Illustration by Jim Ewing
Everyone had plans when World War II ended. Pop Rybovich’s boys were itching to build the “perfect” sportfishing boat at their dad’s West Palm Beach, Fla., yard. Sportsman and auto dealer Charles Johnson was ready to go fishing for giant bluefin tuna off Florida’s east coast. They all got together and made history.
In 1947, the three Rybovich brothers — Tommy, Johnny and Emil — launched the 34-foot sportfishing boat Johnson ordered. It was named Miss Chevy II, and “she sure did get out and scoot,” Johnson recalled in later years. The boat also carried the first-ever aluminum outriggers and a revolutionary Rybovich-designed fighting chair.
Miss Chevy II was said to command “instant attention” for her performance and looks. One afternoon, a fellow angler asked Johnson to show him around the boat. The visitor was so impressed he went ahead and ordered one like it for himself. He was Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo, a sport angler and Chicago gangster who worked for Al Capone. The boat he bought, hull No. 2, is pictured here. Launched as Clari-Jo in 1949, the 37-footer is now named Legend and owned by Larry Mullins of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The Rybovich brothers were an ideal team. Tommy was the designer and builder. “What he likes is to make boats beautiful,” Emil once said. Johnny was inventive, a “boatbuilder who fished,” and his fighting chair set the industry standard. Emil was a machinist and mechanic, famous for literally flying to the aid of clients.
By the 1960s, a Rybovich — now with a distinctive broken sheer — was the fisherman’s choice. Sports Illustrated called it the “world’s finest machine for boating a game fish.” Owners included some of the world’s most avid and wealthy — base price was $50,000 to $60,000 — anglers.
The brothers built 77 boats, the last in 1975, three years after Tommy died. Along the way they largely created the modern flush-deck sportfishing boat, decked out with fighting chair, aluminum tower and outriggers, and transom door — all Rybovich innovations.
“We built C.J. [Charles Johnson] a damn good boat,” Emil said, looking back.
You could say the same for all of them. Take a look at www.michaelrybovichandsons.com.
March 2013 issue