Waterfront: American Dream

From entry-level to CFO, a Viking lifer’s career and the adventure machine he never imagined he’d call his own. John Kasinski enjoys a new phase of yacht ownership and reflects upon a 33-year career.

John Kasinski was 21 years old when he started to work for Viking Yachts in 1989 as the Accounts Payable Clerk. Today he is the company’s Chief Financial Officer and proud owner of a brand-new Valhalla 33 named Kazual. The name has a dual meaning, as Kaz is Kasinski’s nickname with roots to elementary school football and casual is how the Kasinski family likes to boat.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d be able to own a brand-new boat from our brand,” said Kasinski. In a twist of providence, his Valhalla 33 was bought on his 33rd year with the company and his favorite number is three. “Man, this thing has not disappointed in the least. It’s incredible.”

For Viking veteran John Kasinski, owning a Valhalla 33 is something he never thought possible. Now he gets to share that dream with his family.

Kazual has been busy entertaining family and friends during the summer, often in near-shore New Jersey locations like Cape May. The boat has brought his tight-knit family even closer together. Multiple generations of Kasinkis are usually represented with John and his wife Janet, their three daughters and the newest addition, 16-month-old grandson Caden.

“They all take turns running it,” said Kasinski. “We all got our boating licenses together.” To the Kasinski family, safe boating means fun boating. “To me, if you want to have fun with a bunch of family and friends on that boat, be safe. Learn the boat and that will maintain the fun. I really believe that.”

The family unit and his career at Viking have been central to Kasinski’s life for the last 33 years. He attended night school while working fulltime at Viking in the early years of his marriage. “I went to school at night with one then two then three kids,” he said. “That was all left on her [Janet]. She supported me through every step of my career, and she’s been tremendous.”

Kasinski has experienced plenty of highs and lows during his years at Viking. The first major challenge was the luxury tax of 1991. “That was a very challenging situation,” he said. “We went from 1,600 employees down to 40.” He would do whatever needed to be done, even lending a hand in the R&D department.

Industry veterans may recall that Viking’s founding Healey family were prominent voices in the domestic yacht building industry who championed the repeal of the luxury tax. “Bill and Bob (Healey) put their 401ks in,” he said. “They remortgaged their homes.” Not only did Viking survive, but the company also showed new models at the boat shows. “That was turning a lull into a wow,” he added. The 2008 Recession was another difficult time, but Kasinski never wavered from his career at Viking.

“It’s the family culture that they create that allows and generates buy-in from all of us employees that we’re going to do whatever it takes to make the best possible boat in the world at all levels,” said Kasinski. Notable career high points include launching the Valhalla line and being promoted to CFO. But for him, everyday learning from his mentors and colleagues—the Healey family and former CFO Jerry Straub Sr.—was its own reward.

You’ll never have as many friends as when you take over the helm of a new Valhalla. For Kasinski, sharing boating is what it’s all about.

As far as Valhalla 33 ownership goes, he said there are 21 PFDs aboard as having groups of 15 or more on the boat is normal. The family dabbles in flounder fishing and shrimping. Janet is reportedly the best angler on the boat. The fishboxes, rod holders, 52-gallon livewell and Hooker Sea Chest System all make Kazual a great fishing platform.

Kasinski’s advice to fellow new boat buyers is to get those custom options nailed down early before construction starts. One customization he opted for was the addition of a mattress inside the console so Caden can take naps while they’re out. Another custom option was the bow thruster, which Kasinski loves.

“If you’re a new boater and you can get it, get a bow thruster,” he laughed. “These people who see me come into the dock think I’ve been boating for 30 years.” Kazual is powered by twin Mercury 400 Verados and features a Seakeeper 2 stabilizer system.

“You feel like you made it when you stand at that helm and you’re looking at that display,” Kasinski reflected. “When you’re looking over that bow and everything involved. You’re like, wow, all the years. All the everything to get to this, and boy oh boy it was worth every minute.”

Is a Viking sportfisherman in this young captain’s future? As Kasinki will tell you, anything’s possible.

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This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

Source: https://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/column/waterfront-american-dream