As kids, brothers Sean and Justin Healey got their first taste of fishing independence as many of us did — in a lovingly abused small boat with a cantankerous, smoke-spewing outboard. That 13-foot Boston Whaler they fixed up took them to the back bays around Ocean City, New Jersey, to fish for fluke, bluefish and stripers.
Their dad is Viking Yacht Co. president and CEO Pat Healey, whose father, Bill, and uncle, Bob, started the New Jersey builder in 1964. You might figure these boys could have had most any boat they wanted, but that’s not how kids are brought up in the Healey family.
Passionate anglers, Justin, 25, and Sean, 27, grew up fishing hard and working the Viking production line, as did their father. “Sean and I spent many summers working the line doing all sorts of filthy, difficult work, from woodwork to running wires and laminating fiberglass and installing heads,” Justin says. “We had to earn our way just like everybody else who works at the plant does.”
Now the brothers are heading up Valhalla Boatworks, a recently launched Viking brand that builds three offshore center console fishboats at 33, 37 and 41 feet. The Valhalla concept began brewing nearly two decades ago. “Valhalla Boatworks isn’t something we decided to do on a whim,” Sean says, adding that his father and Viking designer Don Gemmell put together a business plan before the economic downturn forced the project to the back burner. “It wasn’t the right time, so they shelved the idea.”
In 2016, Viking acquired the former Ocean Yachts facility in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, and spooled up the line to build the 37 Billfish there. By 2017, Sean and Justin convinced Pat that it was time to move forward with Valhalla Boatworks.
“I was at the Miami boat show in 2018, and I saw Michael Peters of Michael Peters Yacht Design,” Pat says. “I asked him, ‘What’s your workload looking like?’ ” Peters, who designed the running surfaces on all of Viking’s current motoryachts, told Healey he was between projects. “How’d you like to design three center console boats with me?” Pat asked. The rest is history.
Valhalla Boatworks officially launched this past fall with the V-33, V-37 and V-41. As I checked out the boats at the docks, it was apparent they are engineered with lots of Viking DNA, from the faux teak toerail trim at the bow (which looks identical to the real thing but with zero required maintenance) to the smart transom-mounted, live well in the cockpit. Additional fishing touches include the Release Marine seats and helm pod, copious in-deck fishboxes and Gemlux rod holders installed in all the right places. “That’s not a mistake,” Sean says. “My brother and I spent a lot of time relying on our past fishing experiences in all different sorts of boats so we could design the Valhallas to be as pure a fishing design as possible.”
I ran all three boats with Sean and Justin in Absecon Inlet and the Atlantic. The boats sliced through the 2- to 3-foot rollers at the inlet’s mouth, and their soft ride should bode well for longer trips offshore. Longtime Viking demo boat captain Ryan Higgins was instrumental with the fishing and performance aspects of the design and layout.
With triple Yamaha F300s, the V-37 tops out at 55 knots, and the fuel efficiency curve peaks around 42 knots, according to Valhalla. The V-41, powered with quad 400-hp Mercury Verados, tops out at 74 knots and cruises at around 45 knots. The V-33, with a pair of 400-hp Verados, has a top end of 56 knots and a cruise speed of 39 knots.
While that acceleration and speed are thrilling, Peters’ Stepped V Ventilated Tunnel hull is the real showstopper. As we were running the inlet in the V-41, Sean abruptly put the boat into a 35-knot turn. The twin-stepped hull grabbed the water without slipping or losing its grip.
Healey says he and his sons wanted the Valhalla models to run on stepped hulls from the start. “That’s where we see the future of center console boats heading, and Michael Peters’ Stepped V Ventilated Tunnel is a perfect match for these boats,” Pat says.
Valhalla/Viking designers collaborated with Peters on the running surface for the new models. Design elements unique to the Valhalla boats include the rocker and the warp of the deadrise angles. Peters says the design improves longitudinal stability.
The front steps help the boat get on plane, breaking adhesion with the water surface and letting the bottom ride level without requiring much positive trim. Where things change, however, is in the aft part of the running surface. Peters’ design splits that surface in half, almost like a catamaran. Rather than a vee-shaped keel or a pad, the running surface has a tunnel recessed into the bottom, and the boat rides on the outer sponson-like planing surfaces.
With the load carried on those outer running surfaces, the boat runs on separate surfaces without losing efficiency. This creates gains in fuel economy and in top speed. Because it’s raised above the outer running surfaces, the tunnel remains dry when the boat is at speed.
The Peters/Valhalla design keeps the boat from spinning out in a hard turn, which has been a problem with some stepped-bottom designs. When the Valhalla boats are put into a turn, the vertical inboard edge of the tunnel becomes a keel, preventing the boat from spinning out. The inner wall of the tunnel grabs the water, providing lateral resistance, similar to a keel.
As the day drew to a close, Justin told me that 70 orders for the new boats are already on the books, plus 30 from the boat show circuit. They will build all 70 preorders within the first year.