The alarm went off at 3:20 a.m. What would normally bring sarcastic thoughts brought excitement instead. It was Montauk Canyon Challenge time and that means tuna fishing.
‘This tournament also raises money for the Hagedorn Cleft Palate Center at North Shore LIJ. The MTK Canyon Challenge is a week of 19- or 38-hour fishing trips. It was originally founded by David O’Hallinan of the Belladonna. This year, 38 boats competed and spent the allotted time plying the 1,000-foot-deep waters 70 miles off Montauk Point. I was on the road from Quogue Village at 3:30 a.m. and en route to the Montauk Yacht Club.
I was to spend the day on Frank Bongiorno’s brand new 2015 55-foot Viking Convertible Dealers Choice. Frank owns and operates Staten Island Yachts. This boat had 19 hours on it when I boarded and is an amazing vessel. Frank has been selling yachts since 1964 and has locations in Staten Island, Freeport, Shady Oaks Maryland at the Montauk Yacht Club.
We left the docks a bit before 5 a.m. for the 2-hour trip out to the Canyons. The water was particularly blue. I watched as the depth meter started changing. Six feet out of the harbor, then a drop to 80. An hour later another drop to 200+ and then the deep spots. We settled over 1,000 feet of water and activated the Seakeeper Stabilizing System. The swells were not bad, but even a 55-foot Viking will rock out there. The Seakeeper brought that rocking to a halt and provided a very stable platform to fish from and enjoy the day. The Dealers Choice is built with Viking’s extensive experience in sport fishing, blue water yachts. While over 77,000 pounds, this yacht cruised easily at 41 knots. The twin Man V12 1550HP motors made for a quick run.
The custom satin teak fishing deck was a pleasure to stand on. We set nine rods with a variety of bait, lures and decoys to bring the fish up out of the depths. Hours of trolling back and forth were hardly noticeable. The sun came up and the wind was light. Frank and his daughter Danielle, who represents the third generation of Staten Island Yachts, were fantastic hosts. Danielle has followed her father’s passion for yachts and currently handles marketing for the company.
The 2015 55’-foot Viking was more than well appointed. Its nav system is equipped with multiple Garmin and Furuno real time displays. They looked like something out of a sci-fi movie and the autopilot, along with Staten Island Yachts lead salesman/Captain Rich Lucas kept our course the whole time en route to the Canyons. The main cabin looks more like a Hamptons kitchen and living room than a yacht. The interior space was more than impressive. I’m 6’4″ and never had to duck once. The staterooms and bath are equally impressive and spacious. The extreme level of craftsmanship is apparent anywhere you look on this yacht. It had a Palm Beach hardtop and lots of open areas.
Was the fishing great? Not that day for us. A few other tournament boats caught big eye, bluefin and other species. We did get a few yellowtails and a mahi-mahi. Lots of hits, but only a few fish. For me, enjoying the time on the water and the Viking 55’ made up for any lack of fish that day. It’s not every day that I get to play on a $2.9 million yacht. That and I got to eat grilled tuna for two days—thanks, Frank!
The tournament ended after a week of fishing and was followed by a BBQ/awards ceremony on Sunday. Raising money for charity is a tradition with this tournament. The Hagedorn Cleft Palate Center for Children was the focal point of this year’s charity efforts. $7,500 was raised to support their work with kids. The Hagedorn Cleft Palate center offers superior diagnostic, medical and surgical care for infants and children with
cleft palate and craniofacial disorders. The center utilizes an innovative approach to providing diagnostic and consultation services for these children, and offers educational training and other support services for their families. Awards for fishing were given out at the BBQ Sunday afternoon. The grand prize was awarded to the Blondie out of Montauk. The heaviest tuna award went to the Persuasion of Montauk.
Missed the tournament? It’s a yearly endeavor and everyone will be back again to fish, enjoy the Canyons and their yachts and raise some $$ for charity. Special thanks to Frank and Danielle from Staten Island Yachts for both sponsoring the event and having me along for a day on the new 55-foot Viking Convertible.
Interested in a Viking Yacht? Or a Princess, Prestige or Cruisers Yacht? If so be sure to visit siyachts.com or call Frank Bongiorno or Rich Lucas to arrange a sea trial. Frank and Rich are both consummate professionals and will find you exactly what you are looking for in a sport fishing or luxury yacht.
For more photos of the Montauk Canyon Challenge and Viking convertible, click here.