Special Delivery: 2016 Viking 52′ Express

Day 1: The Viking Factory: New Gretna, NJ

It took me about 5 seconds to realize I dressed poorly for my first trip to the Viking factory. I knew it would be cold but I didn’t think it would be that cold. In my defense, we had just flown in from sunny 70-degree Charleston so my internal thermostat was a properly calibrated yet. Put it this way, I was the only idiot stomping around the snow-covered docks in boat shoes.

Viking Factory

Viking Factory

We spent the entire day at the factory provisioning and prepping the boat for the trip south. Several hours and several Wawa sandwiches later, we drove down to Atlantic City. Viking is tucked away a few miles inland and the only way to get the boats from the factory to the coast is to navigate through a maze of shallow and shoaly creeks and rivers all the way down to the closest marina in Atlantic City. Since there are only a handful captains who are allowed to take this route, we would be meeting the boat at the Frank S. Farley Marina in Atlantic City the next day.

Day 2: Departure Day: Atlantic City, NJ to Chesapeake, VA

The boat arrived at the marina around 9am the next morning. Without even tying up, Capt. Jon Zbyrowski and I jumped onto the boat while the delivery captain and Garmin tech hopped off. And in the blink of an eye we were gone, heading offshore.

It’s important to note the context here. I’m a marine surveyor from Charleston South Carolina. Most of the boats I work with are old – some older than me. They have thousands of hours on them, outdated systems, decades worth of wear and tear, oil spills, drink spills, UV damage, half-assed DIY repairs, you name it. I’m so used to spending time on these boats that my mind is conditioned to look for flaws the minute I step on board. So you can imagine my elation getting to spend time on a boat like this. This was a brand new, off-the-line Viking 52 with V-12 MAN diesels, flawless interior bright work and every electronic gadget and gizmo you can imagine. It was a breath of fresh air.

It was a breath of cold air too. Luckily this was an express boat so we were protected from the wind and water by the isinglass enclosure, but the interior heating system had not been hooked up yet. Things would warm up the further south we got, but that wouldn’t be for a couple of days.

We put the throttle down, crossed our fingers that the autopilot would hold up, and enjoyed the smooth rolling 2-foot seas offshore. We averaged about 35 knots the first day. For those who don’t know, that’s fast.

We made Virginia Beach in less than 7 hours and decided to spend the night somewhere around Norfolk. I always feel warm and cozy when I pass through Norfolk. Nothing but destroyers, frigates, patrol boats and helicopters as far as the eye can see. It’s an especially inspiring sight coming in from the ocean at sunset.

A few bridge openings and one “baby lock” later (Great Bridge Lock), we arrived at the Atlantic Yacht Basin dock in Chesapeake, VA. We took on fuel and tied up for the night.

Day 3: ICW Day: Chesapeake, VA to Wrightsville Beach, NC

Passing through Virginia

Passing through Virginia

As much as I enjoy being offshore, I enjoy the Intracoastal Waterway just a little bit more. Staying offshore and going around Cape Hatteras is obviously a doable route, but the conditions have to be perfect for the trip to make sense. For example: a 70-footer with 2,500 gallons of diesel and 16 hours of daylight in the middle of summer would be ideal. We were in a 52-footer in the middle of winter and had already ducked inside for the night. Besides, conditions were nearly perfect for traveling on the ICW that day. No wind, no clouds and no boat traffic. It was the one of the most laid back and efficient cruising days I’ve ever done. Pamlico Sound got a little hairy, as it tends to do, but nothing too bad.

By the way, to all of my fellow defeated southeastern duck hunters out there, I found out where the ducks are hiding. We saw millions, literally millions, of ducks between Chesapeake and Wrightsville Beach. The sky was black with them.

Anyway, we made Wrightsville Beach in about 9 hours.

Day 4: Bats Outta Hell: Wrightsville Beach, NC to St. Augustine, FL

Wrightsville Beach sunrise

Wrightsville Beach sunrise

The goal for day 4 was to make it somewhere between St. Simons, GA and Fernandina Beach, FL. Anywhere in that area would put us within a day of the Viking Service Center in Florida. Our luck continued and near-perfect offshore conditions allowed us to make it way past Fernandina all the way down to St. Augustine. We averaged nearly 38 knots that day. Flying down the coast like bats outta hell. In fact we made it to St. Augustine with about an hour of daylight to spare.

But what comes up must come down.

At about 1am that night, the “High Temperature Alarm” in the engine room went off. Since I had the bunk closest to the helm deck, I was the only one who heard it. I hopped up and opened up the engine room hatch. Everything looked and felt fine. I turned off the alarm, turned on the engine room fans and went back to sleep. 30 minutes later, same thing. The high-temp alarm went off, but there was no obvious overheating in the engine room. I looked everywhere for the thermostat but I couldn’t find it. Before I could even get back to my bed the alarm went off again. I knew where this was going, so I cracked the engine room hatch, grabbed my sleeping bag and a cushion and “slept” by the helm for the rest of the night; waking up every 30 minutes to hit the alarm.

The next morning I asked Jon how many times the alarm woke him up. He gave me a confused look and said, “What alarm?”

One Red Bull and a crappy cup of marina coffee later and I was good to go.

Day 5: Viking Service Center: St. Augustine, FL to Riviera Beach, FL

We saw the roughest water of the trip on the final day. Nothing too crazy, but we weren’t doing anything close to 38 knots. We slogged through some sloppy 3 to 4 footers all the way down to Cape Canaveral where they turned into sloppier 4 to 5’s.

The water finally laid down a little bit around Fort Pierce and it was a pleasant ride the rest of the way in. It’s pretty neat watching murky grey water slowly transition into crystal clear blue over several days. Not only that, but the Florida heat had turned our meat freezer of a helm deck into a sauna. It felt good to thaw out though.

I was about to ask Jon how far away we were when I saw several super yachts on the horizon. Palm Beach Inlet. The closer we got, the more boats we saw. Suddenly I missed the cold and barren stretches of the North Carolina ICW.

After dodging a group of idiot jet skiers, we made it to the Viking Service Center docks. We tied up, washed down the boat, packed up, rented a car and immediately drove back to Charleston.

Fort Pierce coastline

Fort Pierce coastline

Thoughts about the boat
I don’t want this to sound like a Viking ad, but I can’t speak highly enough about how nice this boat was. The 52 was the first new Viking I’d ever been on and it did not disappoint. The 52 is actually one of the smaller boats they build, but it handled like one of the big boys. As rough as that last day was, I’m glad I got to see what she could do in some decent chop. A lot of these boats aren’t even 100% completed when they are delivered (the final touches are usually done at the Viking Service Center) so these deliveries actually double as long distance sea trials. So by the time the boat arrives in Florida, the captain and mate will have a list of issues they noticed during the delivery. Other than a few small cosmetic issues (and that confounded engine room alarm), this 52 had a relatively clean bill of health.

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