-console helm with superb 360-degree visibility. Viking chooses a fixed electronics console with clear acrylic doors rather than one that raises and lowers. The upside to this is that it keeps the electronics visible but protected if you happen to run in truly foul weather. Fishing rods stow neatly under port and starboard bench seats, while a freezer and bench seat line the console's forward side. Of course, that's on the open-bridge model. There's also a closed-bridge version that comforts you with air conditioning and an internal spiral staircase rising up from the salon.

**Engine Room
**No matter which engine package you choose, expect your Viking 68 to be a runner. Viking offers both MTU and Caterpillar engines, providing cruising speeds of up to 34 knots and wide-open throttle upwards of 39 knots, with the highest horsepower. The configuration of the bonded-in tanks holding the 2,000 gallons of fuel conforms to the hull shape, which Viking claims increases hull strength. Also available: an optional upgrade to carry 2,375 gallons of diesel.

Expect standing headroom on centerline with plenty of room for routine maintenance both inboard and outboard of the power plants. Viking also incorporates advanced composite acoustic materials in the engine compartment to keep the living quarters above and forward church-service quiet.

Interior

Viking's communications expert, Peter Frederiksen, keeps referring to these as "workboats." "After all," he says, "when it comes to serious fishing, Viking Yachts do the work." If that's the case, then these must be the most luxurious workboats ever built. Perfect teak joinery, expensive designer fabrics and a sense of sybaritic luxury assure an owner that he or she will never have to step down in comfort or ambience from home to boat. And yet, as Frederiksen says, when it comes to fishing, even the most hard-core offshore angler appreciates what Viking puts into every hull.

I love lots of light, and Viking's frameless windows fill the salon with enough daylight to make the teak and granite counters fairly glow. Thankfully, Viking (like most builders today) has moved away from the galley-down layout. With the galley on the same level as the salon, the chef/host/hostess needn't be separated from the party. The 68's cabaret banquette-style dinette seats four adults and works well with the galley breakfast bar and stools to augment it.

The U-shaped galley balances the L-shaped salon settee admirably, and comes equipped with Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezer drawers under the counters and other top-of-the-line appliances.

The entertainment center on the salon's port side contains a 42-inch plasma television hidden in the counter, which rises silently at the touch of a button.

Belowdecks, you'll find the master stateroom with private head and shower situated aft. The king-size island berth runs athwartships. The forward stateroom sports a queen-size island berth with massive storage space below. The remaining two cabins to starboard both provide over/under singles and a private head with shower.

**Cockpit
**I'm certain Frederiksen has the 68's huge cockpit in mind when he considers it a workboat. At 186 square feet, it accommodates multiple anglers and mates without conflict. The obligatory mezzanine hosts myriad storage opportunities beneath the step and seats. Standard equipment includes tackle storage, a 10-cubic-foot bait freezer and the engine-room hatch. I also really like the current trend of electric salon doors that open at the touch of a button. It sure beats getting bowled over while trying to handle a heavy door in an equally heavy sea.

**Design and Construction
**Viking recently installed a five-axis router in its factory, and the new 68 reaped the benefits. With this CAD/CAM machine, Viking can quickly and economically produce its own molds, plugs and jigs. Expect even more innovative design features in all future Vikings. Those knowledgeable about past Viking styles will quickly recognize changes in the flybridge and the helm console, thanks to the new machine.

The fiberglass bottom sports a 15-degree deadrise at the transom, sharp enough to smooth the ride in a head sea yet shallow enough to provide stability in a beam sea and reasonable fuel economy at cruise. With a 51¼2-foot draft, you'll experience precious few Bahamian anchorages you can't navigate. I've also enjoyed better performance when backing down on a fish with prop pockets such as the 68's.

Viking vacuum-bags 11¼4-inch balsa coring into the 68's bottom, adding 2 inches over the propeller pockets for additional strength. However, areas surrounding thru-hull fittings, running gear, shaft logs, bow thrusters, etc. remain solid fiberglass. Interestingly, Viking also sands each layer of fiberglass in the hull before applying the next laminate to make an even more secure bond between layers.

Combine all the great improvements with excellent performance and undeniable sex appeal, and you immediately understand why Viking enjoys its status as one of the world's premier production boatbuilders.

SPECIFICATIONS LOA 68'8" BEAM 19'4" DRAFT 5'5" WEIGHT 115,000 pounds FUEL 2,000 gallons WATER 355 gallons POWER T 1,520-hp MTU Series 2000 BASE PRICE $2,995,000 (standard power)Viking Yachts New Gretna, New Jersey 609-296-6000 www.vikingyachts.com