Although our Navy is the largest Navy in the world, the largest fleet of boats in America belongs to the group known as recreational boaters. In England, Roman Abramovich, owns a professional football club and a collection of large yachts he calls the “Abramovich Navy.” He owns a 164 foot Feadship with a pool, a 377 foot motoryacht with two helipads and a pool, a 288 foot Feadship and a 533 foot Blohm & Voss vessel from Hamburg named “Eclipse” that for a time, was the world’s largest private yacht. The Eclipse provides passengers with escape from a worst case scenario. Beyond the bullet proof windows there is an escape hatch to a submarine below the bilge.
There are boaters with multiple Bertrams and multiple Merritts in different sizes and configurations often located at places the owners visit so their boats are always ready for them. Michael Bozzuto, president of the large, privately held food trucking company in Connecticut, feels strongly about his two Merritts, a 43 foot and a 72 foot, but also feels the need for the rest of his fleet –a 112 foot Westport, a 39 foot SeaVee, a 38 foot Shelter Island, a 31 foot Bertram and a 36 foot Morris sloop.
Some boaters like diversity. When you combine that with a willingness to do the work or have it done to make the boat comfortable and uniquely yours, you have Rick Anastos, of Scituate, Massachusetts. From the time he built his first boat as a kid, tried sailing with a Sailfish, moved on to bass boats, small outboards, Aquasports and Makos, a Hatteras motoryacht and multiple Egg Harbors, Rick has had 49 boat. The forty-ninth is a 33 foot Fortier that needed a lot of work when he bought it. Rick did some of the work and had some of it done by professionals. The boat has been rewired, has new canvas and cushions, a new head, a new hot water heater, new swim platform and cockpit seating. His ultimate objective, he said, is “to make the boat comfortable.”
Rick liked the Egg Harbors so much he’s had five or six of them. Starting with the 37 foot wood Egg Harbors, he had a few of those, then a 40 footer and the last one was a 33 foot fiberglass Egg. Rick always knows when he looks at a boat that one day he’ll sell the boat for something else and the name brands will sell better and faster. He said he’s a real fussy guy and tries to make every boat he’s owned comfortable. He likes the classic look of the Egg Harbors. I spoke to him just before he and his wife, Donna, were leaving on a trip with twelve other boats.
Talking to Donna, I asked if she loves boats as much as Rick does. She laughed and said they’ve been married ten years and in that time have had ten boats. I asked if they liked the boat shopping experience – how far would they travel to see what he thought might be the right boat? She never hesitated and said, “He loves looking at boats – every day – he’s always looking. We’d probably travel anywhere on the east coast to see a boat.”
There are people who so treasure their boats that they want to keep them in the family for future generations. The Marijo, the last boat Sam Verity built, was close to 80 years old when last seen at a Babylon marina. In the Giorgini family for three generations since 1947, the 32 foot skiff was suffering from old age and Sandy damage. In Babylon for the day last fall, Al Grover heard about the old Verity that was moved to the back row and wanted to see it before the chain saw got it. It has not been seen lately and may no longer exist.
When there is just one boat that will make you happy, what’s it like to find it, put it in good shape and keep it current over a 40 year period? When Joe Chioffe saw the boat that would make him happy, it was at the Indian Cove Marina in Hampton Bays. “That Rybovich,” he said, “was the best looking boat I had ever seen.” Although it was over 40 years ago, Joe still remembers walking up to the boat to find out what it was and hearing a girl, getting off the boat, saying, “Even the bilge is painted white!”
Up to that point in his life, Joe had racing prams on Upper Greenwood Lake in New Jersey and had picked up an interest in fishing, going out with a friend from Southampton in the friend’s 30 foot Hans Pedersen. Catching his first marlin in 1959, Joe thought seriously about having his own boat. The Rusty Nail, a 35 foot Hans Pedersen was built for Joe in 1969. The workmanship was great and the boat was well built, but he had added weight to an already heavy boat with the 7/8” solid teak deck and covering boards and the boat rocked and rolled in the ocean. He sold the Pedersen and looked for three years for the right Rybovich.
The Rybovich Joe found in Florida needed a lot of help. He had to make an offer before seeing it, but his offer was subject to a survey. He was shown a picture of the boat right after it had been fixed up by Rybovich. When he got to see the boat in Florida with the bow down in the water, engines seized and in overall bad shape, he had it surveyed and offered half his original bid, which the owner accepted. The boat was built in l956-1957 for the president of a petroleum company and cost $55,000 without engines. He had work done on the boat and the following year the boat, still in Florida, was repowered with new models of the seized gas engines the boat had.
On November 19th, 1977 Joe pulled into Indian Cove Marina with Proud Lady. Repowered and ready to fish, Joe hired Sam Cass, a professional captain from the Bahamas who was in the Hamptons for the summer. Proud Lady would leave Friday mornings with several fishing friends, always at least three, always boating people who knew Joe’s rule on the boat – “If you think you might get sick, bring something to take, because we don’t go back.”
They’d stop at a deli for food. The boat has a wonderful stove, but it was only used to make coffee and sometimes his brother-in-law would make eggs for breakfast. They’d head toward Montauk and often stopped at the 30 mile sea buoy, hoping to catch billfish – marlin or sword. They also bottom fished and had trips to Greenport. When they went out at night, they would get albacore or tuna until it got dark but it wasn’t very exciting to get a sword in the dark because you couldn’t see anything.
Beyond the initial restoration when Joe bought Proud Lady, he had it repowered again in l984 in Florida by a former Rybovich employee. John Rybovich came by to see the boat and said he had picked the perfect engines for the boat. For the second repowering, everything was removed from the engine room. Stringers were removed and made thicker and stronger and bubbles were constructed under each engine to allow the taller Cummins diesels to fit. Everything was spray painted with Awlgrip, new Morse single lever controls added, new wiring, hoses and battery boxes, lighting, air conditioning, Halon system, fuel tank, exhaust systems for the engines and generator and a new teak deck. The bubbles not only accommodated the taller engines, they also provided lift while running.
The next year a new teak transom was installed with epoxy as Rybovich was building their new boats. New teak covering boards and a new U-shaped seating area for 8 was created for the bridge. In 1996 the hull sides were sanded to bare wood down to the chine rails and covered with two layers of fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin.
In 2003 the boat got a new teak deck and covering boards. In 2007 Bob Panish installed new Panish single lever controls and Proud Lady also got
new rudders, new headliner and new LED lighting. In 2010 the head was updated with a custom mahogany cabinet, cultured marble sink, new Raritan head, holding tank and welded aluminum water tank.
From the time he was sixteen, Joe was trained as a jewelry setter. He worked for eleven years on his first job before leaving to start his own jewelry business. A man who creates jewelry for retailers like Tiffany and Cartier is likely to extend his need for perfection to his boat. Upkeep responsibilities for a quality boat might be seen as tiresome or boring by some owners, but to Joe, who sees the boat not only as a member of the family but as a work of art, it’s a pleasure to maintain it. As the Rybovich yard changed and improved their boats, Joe followed and Proud Lady got the changes and improvements. He’s precise, very exacting and loves the boat enough to do his own varnishing.
The one person who had the passion and emotional connection with the boat that Joe has for Proud Lady, enjoyed it with Joe from 1976 to 1982, when he died in an accident on Southern State Parkway. Joe’s son would have inherited the boat. The grandsons like the boat but don’t have that strong feeling for it, so he’s selling the Proud Lady. Five pages of pictures and description can be seen on myrybovichproudlady.com.