A pair of Cummins MerCruiser Diesel QSM11 engines has transformed one of Australia’s best known sport and game fishing boats, Bill Billson’s Viking II.
A change of heart - Bill Billson has an enviable record as a sport fishing and game fishing boat captain.
Over the last 21 years, his tournament achievements with firstly Viking and now Viking II have included winning the prestigious Lizard Island Black Marlin Classic four times and finishing runner-up four times.
Billson has also won the largest fishing tournament in the Southern Hemisphere, the NSW Interclub Tournament, four times.
The largest game fish ever caught on a saltwater fly – an incredible 289 lb marlin on 20 lb tippet – was caught on Viking II with Billson as captain.
His list of marlin captures between Cairns and Lizard Island is second to none, including 10 1,000 pounders and two over 1,200 pounds, all confirmed by weighing. He has tagged and released at least another 30 marlin over one thousand pounds.
In both 2002 and 2003, over 100 fish were caught on Viking II during the giant black marlin season, a rare achievement. Viking II topped the Cairns fleet again in 2007.
During the early part of 2008, Billson had an important decision to make – rebuild the MTU engines in his 10-year-old Viking II or repower the boat.
“Being a charter boat operator it is imperative that I have reliability so a choice had to be made,” he recalls.
“At first I was going to rebuild, but I was being bombarded with information on how great the new technology engines were. The price of diesel also had me wondering what the future would bring.
“For whatever reason, some new engine designs turn out to be lemons, so you really have to keep your ear to the ground to become aware of these.
“One company I’d heard few complaints about was Cummins and I was aware that its QSM11 engines were being used in many of the charter boats up on the reef.
“I knew that O’Brien Boats of Townsville were using them exclusively in their 47ft sport fishers, and that the captains of these boats couldn’t praise them enough.
“The big thing that kept me envious was what I was hearing about the fuel efficiency. To me it sounded unbelievable.”
So after a couple of meetings with Cummins MerCruiser Diesel on the Gold Coast, Bill Billson made his decision. Two 600 hp QSM11engines were ordered and plans made to pull Viking II out of the water for a major engine room refit.
“It was an exciting feeling, knowing I was giving this Frank Woodnutt custom 46-foot sport fisher a new lease of life, with another 100 horsepower each side and all the new technology that was coming with the package,” he recalls.
Billson himself carried out the refit with the help of mate Brett Alty and crewman Peter McRae.
Finally it was time for the first sea trial, with the Cummins technician’s laptop connected to the engine ECM.
“We idled out of the Gold Coast City Marina and the boat and motors felt smooth with no low speed vibration.
“The distance between the marina and the Broadwater is a long haul at the best of times at the maximum speed of 6 knots, but my keenness to test these new engines made it seem that little bit longer. The last ‘NO WAKE’ sign passed on port side, and I pushed the hammers down.
“The QSM11s leapt to life and Viking II jumped out of the hole quicker than it had ever done before… no smoke, no turbo lag, just clean response. I was starting to see what all the QSM11 talk was about.”
Viking II got two 28.5 knots into 20 knots of southerly and the rpm reached 2350 at 95% load. “I thought there was possibly room for a little more pitch,” says Billson, “but as the boat is used for live aboard charters on the reef and has to carry a fair bit of gear I thought we were on the money.”
He points out that Viking II has clocked up over 1200 hours since August last year, and is emphatic the decision to repower was the right one.
“For sport fishing charter boat operation, the fuel economy of the Cummins engines means I’m able to do extra days on the same amount of fuel,” he says.
For example, at a top end cruise speed of 25 knots (2100 rpm), the QSM11s use a total 168 litres\hour. The previous engines did 25 knots at full throttle (2100 rpm) and used a total 200 litres\hour. At a 23 knot cruise speed (2000 rpm), the QSM11s use 146 litres\hour while the previous engines used 154 litres\hour at the slower cruise speed of 21.5 knots.
“Other major advantages with the QSM11s,” says Billson, “are less engine vibration at low speed, no smoke, no soot over the boat or in the cabin, paint work that lasts longer, minimal pollution to the water and atmosphere, and above all happier clients.”