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History of Viking Yachts: 60 Years of Boatbuilding Excellence

History of Viking Yachts: 60 Years of Boatbuilding Excellence
90 Viking Yacht
V55 Valhalla

Approaching the impressive milestone of 60 years in boatbuilding on April 1, 2024, the Viking Yacht Company stands out as a shining example of innovation, dedication, and excellence in the yacht manufacturing industry. Having successfully delivered over 5,500 top-tier fiberglass sportfishing yachts worldwide, Viking Yachts has firmly cemented its position as a pioneer in the field.

Shaping the Future of Boatbuilding

Under the steadfast leadership of the Healey family, Viking has navigated challenges, embraced innovation, and expanded their range to include a diverse collection of sportfishers, motor yachts, and center consoles. Committed to quality, performance, and customer satisfaction, Viking Yachts has not only persevered but thrived, evolving into a powerhouse that continues to shape the future of boatbuilding.

Innovation and Tradition

Viking Yachts’ enduring legacy is celebrated with unwavering dedication and a focus on craftsmanship and innovation that transcends generations. As they introduce cutting-edge models that exemplify excellence in boatbuilding, Viking remains a stalwart presence as it approaches its seventh decade in the industry. The rich history of this family-owned and operated company traces back to its official founding on April 1, 1964.

The History of Viking Yachts

Today, Viking Yachts is renowned as the top sportfish yacht manufacturer, specializing in a range of high-quality yachts spanning from 38-90 feet. Their dominance in the sport fisherman’s market traces back to 1964 when brothers Bob and Bill Healey took over the struggling Peterson-Viking Builders in New Jersey. Initially known for their 37-foot wooden sportfishing and cruising boats, the Healey brothers transformed the company into a global powerhouse for semi-custom fiberglass yachts. 

The Perfect Duo

bill an bob healey— history of Viking YachtsThe dynamic duo of brothers Bob and Bill Healey brought a perfect balance to the table when they embarked on this incredible venture. Bob’s sharp business acumen and money-making mindset paired flawlessly with Bill’s unwavering passion for boat building, making them the ultimate team for this endeavor.

Maintaining private ownership within the Healey family for 60 years is a true rarity in this industry. Today, Pat Healey, son of Bill, holds the reins as CEO and president of the Viking Yacht Company. On the other hand, Robert Healey Jr., son of Bob, takes on the role of Executive Co-Chairman of the Viking Group, overseeing Viking Yachts, extensive investment portfolios, and commercial and residential real estate ventures.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

One of the standout qualities of this company is their exceptional employee retention. With many team members proudly boasting decades of service, this not only ensures consistency across all aspects but also drives their daily mission to enhance their boat-building prowess. United by a shared goal, their long-term team is dedicated to exceeding customer expectations and elevating the business to new heights.

The Early Days – History of the Viking Yacht Company

Viking Yachts 33 ConvertibleBack in the early days, Viking Yachts were putting together boats on frames at interval-based work stations; but everything changed in 1971. That’s when the company introduced its first all-fiberglass model— the Viking 33 Convertible. Suddenly, this yacht became a hot commodity, quickly paving its way to the top of the best-sellers list. The success of the 33 Convertible set the stage for the debut of even larger models like the 40 Convertible. Launched in 1972, the 40 C became a fan favorite and remains one of their top sellers to this day.

Full Speed Ahead

The ’70s and ’80s were a time of great success for Viking Yachts, as they flourished and ventured into new markets with the acquisition of Gulfstar Yachts in the ’80s. Known for their well-designed motor yacht models, Viking Yachts was on a steady course towards success, offering a full range of sportfish convertibles and motor yachts by 1990. 

Trials and Tribulations

Like any company, Viking Yachts faced some rough waters in 1990. The first recession hit, followed by the infamous Luxury Tax Bill of 1991. These challenges had a significant impact on the company and the entire marine industry. Employee numbers plummeted from 1500 to less than 100, causing production to slow down to just 12 boats in 18 months. With their backs against the wall, the brothers knew they had to take action.

Repeal of the Luxury Tax Bill

As most of the boating industry would attest, the Healey brothers played a significant role in the repeal of the Luxury Tax Bill the following year. Bob orchestrated a grassroots campaign on a national scale to combat the bill, rallying a multitude of laid-off employees to the capital to demonstrate to Congress the detrimental effects of the new legislation. Through his astute leadership, the campaign garnered sufficient traction to contribute to the overturning of the bill in 1993. 

New Model, New Direction – History of Viking Yachts

Viking yachts 55 Convertible

55 Convertible

Despite facing a significant slowdown, Viking Yachts never ceased their innovative design work. The Healey brothers anticipated a resurgence in the angling market once the tax burden lifted, and they were spot on. In 1996, Viking introduced the groundbreaking 55 Viking Convertible to their lineup. Crafted with input from fishermen, owners, and captains, this unmatched 55-footer met the demands of tournament anglers worldwide. With sleek new aesthetics and enhanced performance metrics, Viking Yachts successfully sold over 150 models in just six years. 

$10 Million Expansion

In the year 2000, Bill took the lead in a $10 million expansion project at the plant to optimize operations in anticipation of the continuous rollout of new models by the company. Four years later, Viking introduced its largest boat to date, the impressive 74 Convertible. Bill once again invested in plant upgrades by acquiring a cutting-edge $1 million five-axis CNC machine, revolutionizing the production process by sculpting foam plugs for crafting new molds for hulls, decks, cockpits, and other substantial components.

50th Anniversary Highlights – History of Viking Yachts

During the 2014 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, Viking Yachts once again captivated attendees with the debut of their innovative 92 Enclosed Bridge Convertible and the stylish 75 Motor Yacht, celebrating their 50th anniversary in grand style. As part of the milestone festivities, the company also hosted its inaugural Viking Key West Challenge, adding excitement to the momentous occasion.

Innovation at Its Finest

Over time, Viking Yachts embraced market changes by creating larger yacht models. Today, their impressive lineup spans from 38 to 90 feet, with the 90 Viking leading the pack as their flagship model currently under construction. The company halted production of the 92 Viking in response to an international emissions mandate implemented in 2015. This led to the creation of a yacht that complies with IMO Tier III standards, culminating in the debut of the state-of-the-art 90 Viking model.
View the Viking Yachts Line Up

Additionally, Viking expanded their services by establishing a new facility in Riviera Beach, FL, equipped with slips for in-water work and land storage for larger projects and outfitting. To streamline the rigging process, Viking also welcomed Atlantic Marine Electronics and Palm Beach Towers into their family of services in Florida. 

New Sights Set – History of Viking Yachts

V37And if being one of the biggest players in the sportfishing industry isn’t impressive enough, Viking Yachts made waves in 2019 with the launch of Valhalla Boatworks – a cutting-edge subsidiary specializing in center consoles that are redefining the standards in performance, engineering, quality, and fishing capabilities. Three groundbreaking center consoles made their debut in 2019 – the V-33, V-37, and V-41. Spearheading this innovative venture are the Healey brothers, Sean and Justin, the third generation of the Viking Yachts dynasty.

Recent Additions – History of Viking Yachts

With a lifelong connection to the sea, these brothers have been instrumental in the development of Valhalla Boatworks, dedicating significant time and energy to introduce these game-changing center consoles to the market. The V-Series has seen remarkable success, with the recent additions of the Valhalla V-46 in 2021, the Valhalla V-55 in February 2022, and the V-28 Bay and V-29 Hybrid in 2023.
Learn More About Valhalla Boatworks

The Passing of a Legend

Following the passing of Bob Healey in 2021, his son Bob Healey Jr. has taken on the role of chairman, guiding Viking Yachts towards a promising future in collaboration with Pat Healey. The third generation of the Healey family, which includes Pat’s children – Sean, Justin, and Kaitlyn, actively participate in sales, marketing, and proudly represent Viking at various events, upholding the tradition of excellence and innovation.

Viking Yacht & Valhalla Boatworks Experts

With over 25 years of experience as an authorized Viking Yacht Dealer, our Viking Yacht Specialists are experts in helping you find your perfect Viking Yacht or Valhalla Center Console. Our team undergoes comprehensive training at the Viking factory, ensuring they possess in-depth knowledge of all models. You can trust our sales professionals to navigate you through your purchase, ensuring a seamless and unforgettable buying experience.
Contact a Specialist

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