Night is falling as Michael Rybovich looks out the window of his boat workshop on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Michael, 60, is the third generation of a family who pioneered the modern sport-fisherman. A truck in the parking lot represents the fourth generation. It belongs to his son, Dusty, who is supposed to be celebrating his 28th birthday tonight.
“I guess he has the Rybovich work ethic,” Michael says, laughing.
It’s an ethic that started with the family’s boatbuilding patriarch, John Rybovich, who opened a boatyard in south Florida in 1919. For the next 20-plus years, he, and eventually his three sons, spent long hours refitting pleasure boats into fishing boats.
“Oddly enough, World War II was a turning point for what we see now,” says Michael.
Uncle Tommy came home from his duties as a bomber pilot with new ideas for aerodynamics. Uncle Johnny learned how to shape aluminum. Michael’s dad, Emil, worked with rescue boats and became an expert in mechanical and electrical systems. When all three were home, a customer asked if they could build a breakthrough boat: a sport-fisherman customized for comfort and big game, as well as offshore performance. “Think about their niches and the timing of it all,” Michael says. “Things rarely come together like that on this Earth.”
The first from-scratch Rybovich, the 34-foot Miss Chevy II, had a finished flybridge, in-deck livewells, fighting chair and her own style that included a broken sheerline. Rybovich boats soon ended up in the hands of people named Maytag, Gillette and Firestone. Today, past and present converge at Michael Rybovich & Sons, 10 miles north of the original John Rybovich & Sons shop. There are sawhorses and clamps, grinders and fine wood. And there are three family members — Michael, Dusty and 27-year-old Alex — helping to finish an 86-footer, the largest Rybovich ever built.
“My grandfather, father and uncles all had it right,” says Michael. “Where we are now is a result of their God-given talent — and the opportunity they had to use it.”
The Rybovich family are just one of five creative thinkers that Yachting profiled in its December, Spirit of Innovation, issue. You can read the other four here: