Viking expands the series with the 46 Billfish.
By Peter Frederiksen, Southern Boating January 2020
Unveiled at the Viking Yachts Dealer Meeting in Atlantic City, New Jersey, last fall followed by its formal introduction at the 2019 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the new 46 Billfish is a mid-size convertible yacht with features and performance that will satisfy offshore fishermen with tournament moxie and please casual cruisers who appreciate tradition, style, and comfort. For me, stepping aboard the 46 Billfish restored memories of bygone days spent on popular day boats of the era like Merritts and Ryboviches where the focus was all about being first getting to the sailfish and luring them to chomp on frisky goggle-eyes. It wasn’t surprising then to learn the 46 Billfish I was testing had already been purchased by an owner planning to send her to Costa Rica to orchestrate his sailfish tallies.
The Aft Deck
Sizing up the cockpit, there are 140 square feet of fishing space duly outfitted for action starting with a foot-gripping, non-slip molded sole. Average interior gunwale depth is 26 inches, and it’s a 35-inch reach to the waterline for fast sailfish releases. The curved transom includes a livewell and a walk-through door with a lift gate. Port and starboard insulated fish boxes measure 52 inches by 19½ inches by 17 inches and double as dunnage sites for fenders, loose gear, and supplies. A lazarette hatch provides ample access to a pair of Rule bilge pumps, the macerator pumps for the fishwells, a livewell water strainer and Kool Air pump, the Seastar Optimus steering ram, and a high-water alarm. The bilge is painted with gloss white Awlgrip to brighten the area for easy maintenance. An aluminum deck plate laminated into the cockpit sole serves as a secure base for a fishing chair or rocket launcher. Large corner scuppers can be fitted with drain ports to accommodate removable livewells to keep the deck dry. Flush rod holders dress up the coaming and cabin side haunches.
The split mezzanine with dual seating flanks the centerline walkthrough. Spray and sun protection is provided by the flying bridge overhang and a Costa Clear enclosure separates the cockpit from the command deck in day boat style. The mezzanine is a multifunctional part of the boat; the lower level to port serves as a stowage bin, and the upper level contains a bait freezer. A second freezer or chill box is in the lower step to starboard while the upper portion provides three stowage drawers and the Dometic freezer controls. Our test boat also had air conditioning vents above the mezzanine seats. The shore power cord is beneath the forward coaming to starboard. A neat arrangement beneath the port coaming includes the fresh and raw water wash downs, the dockside freshwater inlet, and a quick disconnect fitting for the oil transfer system for the engines, transmission, and generator.
An Accommodating Interior
The day boat theme carries through into the simple and straightforward salon area with 6 feet, 8 inches of headroom and a fiberglass gel-coated overhead. A centerline hatch accesses the engine room for daily fluid checks. To port, a U-shape lounge frames the four-place dinette opposite another huge, comfortable seating area. Electrical actuators lift the fiberglass modules supporting the dinette and lounge to expose the well-finished and appointed engine compartment. Machinery installations and accessibility is peerless, though the depth of the area would make a step or ladder appreciated when going in or coming out. On the forward bulkhead aft of the deckhouse windshield, the counter can accommodate a flat-screen television and a stowage locker.
The 15-foot, 4-inch beam, and 6-foot, 4-inch headroom provides generous space below with accommodations for four or five depending upon the layout selected. The forward stateroom features an island queen berth with a pair of maple-lined hanging lockers, more than enough room for clothes and personal items, an entertainment center with a 32-inch flat-screen TV, and a Bomar overhead hatch for natural ventilation when you don’t need the air conditioning. An alternative arrangement provides crossover berths in double and single configurations. Upper and lower berths are situated midship on the port side. While the bow stateroom offers privacy, the midship bunks are open, but this layout contributes an airy feeling to the interior, and the bunks double as a convenient space for stowing loose gear or other sundry items. Aft on the port side, the air-conditioned, private head boasts custom Amtico vinyl flooring, a Corian countertop with a sink, a vanity, a medicine cabinet, a fiberglass shower stall, and a Dometic MSD-certified portable toilet.
The feature-loaded galley is to starboard in an L shape maximizing counter space with useful convenience for making sandwiches while fishing or cooking the catch of the day back at the dock. An under counter Isotherm drawer-style refrigerator and freezer, a Samsung microwave/convection oven, a Kenyon two-burner electric cooktop, a stainless steel sink, and a wide Corian countertop provide a checklist for feeding a hungry family or guests. There is a ton of stowage in this galley, more than I have ever seen on similar sized vessels, which cruising people will readily appreciate. Another nice touch is the conveniently located AC/DC distribution panel on the galley bulkhead. Throughout the interior, Viking’s stellar attention to craftsmanship and detail is obvious in the hand-finished, high-gloss teak joinery.
The flying bridge features Viking’s tournament proven center console command center with a fiberglass helm pod finished with faux teak paint. Single lever ZF controls are silky smooth and the optional electric Side Power bow thruster buttons are built into the stainless steel handles for ease of operation. The Seastar Optimus hydraulic steering is responsive with five-and-a-half turns lock to lock. Backing down and maneuverability is exactly what a serious tournament fishing team will want. Hard in reverse, the transom crown does an admirable job of pushing water away to keep some of the wash out of the cockpit. With power, the stern gyrates like a hipless snake. Released sailfish will likely swim away confused by what just happened. Garmin navigation electronics are easily observed in a raised compartment with communication equipment in flanking radio boxes. Additional instrumentation is found overhead in the fiberglass hardtop along with tri-color LED lighting. A Release Marine teak ladderback helm seat, as well as flanking lounges, provide comfort and excellent observation points under way. A three-sided Costa Clear enclosure delivers excellent protection for the bridge equipment and occupants. I also would add a few grab rails on the helm as well as an overhead rail on the underside of the hardtop.
Powered with a pair of 800-mhp (metric horsepower) MAN I6 inboards turning 2,340 rpm, the 46 Billfish ripped to a top speed between 39 and 40 knots with four people aboard carrying 425 gallons of fuel and full water in the ocean in two- to three-foot seas. At 1,345 rpm, the boat was on top at 18 knots. Another 100 rpm and the 46 Billfish was making 20.7 knots and burning 30 gph. Bumped up to 1,600 rpm and consuming 36 gph, we saw 25 knots on the GPS. At 1,800 rpm, drinking 44 gph, she produced a speed of 30 knots, a very nice speed to run with a cruising range of 435 miles. Clearly, these engines do the job. It should be noted that this boat was heavily loaded with a list of options, including a Seakeeper SK6 gyrostabilizer, command deck air conditioning, a 600-gpd Watermaker Express, an Eskimo icemaker, and fishing equipment. The MAN engines also are a $30,000 upgrade over the standard Cummins QSM11 715-mhp twin engines that still deliver the power you want if you replicate the boat with similar options.
The Viking Billfish fleet is built at the company’s Mullica River location, a short ride from the New Gretna facility on the Bass River near Atlantic City. The new 46 Billfish joins its stablemates, the 38 Billfish and the 38 Open. More than just another boat or model, the 46 Billfish is proof that the company’s philosophy to build a better boat every day as they have for the past 55 years is more than a slogan. It’s a commitment you will appreciate the moment you step aboard and every time you put a line in the water with a rigged balao bait or a frantic goggle-eye wishing it had the day off.
LOA: 45’ 6”
Beam: 15’ 4”
Draft: 4’ 1”
Displacement: 43,134 lbs.
Fuel/Water: 709/99 gals.
Cruise/Max Speed: 30/39 knots
Power: 2x MAN I6-800 CRM
Price: On request
Contact: Viking Yacht Company