Just up the waterway from Wayne Huizenga Jr.’s marina, Rybovich, is the Michael Rybovich & Sons Boat Works in Palm Beach Gardens at 2175 Idlewild Road, where Michael and Dusty Rybovich build sportfishing boats in their family’s tradition.
After Huizenga Jr. bought the Rybovich Spencer boatyard in 2004, he hired Michael to head the new-construction end of the business, Michael explained.
“But when economy tanked, so did interest in new construction, and rather than fund a speculative new-construction venture, they decided to disband the company that was responsible for new construction.”
After he left Huizenga’s Rybovich, in 2011 he, with Palm Beacher Larry Wilson, acquired land owned by E&H Boat Works. Then, Michael sunk money into the rundown property, cleaning it up and rebuilding to create his new boat building, maintenance, modification and repairs company.
Building Rybovich boats has been a family affair from its first boat, the 34-foot Miss Chevy II built for Charles Johnson in 1947, and it still is.
“In 1975 when I was 19, I was officially placed on the payroll,” Michael said. “I worked on a bottom crew. They haul, launch the boats, clean the bottoms, pull propellers, anything to do with work below the waterline.”
His son, Dusty, was born to the business. Dusty’s favorite Rybovich boat is hull No. 110, a 33-footer built at Ryco Marine in 1987. Dusty helped put new engines in it when he was in high school, he said. “Dad told me he was doing that boat’s sea trial, when mom went into labor with me.”
Like his father, he worked in the boat yard when he was in high school. “I’d come in after school and take care of all the messy jobs: painting in small areas, cleaning up, (doing) basic carpentry, digging through rotten wood, scraping barnacles.”
Undaunted, after high school, he went to Webb Institute in New York state and is now a naval architect and marine engineer. He joined his father in January 2013. “I guess being in the family business was what I’ve always wanted,” Dusty said.
Now with renovations complete, Michael Rybovich & Sons is up and running in all areas.
“We’ve done several major refits in addition to routine service and maintenance,” Michael said. “We worked a lot on our own boats and we’ll work on boats built by others, but most of our customers own one or more of our boats. I’d say we’ve worked on 20 to 25 of them.”
The boat building part of the company got underway in May 2012 with a 64-foot walkaround for Larry Wilson. It was finished summer 2014.
“Larry has been a fisherman and boat owner long enough to know exactly what he wants, and every time we’ve done work for Larry he wants something different,” Michael said. “He likes being involved in projects that push the envelope.
“This one was the largest walkaround that we’d ever built, and it had a unique propulsion system using a Volvo IPS Pod drive (a system that has forward-facing counter rotating propellers).”
How does Michael build boats compared to his father, grandfather and uncles? “I don’t want to get stuck with a particular method because we are constantly experimenting with methods of construction, combining Old World craftsmanship with the latest in weight-saving technology,” he said.
Currently, an 86-foot and a 68-foot conventional sportfishing boats are in the works.
“For our new construction business, we are a total custom-builder,” Michael said. “We can build anybody anything they want from 40 to 100 feet as long as it looks and performs like one of our boats.”
Since Dusty joined his father, designing is now digital. “We see how the boat is going to fit before we built it. It’s a great timesaver,” Dusty said.
“While each boat is completely custom, including the way it looks, we try to keep with our signature theme, but make each boat unique unto itself.”
Wilson, who has owned six Rybovich boats, has this to say: “Since 1947, the Rybovich family has been very innovative, with the tuna tower, transom door, fighting chair, and other items that are now standard for sportfishing boats.
“Rybovich boats were always the highest quality, and they were always made out of wood, which is lighter than fiberglass, and has a more elegant look. Of all the Rybovich boats built, 124 are still in use. That’s eight decades. They are works of art.
“Mike is a perfectionist, wants it right and keeps to a high standard,” he said. “He continues to build boats that ride better and perform better than other boats. They are more efficient and elegant. He builds a boat that I believe is the best.”
Currently, in addition to owning the 64-foot walkaround recently launched, Michael Rybovich & Sons’ hull No. 1, Lizzie Bee, Wilson also owns the 32-foot, Charmer, hull No. 108, built at Ryco Marine in 1985, and launched at that same time as Ruthie.