I learned what work is at the many marinas in my small, New Jersey shore hometown, washing boats, pumping fuel and anti-fouling hulls. During my first years of college, I kept a seasonal gig here, far removed from my dorm and the bedroom communities of city commuters that I was bound to join upon graduation.
Summers at the fuel dock meant listening to the sportfish guys opine on the state’s two big-dog battlewagon builders, Viking and Ocean Yachts. Among the cognoscenti was a real and often heated rivalry. The builders did compete fiercely for market share, but their mutual respect and admiration was clear: more than 25 years of Viking vs. Ocean Showdown fishing tournaments speak to this.
When Ocean Yachts and its Mullica River facility were acquired by Viking with plans to retool, the Ocean 37 was a vessel well-suited for the Viking lineup. Success was immediate—Viking built 24 of the 37-footers before retiring the mold with plans for another boat in the size range. “We aimed to build on the success of the 37 Billfish and refine an already great product,” said Viking Director of Communications Chris Landry.
The Viking 38 Billfish is the synergy of both builders. John Leek IV, who ran Ocean Yachts (and whose grandfather founded the company) is now general manager of Viking Mullica where the 38 is built. “We’ve been developing the 38 as a successor to the 37, keeping the momentum going to take a great boat to the next level,” Leek said. The design brief has been updated, taking the handsome, utilitarian 37 and giving it a contoured makeover. There’s more shape in the superstructure, more rake in the bow and more radius in the deckhouse. “[It] has sleek styling. Everything fits better and flows better,” said Leek.
The refinements made to the 38 while staying within the same parameters as her predecessor—she’s a foot longer and only 2 inches wider—are remarkable. Credit goes to a design and engineering team that preaches serviceability, fishability and ease of maintenance.
Both Landry and Leek mentioned going from two aluminum fuel tanks to one fiberglass tank as an evolution, a move that frees up space in the engine room and allows the tank to be shaped to the hull bottom for a bigger fuel capacity. Another big upgrade is the cockpit: At 109 square feet, it’s 26 percent more commodious, with mezzanine seating protected from the sun by the flybridge overhang.
Up top, sightlines should be excellent and unimpeded at the well-organized, walkaround center-console-style helm station. There’s seating for four on benches that flank the helm on both sides. While one Release Marine teak ladderback captain’s chair is standard, I’d wager most buyers will go for the optional second chair here; it looks great and allows another person to help navigate and chat with the helmsman while underway.
The standard layout includes a forward stateroom with a queen berth and galley belowdecks, with an option for crossover bunks forward and a lower helm station. Twin 550-hp Cummins QSBs are the only power option. “They’re the right size and gear ratio; it’s the right recipe,” Leek told me.
With an $815,000 base price, the 38 will attract both hardcore anglers and those looking for a family vessel with a flybridge and accommodations not offered on similar-sized center consoles. The 38 Open Billfish will keep the retooled Mullica River plant busy, a testament to its new owners and the combined legacies of these New Jersey builders. —Jeff Moser
Displ.: 30,953 lbs.
Fuel: 460 gal.
Water: 69 gal.
Standard Power: 2/550-hp Cummins QSB 6.7
Cruise Speed: 31 knots
Top Speed: 35 knots