Viking 37 Billfish Boat Test

It is refreshing when a newly-launched battlewagon evokes feelings of the classic years of offshore gamefishing and yet provides modern standards of construction and fit-out. Enter the Viking 37 Billfish, a compact, traditional-looking flybridge gamefishing weapon that is reminiscent of the best Merritt, Rybovich and Bertram gamefisher classics of the 1960s.

Viking 37 Billfish Boat Test

Boat Test Viking 37 Billfish: A MODERN CLASSIC
Author and photography: Jeff Webster

This boat test ran in ISSUE 127 of BlueWater magazine – NOV-DEC 2017

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

Viking Yachts is renowned around the world for its premium-quality gamefishing boats and luxury cruising motor yachts. Based in New Jersey, USA, this family-owned company has close to 40 models in its fleet, all of which are built in-house at the company’s factory in rural New Gretna, some 40km from Atlantic City.

The Viking boat range now stretches from 12m through to the flagship 28.5m power cruiser – the Viking 93 Motor Yacht. Up until recently the smallest model in the range was the 13m Viking 420 Open, but the company has since updated the range with the 37 Billfish. This stunning new edition might be the smallest Viking you can buy, but it is still a wonderful looking boat, built to the same exacting standards as the largest models in the fleet.

Viking’s new 37 Billfish is based on a craft released in 2008 by rival brand Ocean Yachts, who also designed and built the original model. The boat proved very popular, largely due to its retro looks, traditional open deckhouse layout and old school charm.

In 2015 Viking acquired the moulds for the 37 Billfish from Ocean Yachts, along with the ailing company’s manufacturing facility. The 37 Billfish has now been re-launched after receiving a full Viking upgrade. While the 37 Billfish retains the same proven hull shape, interior design and layout, it has received a makeover, with the construction modernised for improved hull strength and manufacturing efficiency.

Viking In Australia

Viking Yachts are now distributed in Australia by Gold Coast-based Game & Leisure Boats. The company recently took delivery of its first 37 Billfish, a custom-ordered model that is now the pride and joy of John Lau, based in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. Before it left for PNG, we were lucky enough to spend a few hours aboard John’s new boat for this review.

When we first laid eyes on the 37 Billfish we couldn’t help but admire its classic, yet timeless design. While the sweeping deck-line, bluff, full bow stem shape and open-plan interior layout is reminiscent of legendary gamefishing boats of the past, the 37 Billfish is otherwise thoroughly modern. Built using the latest construction techniques, it boasts a fit and finish to rival anything else on the market.

The boat is very well outfitted with all the mod-cons you could want, including full galley facilities, multiple fridge-freezer installations, comfortable seating areas and provision for the latest electronics gear. It also features a spacious, easy-service engine room, as well as the option for features like joystick control for docking and a Sea Keeper Gyro stabiliser system to almost eliminate rock and roll at sea.

Dual Helm Stations

The standard Viking 37 Billfish package also comes with dual helm stations, although John opted to forgo the lower station in favour of an extended starboard side bench seat and a full rear bulkhead and lockable door. This has enclosed the saloon area and enabled the fitting of an optional climate control air-conditioning system.

If the test rig was to be based in Australian waters, I suspect the owner might have opted for the standard classic open deck-house layout. However, with the boat now based in steamy Rabaul, an enclosed saloon and cool air-conditioning is essential for the comfort of family and crew.

A number of other options were also fitted to the test boat. They included deluxe Pompanette helm chairs for the bridge, Amtico flooring for the forward cabin area, Sunbrella external canvas and a high-end Garmin electronics suite incorporating a GPS Chart Plotter, Fish Finder, auto-pilot and radar system.

Additional fishing features included a 10-rod rocketlauncher rack on the trailing edge of the flybridge, refrigeration to the port side cockpit fishbox, a Reelax gamechair and a pair of Reelax Maxi Outriggers.

Below Decks

The test boat was also configured with cross-over bunks to the forward stateroom, instead of the standard queen-size island bed. Hanging cupboards are situated behind the cabin doors, with plenty of shelves and storage drawers for clothing and linen.

All cupboards, doors, drawers and surrounds are beautifully finished in high-gloss varnished teak for a warm, comfortable ambience.

Downlights and a clear ceiling hatch provide ample lighting and ventilation, while other features include a flat-screen TV and a CD/DVD stereo system.

Although the 37 Billfish only provides permanent sleeping accommodation for two adults, the port side dinette in the saloon can be reconfigured into a double berth. A single adult can also stretch out on the full-length bench seat opposite.

Galley Facilities

The L-shaped galley is situated on the starboard side, just aft of the forward stateroom. Like the cabin and head and shower compartment opposite, the galley has varnished teak cupboards, drawers and trimmings.

Although the galley is compact in size, it has everything you need for day-trips and weekend cruising. There is an electric stove and microwave/convection oven for cooking, stainless-steel sink with running freshwater for cleaning up and a two-drawer Isotherm fridge/freezer to keep your food and drinks cold.

There is a second refrigerator located beneath the port side dinette seating in the saloon, along with a freezer out back in the cockpit behind the ladder to the bridge.

The ship’s electrical panel is situated alongside the galley, above the Corian bench top and behind a varnished timber door.

The head compartment lies opposite and contains a toilet, fibreglass shower stall, vanity and a mirrored medicine cabinet.

The Engine Room

The Viking 37 Billfish is only available with a pair of Cummins QSB 6.7L 550hp inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel inboards. However, the engines are ideally matched to the boat, so there is no reason why you would need to consider anything else. The boat accelerates very strongly, cruising economically at 25 to 27 knots offshore. It’s possible to achieve a top speed just shy of 35 knots, which is getting along pretty rapidly for a 12m gamefishing rig.

The Cummins diesels are situated beneath the saloon floor to port and starboard, and there is plenty of space around them for servicing and maintenance. More impressively, the port side dinette and starboard side bench seat are mounted over full-length hatches that lift up on electric hydraulic rams at the press of a button. You don’t even need to remove the dinette table or cushions.

The two big side hatches are elevated to provide ready access to the two primary engines, battery switches, fuel pumps and filters, air-conditioning systems and 9kw Onan generator.

On The Bridge

As noted earlier, our Viking 37 test boat was ordered with a single helm station on the bridge with a pair of optional Pompanette chairs for the skipper and first mate. There is additional seating provided on each side of the bridge, with padded benches stretching fore and aft and a third seat in front of the centre-console helm station, all with storage lockers underneath.

The bridge layout is ideal for gamefishing. The compact helm station itself is still large enough for the usual array of engine instruments, as well as dual flush-fitted electronics displays. The throttles are well placed for skippers to easily manoeuvre the boat while backing down on a fish, and there is a clear view looking forward to the bow and looking aft down into the cockpit.

Other bridge features include an overhead radio locker (which also contained the Vessel View engine display on the test boat), a compass, an overhead fibreglass hardtop and zip-out front and side clears, as well as the aft rocketlauncher rod rack and a console switch panel cupboard.

A Gamefishing Cockpit

A well-designed, large, spacious and uncluttered cockpit is an essential component for any gamefishing boat. It’s important that there are no sharp edges or stray catches around the perimeter that could potentially snag clothing or leader, or bruise anglers and crew as they work around the perimeter. The coaming also needs to be at just the right height above the deck for the crew to lean outboard to trace, tag and revive a gamefish.

In the Viking 37 Billfish, this internal freeboard height is just right at between 66 and 68cm all the way around the cockpit. There are no sharp edges, other than on the optionally-fitted Reelax gamechair. The corners are all smooth and radiused, even around the large livebait tank, which takes pride of place built into the centre of the transom wall.

There are no cockpit grab railings to snag fishing lines, and the stern cleats are located where they should be – beneath the gunwales on each side and clear of the coverboards.

Cockpit Functionality

For anglers and crew there are comfortable aft-facing seats to port and starboard, butting up against the saloon/cockpit bulkhead. The rods are within easy reach and you can spring off these seats quickly should you get a strike while trolling.

Beneath the starboard side cockpit bench seating there is a bait and rigging station with tackle drawers and a freshwater sink. Under the seating on the opposite side is a freezer compartment with a pull-out top shelf.

Overall, the cockpit design and layout is superb for gamefishing. There is eight square metres of deck space, ultra-wide coverboards, a centre transom livebait tank, starboard-side transom door, rear lazarette compartment and two sub-floor fishbox/storage areas, one of which can be fitted with chill plates to keep your catch fresh and cool.

Exceptional Manoeuvrability

Modern gamefishing fleets are now populated with 18 and 21m live-aboard, ultra-long-range flybridge cruisers, with more creature comforts and amenities onboard than your own home. At the same time, smaller, more compact day-fishing boats like the Viking 37 Billfish have become increasingly uncommon. However, hard-core gamefishermen – especially those that want to push boundaries chasing big fish with light tackle – appreciate the low-speed manoeuvrability offered by a boat like the 37 Billfish. It spins on the spot, backs up at speed and turns quickly in any direction in reverse or forward gear. This is simply not possible with a tanker-sized gameboat – or with anoutboard-powered craft for that matter.

The modern, larger-sized gameboats have become more agile than they once were, largely due to the use of bow and stern thrusters – even jet thrusters. Although you can fit a bow thruster to the 37 Billfish, it’s simply not necessary as the boat’s low-speed manoeuvrability is exceptional without any additional directional assistance.

The Viking also handles very well underway. We put the rig through some tight slalom turns and the hull responded well to the helm and throttles, turning easily, tightly and in a controlled, surefooted manner.

Ride And Performance

After Viking purchased the moulds to the original Ocean Yachts incarnation of the 37 Billfish they made quite a few changes and upgrades to the deck, super-structure and interior – although we understand the hull remains unchanged. It soon became apparent during our test that the reason behind this is simply because it works so well.

The Billfish hull has quite a fine entry shape at the bow, yet the transom deadrise is apparently just 12.8 degrees. This modest deadrise angle combines with the 4.2m beam to ensure the hull is quick to plane and very stable at rest.

Underway the hull is equally stable and felt very well balanced and comfortable in chop and swell. Although fitted with Lenco trim tabs, we barely touched them during the test as we didn’t find it necessary to correct fore and aft or lateral trim.

Aside from some wave action at the entrance to the Gold Coast Seaway, conditions were relatively mild offshore during our test run, throughout which the Viking felt solid, comfortable and well mannered.

It only took a jab of the throttle for the hull to respond instantly to the combined 1100hp of the Cummins engines. Offshore we accelerated to a top speed of 34.6 knots, although in smooth water with the hint of a stern breeze it would most likely top 35 knots.

Retro Cool

The Viking 37 Billfish is a stunning looking craft and superb fishing boat. Forget your gin palaces and outboard-powered sport-console boats, this is a proper gamefishing boat! It reminds us of the classic, hand-crafted gameboats of yesteryear, but with modern standards of construction, finish, fit-out, ease of maintenance and performance.

Highlights

  • Elegant, timeless design.
  • Retro looks with modern build and fit-out.
  • 35-knot top speed.
  • Compact, agile and manoeuvrable.
  • Large, well-designed fishing cockpit.
  • Easy access to engines for servicing.
  • Compact but functional bridge helmstation.

Capacities

  • Maximum power: 550hp
  • Fuel capacity: 1665 litres
  • Freshwater: 249 litres
  • Maximum persons: 10

General

  • Type: Monohull flybridge gameboat
  • Material: Fibreglass composite
  • Length overall: 11.48m
  • Beam: 4.22m
  • Draft: 81cm
  • Deadrise: 12.8 degrees
  • Weight (fuel & water): 13,303kg

Engines

  • Make/model: 2 x Cummins QSB-6.7
  • Type: In-line turbo-charged 4-stroke diesel inboard
  • Maximum rated hp: 550 at 3300rpm
  • Displacement: 6.7 litres
  • No. cylinders: 6
  • Weight: 659kg (less gearbox)
  • Gearbox: ZF280-1A – 2.227:1 gear ratio
  • Propeller: 63cm dia x 81cm pitch, 4-blade
  • Generator: Onan 9kw

SPECIFICATIONS: Viking 37 Billfish
Options fitted: Dual Cummins QSB 6.7L 550hp inline six-cylinder turbo diesel inboards, a Garmin electronics suite (incorporating a GPS chartplotter, fishfinder, autopilot and radar system), full saloon/cockpit bulkhead, deletion of lower helm station, cabin cross-over bunks, upgraded air-conditioning, two Pompanette bridge helm chairs, Amtico flooring for the forward cabin area, Sunbrella external canvas, 10-rod rocketlauncher rack, refrigeration to cockpit fishbox, a Reelax gamechair and a pair of Reelax Maxi Outriggers. 

Viking 37 Billfish Boat Test

Boat Test Viking 37 Billfish: A MODERN CLASSIC
Author and photography: Jeff Webster
Supplied by: Game & Leisure Boats

This boat test ran in ISSUE 127 of BlueWater magazine – NOV-DEC 2017

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here