February 7, 2023

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First Build: Michael Rybovich

(Photo/Michael Rybovich & Sons)

By Nichole Osinski

For boat builder Michael Rybovich & Sons, one could say there is not a single hull number one but several hulls that can be given the title. While the core of the Rybovich legacy—a family-run company committed to expert boat craftsmanship—has stayed true since the beginning, the company has had to reinvent itself throughout the years.

The First Generation

To understand each new generation of Rybovich, it’s necessary to go all the way back to the beginning in 1919 when John “Pop” Rybovich started a commercial boat repair yard in West Palm Beach. Pop, along with his three sons, Johnny, Tommy and Emil, saw the potential in the growing sportfishing industry along Florida’s coast and decided to build a boat that would cater to this lifestyle. In 1947, the Rybovich family had launched their first build: Miss Chevy II. A few years later the Rybovich family was already looking for ways to improve future builds when Johnny designed a convex transition to create the builder’s well-known broken sheer. In 1952, with the launch of Miss Chevy IV, that broken sheer the boat builder is known for today could be seen out on the water.

But the family would lose two people who were integral in getting the company off the ground. First, when Pop Rybovich passed away in 1970, and two years later, when Tommy Rybovich passed away from cancer at the age of 52.

Between 1947 and 1972, the Rybovich family built 75 hulls. With Tommy and Pop’s legacy forever cemented into the boat building world, Johnny and Emil continued to build boats until 1975, when the business was sold.

Michael Rybovich with his two sons, Dusty and Alex. (Photo/Michael Rybovich & Sons)

Rybovich Becomes Ryco Marine

However, the next Rybovich chapter was not far off. In the early 80s, Michael Rybovich, Emil’s son, had followed in the footsteps of his father, uncles and grandfather by continuing to build boats and started Ryco Marine (formerly Rybovich International) along with his father, brother and a family friend.

The catalyst for that boat was Nick Smith, well-known for fly fishing feats offshore.

Smith had taken an old 30-foot Daytona hull and cut the sheerline down, essentially dropping the flying bridge down on the deck. Looking to build a better boat from this, Smith asked Michael Rybovich if he was up for the challenge. With a firm yes, Michael went about renting a warehouse in an industrial part of West Palm Beach. However, Smith decided he wasn’t ready to give up his current boat and, with the perfect timing no one could have planned, a new owner stepped into the picture. Charlie Bouchard had heard they were planning to build a boat similar to Smith’s and told them that was exactly what he was in the market for.

“We started that boat for Charlie without ever meeting him in person,” Michael recalls. “There was an awful lot of adrenaline, we were very excited and it was a 24/7 thing on the part of my brother and me. It was total devotion. We were young starting a company on our own, and like any startup boat building operation, you have convinced yourself you’re going to build something better than anyone else and you set out to prove that.”

Rybovich Builds the Ruthie

The 32-foot walkaround Ruthie, complete with a 3208 CAT single-engine, was delivered in June of 1985. Michael describes her first sea trial as “extremely exciting.”

“She rode extremely well in all kinds of sea conditions and we were probably somewhat jaded by having such a success with the first boat because things don’t always go that well. The reason we build such a great boat now is because we made a lot of mistakes and we learned from those mistakes, but that first sea trial on the Ruthie was as perfect as it could be.”

Ruthie’s bottom design was new for the builders, and there had been much discussion in regards to how they would make the boat stable, fast and soft riding.

“The Ruthie’s bottom proved to be very successful and we are now building boats on that basic design with subtle changes,” Michael says.

Now, Michael’s son Dusty, a naval architect for Rybovich, has taken that hull and built upon its design for newer builds.

“That Ruthie was something different, and we were very pleased with that performance, and we stuck with it and modified it and improved it over the years into what Dusty’s drawing today,” Michael says.

Michael Rybovich & Sons

Just as their father was a part of a new hull number one, Michael’s sons, Dusty, Alex and Blake, have become a part of the new boats throughout the builder’s evolution. This had included a second sale of the family business in 1986, the formation of Rybovich International, which later became Ryco Marine, and a partnership with Wayne Huizenga (who had purchased the original Rybovich yard in 2004) in the early 2000s.

There would be one final change before Rybovich essentially came back full circle to where it had started. In 2010, Michael made the decision to start a new company aptly named Michael Rybovich & Sons. A new generation of Rybovich boats would be built, now larger than ever before. Once again, a new hull number one was crafted under the Rybovich name. Hull number one under the new Michael Rybovich & Sons was the 64-foot Lizzy Bee, a walkaround express with pod drives.

The 64-foot Lizzy Bee was the start of a new chapter for the Rybovich family. (Photo/Michael Rybovich & Sons)

“It’s an extremely unique boat,” says Dusty, who came on full-time with the company as the hull was being planked, roughly nine years ago. “It was designed with kite fishing for sailfish around here in mind, trying to fly a forward kite off the bow with livewells up there and kites off the transom. The second owners have taken that boat to the Pacific up and down California and Mexico, and it’s really lining up with the
way they fish out there with the forward livewells and being able to get all the way around the boat. It’s working out to be a perfect California-style boat.”

Rybovich’s Signature Style

Dusty explains that there are distinct features they have wanted to keep throughout each build. “Hull construction methods are
still pretty similar, we’re tweaking those to try and get the boats lighter but overall it’s a tried and true method.”

Rybovich still continues the cold-molded method, which Dusty credits to giving the boats a quieter ride.

“It’s more flexible, so it’s not going to pound you as much as a plastic hull would; it’s lightweight and strong,” he says.

Alex, who acts as a mechanical supervisor, adds to this, noting the distinct Rybovich profile that comes with each build, including features such as the broken sheer, a nod to the current boats’ predecessors.

“I think we build one of the most proportional vessels out there,” he says. “I can see a boat from a mile off and know it’s one of ours.”

The III Amigos

Most recently, Michael Rybovich & Sons completed what could be called their most ambitious endeavor yet: a 94-footer, named III Amigos, the largest boat ever built by the Rybovich clan and the first to feature an enclosed flybridge. III Amigos represents four generations of boat builders and is a physical manifestation of how those first Rybovich boats shaped the current family business.

“We still focus on the same tradition with building as far as the cold mold,” Alex says. “We’ve moved into more innovation, especially with the 94 we just built. I think when it comes down to it at the end of the day we’re still about our core fundamental values on boat building and how to build a fast, streamlined and simply great riding boat.”

(Photo/Michael Rybovich & Sons)

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