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Rybovich Heir Buys E&H Boat Works

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By Allison Ross
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
March 3, 2011

An heir to the Rybovich boat-building legacy has left his family's namesake company - now owned by the Huizenga family - and is striking out on his own venture. His hope: to get a family-owned boat yard flourishing on the waterfront again.

Michael Rybovich, a third-generation boat builder, has bought E&H Boat Works in Palm Beach Gardens for an undisclosed amount and plans to turn it into a boat building, maintenance, modification and repair facility called Michael Rybovich & Sons.

"This business is going to be very similar to the yard my family operated for 50 years," Michael Rybovich said. "We build a good product and do a heck of a job maintaining other people's products."

Rybovich said his son, Dusty, who has degrees in naval architecture and marine engineering, will join the company and become the fourth generation of boat-building Ryboviches.

The Rybovich name has long been an icon of the sportsfishing industry. Founder John "Pop" Rybovich Sr. and sons Emil, John and Tommy built Rybovich & Sons to be what some call the Rolls-Royce of the boat industry.

The family sold the company in 1975, after Pop died in 1970 and Tommy died of cancer in 1972.

The company changed hands a few times, until Wayne Huizenga Jr. bought it in 2004.

Huizenga brought Michael Rybovich back to run its boat-building operations

Rybovich said he parted ways with Huizenga on amicable terms in June and shortly thereafter created Michael Rybovich & Sons.

Rybovich has partnered with friend and longtime Rybovich customer Larry Wilson on the new venture.

The two partners plan to make about $250,000 in improvements at the old E&H Boat Works facility; Rybovich said they plan to operate using the existing layout of the yard.

Chris Hodge, whose family owns the adjacent E&H Boat Works and The Ways, said he's glad that "someone of such stature and heritage and history is carrying (the E&H yard) forward. I can't think of a more desirable suitor."

He conceded that E&H Boat Works has fallen a bit into disrepair over the years, especially as the economy has taken a toll on the business.

"It's an aging and decrepit boat yard," Hodge said. "It languished and has languished for years."

The Hodge family will continue to operate the nearly 2.5-acre The Ways, Hodge said.

That facility - which services 30-foot to 80-foot vessels - will be renamed E&H/The Ways, he said.

Michael Rybovich & Sons plans to start operating within a month, focusing mostly on repairs that can be done with the boats in the water while renovations are made to the facility.

Plans are for the company to hire 15 to 20 workers.

"A number of craftsmen are sitting next to their toolboxes right now, ready to make sawdust again." Michael Rybovich said. "We aim to do our best to create jobs."

Rybovich history

The family has built a long legacy in Palm Beach County.

  • 1919 John "Pop" Rybovich Sr. begins building fishing boats.
  • 1934: Writer Ernest Hemingway brings his 35-foot Pilar to the Rybovich yard for repairs; he later befriends the family.
  • 1947 Rybovich & Sons builds Miss Chevy II, a sportfishing boat whose fighting chair set the pattern that's still used today.
  • 1970 Pop Rybovich dies at age 88.
  • 1972 Tommy Rybovich dies at age 52.
  • 1975 The family sells the business; Michael Rybovich stays on.
  • 1984 Michael leaves to start Ryco Marine Custom Boat Works with his father, Emil, and brother, Marty.
  • 1993 John Rybovich Jr. dies at age 80.
  • 2000 Emil Rybovich dies at age 76.
  • 2004 Wayne Huizenga Jr. buys Rybovich.
  • 2005 Rybovich and Ryco Marine merge; Michael rejoins his family's namesake business.
  • 2010 Michael leaves Rybovich.
  • 2011 Michael buys E&H Boat Works and renames it Michael Rybovich & Sons.
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