Viking president Patrick Healey is a happy man these days. “We had to add some 65,000 square feet of production space to our existing New Gretna, New Jersey, facility just to accommodate the design, development, and the floor space necessary to accommodate all our lines, including the 92 Convertible, our new Open series, 42 Sport Coupe, 46 Open Express, 52 Sport Tower and our motor yachts,” Healey says. “That building, by the way, was designed by our own production engineering group.”
The 52 Sport Tower, one of the three open models Healey mentioned, was first introduced at Viking’s last dealer meeting and was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm. “In planning and designing these boats, we looked at the Open series, one that we’ve been in for years since the mid-1980s beginning with our 35, and saw an empty space we knew we could fill,” Healey says.
My charge was located at Viking’s Riviera Beach, Florida-based facility where I caught up with Capt. Ryan Higgins. Higgins has an expertise that not only covers skilled boat handling, he also has a keen sense and insight of what went into a particular build as well. “For this size, range, power and accommodations, this boat is as good as it gets,” Higgins says as we began our time out on the water. “It more than takes care of any fishing needs an owner would want while also providing roominess for travel.”
Engine Room of 52ST
The test boat came with a pair of optional MAN V12 1,400 hp diesels (MAN V8 1,000 hp engines come standard), a 21.5 kW Onan EQD generator, an optional Eskimo ice machine and a Seakeeper NG9 gyro situated neatly behind the starboard engine. I found the refrigerator-white Awlgripped engine room to provide plenty of space in which to service all the equipment. The battery compartment is easily accessed as are all critical maintenance areas, including fluid checks, belts, hoses and connections. Viking also provides a central water system that all but eliminates the need to have individual pumps to take care of the freezers, air conditioning, heads and any other such needs aboard.
Cockpit of 52ST
Viking gave the 52 Sport Tower 142 square feet of space in which to get the job done — My test boat had a pedestal-designed rocket launcher set up in the middle. I found moving around in the space to be effortless and noticed I would have no trouble reaching for anything I might need with a big fish astern.
“As good as this boat is for whatever its owners have in mind, its DNA is all Viking from the bottom up — and that means rigged and ready for action,” says Higgins. The transom fish box has been designed to accept portable tuna tubes for those who need that kind of fishing equipment. And for an excellent view of all the action, there is a double-seated mezzanine as well.
With its open design, the command deck — as Viking calls this area — provides excellent visibility from the centerline helm even during acceleration. This includes help from the glass corners in the windshield, something I noted when it was my turn to take the wheel. It also has the kind of amenities that allow for a rather intimate experience for guests whether fishing or traveling.
To either side of the pedestal helm seat are additional seating areas while aft, and to starboard is a comfortable dinette. Over to port, and wrapping all the way around, a molded-in console houses yet another freezer compartment. And in the overhead, two flush-mounted compartments contain rod storage.
Entering from a large sliding door just to port of the centerline helm, I took a few easy steps down into the accommodations space. Whether in the comfortable forepeak master or, as this 52 Sport Tower was configured, the two staterooms to starboard, I found ample headroom giving the area a roomy feel and plenty of storage space. There are two heads, and the salon offers a dinette and full galley, along with ample floor space in which to move around.
Should someone want just two staterooms, the added space gets applied to the salon area. “This is a personal area, and its configuration is up to each individual owner’s needs,” says Higgins
We took the boat into the Intracoastal Waterway to do some speed runs before heading out into the ocean. With 800 gallons of fuel on board — this 52 Sport Tower was equipped with the optional 1,467-gallon tanks with standard tankage at 1,202 gallons — and full water at 186 gallons, Higgins and I posted a top speed of 43.7 knots at 2,330 rpm. She held her direction beautifully and gave us an exhilarating ride. When we pulled the throttles back to 2,000 rpm, she reached 36 knots and she also hit an impressive 31.3 knots at 1,750 rpm.
These kinds of results require tank testing, and with Viking’s special relationship with the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, the time and refining process results in a superior design. As far as her running surface is concerned, one that was taken from the highly successful 55 Convertible, Viking designer David Wilson says, “It’s all-new and a result of our constant refining.”
Getting the all-important balance between power and performance meant some important factors to consider. “We went with full beam to get more wetted surface; a modified V-hull; we eliminated the keel; provided a fine entry up forward transitioning to about 11.8 degrees of deadrise at the transom; and we revisited the lifting strakes we designed many years ago,” says Wilson. The strakes help to break any suction created by fast boats in the 40-plus knot range and prevents them from teetering from side to side while at speed. “As far as our draft is concerned, we were willing to give up a little there by designing pockets into her bottom,” Wilson adds.
Heading for the Barn
“Our philosophy is to have everyone involved in the production,” says Healey, adding that his company has gained their unique boatbuilding perspective through the company’s longevity. “We’ve been able to endure things through bad times and good times, always with a great team that produces exceptional boats and always strives to make our product better each and every day,” he says. “We build these boats through the rigors of what we do.”
The only regret during my day aboard the Viking 52 Sport Tower was that it ended with me leaving the dock. This is the kind of boat that makes it tough to leave. Take one for your own sea trial and you’ll see what I mean.