ROCKING THE BOAT
She’s the prettiest girl in the marina. At least Kurt Sylvia, managing director at UBS Financial Services, thinks so.
No, the wealth management guru is not referring to an actual woman – he’s describing a boat.
But it’s not just any boat. It’s a 1967, 45-foot, custom-built Rybovich boat. The Rybovich name alone is legendary in the sportfishing industry, and owning one in the ’60s and ’70s was akin, Sylvia says, to owning something like a 1961 Corvette. It was a luxurious commodity back then, and it still is today.
But since Sylvia is an invested partner in the recently renovated boat – a partnership he shares with friend Mark Kasten, who spearheaded this renovation project – his opinion sounds more like that of a slightly biased parent rather than an objective observer.
Then again, maybe not.
Stepping on to the north side of the dock at the Jupiter Yacht Club & Marina – a marina nestled in the underbelly of a development known as Riverwalk – a delicate opulence lies ahead. Leading the way is Kasten, the chief executive officer at Tequesta Insurance Advisors.
Coveted yachts and impressive boats outline the perimeter of the harbor as the calm waters of the Intracoastal divide the 79-slip marina into two parallel rows. There’s a coquettish wind and a briny scent that fills the air. As Kasten walks farther down the dock, it’s hard to play favorites as to which boat is nicer than the next – that is, until you see her: Big Blue. Standing in front of the newly restored boat, it’s obvious to see what Sylvia meant.
Big Blue is not the biggest, newest or most expensive vessel on the marina, but boy, is it pretty. The ethereal blue paint around the mahogany hull immediately draws the attention of any passerby.
The deck’s sandal-colored teak covering boards; the two blue and white vertically striped, upholstered seats facing the mezzanine; the polished fighting chair perched at the epicenter of the deck; and the brand-new cockpit, which also has teak wood installed, gives the boat a timeless look, a look that fares as well today as it undoubtedly did nearly 50 years ago.
“It’s probably one of only a few like it in the world. … It’s old, but with all new, well, everything,” Kasten says.
Big Blue maintains a vintage appeal in a modern world, and although it’s commonly referred to as a female, “she” is very much a man’s boat.
INTO THE BIG BLUE
Climbing aboard and walking through the double doors past the mezzanine, a spacious salon awaits. Kasten keeps it quite cool inside, a refreshing contrast to the sultry Florida air.
Thanks to Kasten’s wife of 29 years, Cathy, who took over the decorative reins during the restoration process, the boat remains true to a nautical theme. There are two navy-blue couches on each side of the room. The one on the right, or starboard, folds out and stores up to 12 rods, and the L-shaped one on the left, or port side, stores beverages. Six coral-patterned pillows, each with a fish printed on one side, contribute a punch of color to the room. And the beige, soft-carpeted floor only accentuates the red mahogany interior throughout the boat.
Big Blue was built with so much functionality and so much storage space that it’s easy to miss the bar with an ice machine port side, and the built-in stereo starboard.
The 50-inch television mounted on the wall facing the stern ties the room together as a place of entertainment. And with the exception of a few reading materials, nothing is left out of place.
Just a couple steps below the salon, which is covered by the length of the bridge up on top, are two staterooms, two heads and a galley.
The master stateroom is on the port side. There, a painting of a sailfish adorns a wall and the bed sits atop a row of built-in drawers. Along with everything else on the boat, this room was gutted, and subsequently the headliner, wallpaper and lights were installed. The master head, or restroom, is in the cabin adjacent to the master bed.
The kitchen, known as the galley, is found starboard directly across from the master stateroom. There is all new refrigeration, a new microwave, and built-in mahogany cabinets and counter tops.
Toward the bow is the second stateroom called a V-berth, and as its name suggests, it is shaped in a V. This room, ideally meant for Kasten and Sylvia’s teenage kids, has two bunk beds on top that meet at the V’s apex, and there is a smaller bunk on the bottom. And where there was once a closet, there is now a second head with a pull-out shower.
Catapulting the timeless boat into the 21st century is a pair of engines called Cummins B Series 550. The engines replaced the Cummins 903s, and according to general contractor Bob Bingham, they are half the weight and more than a 100 horsepower each. They are also the latest fuel-efficient engines, their exhaust is environmentally sound, and they don’t smoke. The boat is now much faster than it ever was, cruising at 26 knots and 35 gallons an hour. The technological advancements, smooth finish, color schemes and palatial dimensions in this 45-foot boat are remarkable, especially considering that nearly two years ago Big Blue was rotting away at a marina in Fort Lauderdale.
ONE MAN’S TRASH IS ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE
“On a scale from one to 10, it was a three,” Bingham says of the boat’s condition when he first laid eyes on it. “There were trees falling in the cockpit, it was full of water, and it was listing.”
But despite its dilapidated state, Bingham believed it met all the criteria Kasten was looking for in a boat.
Acquainted through mutual friends, Kasten had asked Bingham to keep his eyes and ears open for a custom-built boat they could potentially restore. “I wanted to end up with something mid-40s in size; something that could be redone; something that had two staterooms and two heads because of kids and traveling; something that was economical to run; and something that wouldn’t require us to reinvent the wheel,” Kasten says.
Like a page stripped out of a modern-day Goldilocks tale, Bingham says that every boat they found was either too big, too old or too small. But Big Blue was just right. Or so Bingham thought.
“The first day I saw it I told [Bingham], ‘I’m not buying this boat,’ mainly because of the condition it was in,” Kasten says.
But Bingham didn’t give up. To his credit, he went to the owner and convinced him to invest money into remarketing the boat. And toward the end of 2012, Bingham hauled the boat out of that marina and brought it out to The Ways Boatyard in Palm Beach Gardens, dried it out, and began the repairs on his own. Bingham took a chance and rolled the dice; he figured if Kasten wouldn’t step up and buy it, he would find someone else that would.
As the boat started improving, Kasten became more interested. He was able to see the lines and the beautiful form it was taking.
So in March 2013, they made a deal with its existing owner to acquire the boat. On April 3, 2013 Bingham cut off the tower above the bridge, and the renovation process began.
“When I take on a project like that, the immediate thing is to save it from deteriorating more,” Bingham says. “So I have to start from the top and work my way down.”
The actual structure of the boat did not change. But they did install new wiring, plumbing and motors, plus a new fuel tank, air conditioner and headliner. The boat, which was the last plank-on-frame boat that second generation Tommy Rybovich ever built, was entirely painted. “It would be similar to buying an old house and gutting it, and then coming back to put in a new roof, new windows and new wiring,” Kasten says.
The project took about a year and a half to complete. And Kasten and Bingham were painstakingly invested every step of the way. Sylvia’s role as a partner, however, came into play toward the tail end of completion.
Having each two teenage sons on the same basketball team, Kasten and Sylvia had been seeing a lot of one another.
One day in January, they decided to take the boys to a Miami Heat game. They chartered a bus and on their way down to the game, the topic of the boat came up. Kasten shared pictures of Big Blue’s progress and Sylvia’s interest was piqued. Over the next couple of weeks, they discussed it further and ultimately decided to become boat partners.
Kasten and Sylvia also plan to frequently donate the use of the boat and crew to silent auctions as a way of giving back to worthy organizations such as the American Cancer Society and Place of Hope.
THANKS BE TO BOB
As a Florida native, Kasten has been in and around boats most of his life, but he credits his love of custom boats to his friend and business partner of more than 20 years, Charles “Punch” Martyn III. According to Kasten, the two would often go fishing on Martyn’s boats, and when Martyn built a 65-foot Mark Willis boat, he was hooked.
But meeting Bingham really solidified his decision to move forward with his own custom-made boat.
“Bob was instrumental in doing this,” Kasten says. “It takes a special talent like Bob’s to do a project like this.”
Sylvia couldn’t agree more. “Bob is one of only a few guys in the country that [is] qualified to turn around one of these projects,” he says.
A contractor since 1985, Bingham has renovated a variety of older wooden boats, but the Rybovich boats have always held a special place in his heart. As a kid he would go fishing near the Rybovich yard, hoping that one day he would get to work there.
The Rybovich family first established itself in 1919 as custom boat builders and repair shop. Their flawless work and inventive design – specifically with the tuna-door, tuna-tower and fighting chair – has garnered media attention and a who’s who of clientele.
In 1975 the family business was sold. Ownership changed a few times until Wayne Huizenga Jr. bought it in 2004. But in 2011, Michael Rybovich, who is a third-generation Rybovich, resurrected his family’s name and opened Michael Rybovich & Sons in Palm Beach Gardens. There, Michael and his son, Dusty, continue the family legacy. And so is Bingham.
“In my mind, Rybovich is the pinnacle of sports fishing,” Bingham, who has worked for the Rybovich family for years, says.
Bingham’s appreciation for the Rybovich craftsmanship runs deep, and it’s a good thing it does. He had the ability to see the boat as a diamond in the rough when no one else could. Thanks to him, Kasten, Sylvia and their families get to enjoy an iconic Rybovich boat, or as Bingham likes to call them, “the jewels of the water.”