Viking 43 Open
by David Pascoe
Hmmm, my kind of boat. If I were rich, I'd want to buy one of these.
It has always baffled me why, in the south, the open fisherman wasn't a more popular boat. I mean, everyone says they like the great outdoors, but then they wrap themselves up in a closed box.
Maybe its because the ladies don't like to sweat, who knows. I don't like to sweat either, but I got to tell you, you'll do a lot less sweating on a boat like this than one where they tried to cram a house worth of accommodations into a 43 foot space.
You sweat less because there isn't too much packed into too little space, and every time you move, or have to move something, it isn't like wresting with an alligator just to stow a fender or connect up the shore power cord.
One of the reasons why the lustre fades from boats so quickly stems from the fact that boats are a lot of work. When performing simple tasks requires major effort, all the fun of owning a boat soon fades.
And most of the folks who buy one this size aren't well-heeled enough that they can write a check for everything that needs to be done. This is not a captain-sized boat which, of course, is why so much stuff on boats goes undone.
So here I am, once again pushing fishing boats to the motor yacht crowd, mainly because a boat like this is a heck of a lot easier to own and maintain. This boat only has 2 levels compared to the 3 or 4 levels of a motor yacht.
The 43 Open has elbow room to spare, and is one of the reasons I like it so much. The boat doesn't seem to fight you at every turn. I had to keep reminding myself that it IS a 43 footer.
Moving around on her is just so easy, with only a minor complaint that the companionway steps are a little too step, a function of the fact that this is the optional small cabin layout.
It has a modest double berth stateroom forward with a rather unusual upper/lower in the main cabin right inside the companionway door. Slide the door open and say hello to the world! This layout is for fishin fools or one couple only. Most folks would probably prefer the standard layout.
Praise the God's of yacht design, Viking at least dropped their attachment to nothing but angular lines on this one. Those of you who read my reviews know that I'm no fan of bubble boats, but all angles do not for good design make either.
Hooray! The 43 open doesn't have ANY angles, and that nicely rounded windshield coaming a la John Rybovich really makes it. John Rybovich started it, Roy Merritt continued it, and Buddy Davis took it to extremes: huge bow flair is now an IN style. But I have to wonder if most people even know why.
Well, there's really only one good reason for it; it holds down the spray, especially at trolling speeds. Its hard not to notice that BMAX is 10' aft of the bow. If Viking really wants to crack the high end market, they're going to have to get away from their angular, flat panel construction; a lot of folks just don't like the way Vikings look. Flat panels look cheap because they are cheaper to make.
So why do I harp on good styling so much? Well, if you don't care about resale, then it won't matter. But the fact is that boats with more traditional, timeless styling hold their value much better.
Trendy designs have a short shelf life. If the boat is going to go out of style in a few years, you can count on losing some money because of it. The bone yards are full of older boats that no one wants because they're now considered to be ugly. Perhaps that's why old money is always conservative.
The very low Pipe Welders marlin tower that is perfectly proportioned to this boat has a fiberglass hardtop with soft enclosures around the huge upper cockpit with a ton of seating. There's an L-shape lounge to port and a straight bench opposite that would comfortably seat 8 without using the helm chairs.
I mean, is this a party pit or what? Stick a couple of grills in those rod holders back aft and you just don't get a better party arrangement than this. I've done fishing, diving and plain old cruising trips to the Bahamas in boats like this, and I think the layout is just super.
In milder climates, you really get to enjoy being outdooors. True, soft enclosures are not durable and are a pain. You pay for the ability to open things up and let the breeze come in.
The aft cockpit is not as jazzed up for fishing as you might expect. I think Viking wisely decided against loading the area up with too many ooh, ahhs and just left it pretty plain.
If you're going to be fishin, you don't need all that junk that some builders like to stick in there, stuff like lockers built into the gunwales, rod storage and all that other stuff that just makes maintenance that much more difficult.
Some might carp that there's not enough tackle box storage, and that's a legitimate complaint because there isn't much; only 5 small drawers. On the other hand, you do get a very large bait freezer and a wide engine room access.
That's a good trade off unless you have a paid crew to do all the work. You don't get extra lumps on your head getting down in the engine room.
The cockpit gunwales have a good 8" overhang so you can get your feet right up under it, bracing yourself well to lean over the side and catch that leader, gaff the marlin, or snag the tanks off the back of a scuba diver.
This seems like such a small detail, until you're on one of those boats with lockers built into the sides of the cockpit liner. Without an overhang as a foot cove, you CANNOT lean over the side! I also like the fact that they didn't feel the need to put a crappy aluminum molding along the inside bottom of coaming. They simply rounded over the edge of the glass.
The cockpit deck has an in-hatch FISHBOX. That's in caps because the thing is so enormously big. Too big. If you catch a fish that big, isn't it time to go home anyway? Well, maybe not, but nowadays you're supposed to release 'em anyway.
Problem is, folks won't want to lift that bugger out to check on anything down there. Like the bilge pump, maybe? These huge fish wells can be a real pain, particularly because one person alone can't remove it, and its so big that you usually cause some damage getting it out.
I was really surprised to hear that this boat weighs 34,000 lbs. what with all the foam cored, very light weight hatches. Lift a hatch cover and you find that they are amazingly light, but appear to be adequately strong.
At this weight, I would say that she's just about right for getting the right ratio of size, speed and mass to give her ideal handling characteristics on lumpy water. While we didn't get to sea trial her, her owner Jim Noonan raves about her ability to knock down a four foot sea at 25 knots.
The engine room is done up like the engine room in a yacht should be. Viking has been using fiberglass liners on the underside of the deck for a while now, a feature which really adds a lot not only to the appearance, but the brightness because of the reflected light off all that whiteness.
All the glass work in the ER is smoothed off and urethane painted. The 625 hp Detroit Diesel 6V92TA engines are a good fit -- maybe a tad tight for a do-it-yourselfer, but overall okay. As it comes from Viking, everything is real neat, and the load of gizmos that Jim has added, like a water maker, are nicely done as well. There is adequate space to install add-ons neatly. And because so much of the E.R. is so nicely smoothed off, its much easier to keep it clean and looking good.
The engine room story is summed up in these photos.
An exhaust system done right.
One of the things we noticed in addition to DD's very large air filters -- their answer to Airseps after 50 years of sucking up the salt -- are the filtered engine room vents.
FINALLY boat builders are wising up to the fact that salt spray in the engine room wrecks engines, among other things. The filters are the spun fiberglass, replaceable type.
All of the additional filtering of the airbox drains and valve cover breathers also go a long way toward keeping the engine room nice and clean. Plus, they've now got those little plastic vacuum gauges installed on the air intakes, so you can see at-a-glance whether the filters need cleaning.
This is the first D-Deck system we've seen in a while, and although we didn't test it, we can see some obvious improvements. The whole system is all-around neater, and the control panels and helm displays are a lot nicer too.
The whole thing looks quite simple, and maybe this once highly touted system has finally come of age and is worth having. We haven't heard anyone raving about the earlier systems, but maybe that will change. We'll keep our ear to the dock to hear how its working out.
The reputation of DD as being oil leakers has never died with old-timers, but I can tell you there's not a drop leaking out of these. The oil leaking is pretty much a thing of the past.
Another thing that caught my attention was the single, huge water cooled turbocharger. One of the really big weakness of this engine has always been the dual turbos and the long, cantelevered exhaust elbow sections that supported them.
This arrangement acted as a giant lever that put too much stress on the manifolds and other parts of the system, making the 92 series exhaust systems a costly pain in the butt.
That's history cuz DD has now copied Caterpillar's arrangement that doesn't have that problem. Another notable feature are the oil and fuel coolers: they are huge, as well they should be.
She's also got the big Ace engine mounts to hold the engines in line; none of those el cheapo flubber jobs that allow the engines to do the watusi and wreck your bearings and transmissions. Hear that, Caterpillar? And the Tides packless glands come standard, though these gizmos are outrageously overpriced and if you have to buy parts . . . . watch out!
As mentioned in other reviews, I like these engines. However, I think squeezing 625 hp out of them is too much, and you're going to pay a price in reduced service life. But hey, you want to go fast, you got to pay one way or the other. There is NO escape from that little fact of life.
You can go for the optional 800 hp MAN's, but the engine room cramps up badly and its far too much money to pay. The Detroits are a whole lot cheaper to fix, and you could overhaul the Detroits twice for the additional cost of the MAN's. Fortunately, this is plenty of power for this boat. Owner Jim Noonan says he cruises at 25 knots at 1950 RPM. Not bad, not bad.
And when you talk about quality, you'll notice other stuff like the mufflers and exhaust pipes. They are faired smooth and urethane painted. The riser section is dry insulated with that new plastic stuff that's working out well.
The cooling water is injected into the downward side of the riser, so it will have a fairly long service life before you have to replace it. I don't see any chance that this set up will cause exhaust system related engine problems.
Another really smart move are the DUAL bilge suctions from the main engines; it will take some kind of hole in the hull before these baby's won't be able to keep up it. Smart, real smart. Got good pick up screens on 'em, too. I'd wire those handles closed, though, just to be sure someone doesn't accidently open one and end up buring up an engine.
Another hooray to Viking for making their own fiberglass fuel tanks now. Situated under the cockpit deck, you won't have to worry about when your aluminum tanks are going to get corrosion holes in them and start leaking. That's a super big plus for used boat buyers.
The way things ought to be. Dual engine bilge suctions. If you tear out a shaft or rudder on a coral head, you stand a very good chance of making it home.
KISS is my philosophy of boat design, and with the electrical system that's pretty much the case. The standard is the single 50 amp shore cord, so you have to use a splitter if 250 VAC is not available. That's really enough power for the twin Cruiair units and all other appliances.
The generator is also in the engine room, in full sound shield, which is one of the reasons there's not as much space in the engine room. But I wouldn't want it under the cockpit anyway.
The lower helm design is good, but not great. Sort of ho hum, really, but there's really nothing to complain about except that Its rather plain. In place of the usual gauges you've got the D-Deck displays. Gone digital, folks. No more $36 gauges; you've got the computer guy to pay now.
The wheel is a 24" destroyer type, vertically mounted, and she has single lever, mechanical controls. With such short cable runs, that's a good choice. I've never been thrilled with the idea of electronic controls, preferring to have something that's not subject to the whims of electrical circuits on something as important as controlling the boat.
There's a nice flat panel above the wheel for flush mounting your gizmos. Off to port is another raised cabinet where you can mount a larger radar and CVS And although its off to the side, the line of sight is fairly good. It does a belly-flopper on style, but it is practical.
I didn't much care for the Rybovich helm chair, which is a very hard thing, and rather unpleasant to bump into; its an ergonomic disaster that's not even pleasant to sit on. But that's an add-on, I think.
As you can see from the cockpit photo, there's a 20' gap between the top of the windshield and the bottom of the hardtop, fitted with soft enclosures. The ability to open this up on a nice day is super, but you've got climb up behind the raised instrument panel, or go to the exterior to do it. Thus, this is not a set up where you'd want to add an overhead electronics cabinet since its going to interfere with your forward vision, and get wet.
For some strange reason, Viking put the generator control panel at the base of the port side lounge seat. This is not cool because you have to get down on your hands and knees to use it. This is about the only really dumb thing I saw on the whole boat.
Although I have to admit, after 30 years of climbing up those angled ladders built into the tower legs to get up to the tower helm, I wonder why no one demands a decent ladder? I mean, those tower ladders are not only dangerous, but decidedly inconvenient. Why not put up a decent ladder so you don't have to risk a trip to the hospital to get up there?
Whether you like this kind of cabin layout or not, it is nicely done, although the Z-shaped traffic pattern tends to cause a traffic jam just inside the door.
Viking has really developed a way with urethane finished teak cabinetry. I mean, this stuff is finished just as smooth as a baby's butt, with deeply sculptured raised panel cabinetry that really looks super.
Viking apparently figured that some rich wood work can really make the boat, and I think they're right. In all their boats its basically the same, and it really looks gorgeous. The vinyl headliner and other padded areas make it nice and hushed, a feature that pleases me, at any rate.
They call this "Plan B", which has a lounge which converts into an upper and lower berth. Of course, anyone sleeping there gets to hear the door slammed shut in his ear.
Plan A lacks the convertible lounge right in front of the door way, which is kind of silly. Plan B has the galley in front of the door, which is more sensible, but a very large, nearly U-shaped settee to port; the forward cabin is the same on both. My view is that if they were going to offer a 4-sleeper, they should have put the convertible lounge to port, not in front of the door.
The fit and finish work on this yacht is superb throughout, from the near flawlessly molded hull sides that are perfectly faired, to the interior detailing. You won't find any staples or aluminum angle brackets on this one. Things are put together the way they're supposed to be, with a lot of care and attention to detail.
Under the decks, in the places you don't often look, the story is told about the way Viking approaches quality. Even the deep, dark holes are finished off nicely and there's no lazy, half-assed, lamebrained installations on this boat.
While everything is not the worlds best quality, they make the best use of what they give you. You can see this at a glance by observing how neat everything is, no clumps of wires laying around, everything tightly secured and WITH LABLES ON IT. No mystery plumbing here.
The owner tells us he's put 400 hours on the boat in only 8 months and has had her out in some rather large seas. Indeed, in this year of El Nino, we've had almost nothing but since last summer. Yet we didn't find a single stress crack anywhere on this boat. Not one. Musta done something right . . . . .
We did find a few shortcomings, like the SeaLand waste system smelled pretty badly, possibly because the run of some of the hoses traps waste in them.
And why is it that none of these builders wants to put a deck in the engine room, forcing you to stand on the bottom of the hull. This is CRAZY, but they all are doing this now. The owner had to put some plastic bar matting down there (or maybe that came with the boat).
In any case, you need to have a deck above the bottom of the hull to keep you big footsies dry, so that you don't track diesel oil all over the damn place. And the aluminum framed companionway sliding door frame is painted and starting to corrode. Plain anodized would have been better.
So who's producing the best production yacht of its class these days? Is it Viking? New mold making processes are giving builder's the ability to turn out some real fancy exterior features which, on the whole of it, makes a boat appear to be much higher quality than it really is.
Examples from Tiara, Luhrs, Phoenix and others look awfully darn good. But when you start looking beyond the exterior appearance, looking at the materials and workmanship, I don't see anything stacking up to Viking in terms of overall quality.
My first three jobs in the business world were in quality control departments of major manufacturers, so I know that there is only ONE way to achieve quality like this. That is to build the philosophy into the training of your employees, the people who actually design and produce the product.
I've been hired by boat builders to set up quality control programs, every one of which failed because the builder wouldn't take the extra step of training and instilling their workers with the sense of always doing it right.
Everyone talks about quality, but mostly its just talk. What I see here is the unmistakable evidence of a whole company pulling together to turn out a uniformly great product. Consistency is a hallmark here. Overall, I don't see anyone turning out a better product than Viking these days. The beauty is bone deep on this example.