PL AY­ERS

Marlin - - CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS - —Peter Fred­erik­sen

What were your first jobs when your fa­ther, Bill, and un­cle Bob Healey started Vik­ing Yachts in 1964?

Vik­ing was build­ing wooden boats back then. I was prob­a­bly 10 years old and would come to the fac­tory with my fa­ther on Satur­days. My first job was in the green oil depart­ment: The in­sides of the hulls needed mul­ti­ple coats of green wood preser­va­tive, so I used a big paint brush on a long stick and slopped the thin oil every­where so it would be ab­sorbed into the grain of the wood. I plugged the teak decks and was taught that each plug needed to have the grain go­ing in the right di­rec­tion, and I also packed oakum yarn be­tween the hull planks with a putty knife.

Did you know right away boat­build­ing would be your ca­reer?

Pretty much. And any time I com­plained about how hard the work was, my fa­ther told me a thou­sand times that grow­ing up in a boat­yard was bet­ter than be­ing on an iron pile, which is how he and my un­cle Jerry grew up. When I bitched, my fa­ther would ask, “So, you want to go to the iron pile? Come on, I’ll take you to Un­cle Jerry.”

Which de­part­ments have you worked in?

Dur­ing high school and col­lege, I worked through­out the sum­mer months and part time when I could, and I worked in all as­pects of boat­build­ing. I spent 10 years full time in pro­duc­tion, and en­joyed the fiber­glass work be­cause I was a surfer and fix­ing surf­boards was a given in my early teen years. But I also fixed up old boats — Well­crafts and other re­habs. I wanted to learn how to do all this, and I en­joyed it. I spent a lot of time in me­chan­i­cal set­ups and ba­si­cally went through the whole com­pany. Even­tu­ally, Rudy Dalinger put me in charge of the trim sec­tion and I worked there for about three years. I be­came a ser­vice su­per­vi­sor and fi­nally went into sales.

How did Hat­teras and Ber­tram in­flu­ence Vik­ing de­signs?

My fa­ther would wake me up be­fore the crack of dawn when we were at the boat shows in New York, Fort Laud­erdale and Mi­ami, and we would study the Hat­teras and Ber­tram dis­plays. They had a lot of great ideas, and each time we came away with im­prove­ments. We al­ways built a great boat, from the early 1970s, but our boats had what I call a Jersey style, while the oth­ers had their North Carolina and South Florida looks. They had that panache. So we set out to change the style, and it be­gan ap­pear­ing in our 35-, 41- and 46-foot con­vert­ibles. We could sell boat for boat with Hat­teras and Ber­tram in the North­east, but they would kick our ass every­where else.

What is the driv­ing force at Vik­ing?

To build a bet­ter boat ev­ery day, a mantra my fa­ther came up with a long time ago. We strive to out-de­sign, out-build and out-ser­vice every­one. In 1995, I was the vice pres­i­dent of sales over­see­ing mar­ket­ing, sales and ser­vice. My fa­ther and I were butting heads on de­sign. I wanted to in­cor­po­rate the ideas of the younger mem­bers of our team. We were hard­core fish­er­men. So in 1996, my fa­ther gave us a shot with Bruce Wil­son and his son David, Drew Mc­Dow­ell, Lonni Rutt and me. We re­viewed the cus­tom boat­build­ing world and took those great fea­tures that were fo­cused on chas­ing billfish around the world and in­cor­po­rated those into the Vik­ing 55 Con­vert­ible. In the fall of 1997, we launched our first 55. By the time the boat ap­peared at the Fort Laud­erdale In­ter­na­tional Boat Show, we had sold the first 20 hulls. It be­came one of the most suc­cess­ful boats in our his­tory and ac­com­plished an equally im­por­tant mis­sion of de­liv­er­ing the boats on time, which to this day re­mains a com­pany bench­mark.

How do you stay in touch with your cus­tomers?

We are all eyes and ears at fish­ing tour­na­ments and boat shows. We are still learn­ing ev­ery day. If we can tweak some­thing to make it bet­ter,

we do. It could be chang­ing the layout of the mez­za­nine or tackle cen­ter, fine-tun­ing the livewell so you don’t lose bait, or tweak­ing the props. We stay on top of ev­ery­thing we build.

So rather than chase suc­cess, you make it hap­pen.

To be suc­cess­ful, you sur­round your­self with the right peo­ple. That box is checked: We have the best. You need to stay cur­rent on avail­able ma­te­ri­als and meth­ods used to build the boats to make them stronger, lighter, more fuel ef­fi­cient and faster with avail­able horse­power. It’s im­por­tant to be on the lead­ing edge, whether it’s in fiber­glass, resins, gen­er­a­tor tech­nol­ogy, steer­ing or elec­tri­cal sys­tems. It’s im­por­tant to build boats that are Sea­keeper ready, which we have done for the past 10 years. Know­ing the next big item in the in­dus­try helps us build that bet­ter boat. We spend $12 mil­lion a year in our re­search and de­vel­op­ment, and that is a crit­i­cal in­vest­ment over the long haul.

How has the Vik­ing ac­qui­si­tion of the for­mer Ocean Yachts plant played out?

Ocean’s John Leek III wanted to re­tire, and he ap­proached me about ac­quir­ing his 100,000-square-foot fa­cil­ity, which is only 9 miles from New Gretna, and I didn’t think twice. But I wanted two things in ad­di­tion to the plant: the 37 Billfish, be­cause it was a nice de­sign although it never had a real chance to be suc­cess­ful be­cause of the tim­ing of its in­tro­duc­tion in 2008. I also wanted John Leek IV to come work for Vik­ing be­cause he is an out­stand­ing boat­builder. In our first full year, we built 35 Vik­ings in that fa­cil­ity, from 37 to 52 feet. The plant, which we call Vik­ing Mul­lica, al­lows us to free up space on our four pro­duc­tion lines in New Gretna for our larger con­vert­ibles as well as our line of mo­to­ry­achts.

What does Vik­ing have in store for the 2018 model year?

The 68 Con­vert­ible pre­miered at our VIP Pre­view and then again at the Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Boat Show. We also have a new 44 Open and Con­vert­ible, as well as a 68-foot En­closed Bridge on the way.

Who do you ad­mire in the in­dus­try?

I look up to the boat­builders. They know who they are be­cause I shake their hand and give them a hug and say there are not many of us left. That’s who I ad­mire. We need more boat­builders to keep this in­dus­try go­ing.

What is your fa­vorite type of fish­ing?

My fa­vorite is billfishing, but right be­hind it is striper and floun­der fish­ing. I just en­joy a bent rod. The rea­son I en­joy billfish so much is the in­ter­ac­tion with all the other teams on the dock. There is noth­ing like it: the ca­ma­raderie, hav­ing a beer on the dock box in the af­ter­noon, eat­ing a slice of pizza in the cock­pit, rig­ging baits till mid­night, work­ing on the boat. All the chal­lenges that go along with tour­na­ment and fun fish­ing are just awe­some. I have the same pas­sion for stripers and floun­der, but there’s more at stake when you’re billfishing. It’s a big­ger rush.

Bill, Pat and Bob Healey, of Vik­ing Yacht Co. They take great pride in the com­pany’s his­tory of fam­ily own­er­ship.

Healey stands at the stern of a Vik­ing 92 En­closed Bridge (left), the largest sport-fisher in the Vik­ing lineup. He also en­joys the in­tense com­pe­ti­tion and close-knit ca­ma­raderie of tour­na­ment billfishing.

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