Form and function should not conflict, but when builders get all worked up over looks, a product can cease to be useful. Sometimes you get lucky, though, and both form and function come together gracefully. The most gorgeous and best-functioning tool I've seen in years is Mick Rupp's 65-foot Ryco, China Girl. The boat epitomizes the custom-boat dream and succeeds in areas where others fall short. This marriage of high performance, luxury accommodation and extreme fishability raises the bar and sets new standards for sportfishing boats.
At first glance I knew she was pretty, but I was amazed once I started my serious inspection in the aft lazarrette. Not merely a bilge, this space shines with mirror-like paint and gleaming, polished stainless steering gears. Even in the bilge, the fit and finish made me stop and make a note that this was a finely crafted, cold-molded wooden boat sheathed with 18-ounce fiberglass cloth and that this flawless finish came from fairing and sanding, not a female mold.
I also noticed a unique pump mounted on the aft wall of the fuel tank that I didn't recognize. It was a Boss Separator pump that cycled fuel from the main tank through a small centrifugal water and sediment separator, through an attached fuel filter and back into the tank, ensuring that contaminated fuel will never reach the engines. A stainless-steel stanchion solidly braced to the hull provides a solid support to the fighting-chair deck plate. Thus, the lazarrette, an often-overlooked and ill-planned space, gave me my first hint of the attention to practical detail builder Mike Rybovich and owner Mick Rupp have given this unique boat.
Rybovich builds under the name Ryco because the name of the famous boatbuilding family is not available to him under terms of an agreement made with his father and uncles when their original Palm Beach yard was sold to outside interests. Suffice it to say that his father and uncles would have been proud of what he has built.
It sometimes seems that many fishermen have turned into speed freaks. "She can do 42 knots everyday, and we have seen 44. She runs best in a light chop," says Rupp when asked about the boat's performance. While one or two might be faster, these numbers should make the owners of most other boats drool on their teak decks. (Speaking of which, the teak deck on the China Girl is as close to perfect as I have seen.)
On the bridge I wanted to do a fist pump and yell a big "Yes!" when I found that I could easily see both the bow and angler in the chair from a comfortable position standing at the helm — without having to climb onto a raised step. This is how it used to be and how it should be now!
While docking the boat, I got another pleasant surprise. As we entered the slip, Rupp pushed a small lever under the console to one side with his knee to move the bow of the boat over, allowing the deckhand to take up on a bowline. "I found this idea on one of Roy Merritt's boats," he said. "You shouldn't need a third hand to work the bow thruster in tight quarters or when getting after a hot fish.
The engine room is pristine and loaded with unique equipment designs and functions. I am a huge fan of induction bilge pumping, a setup that allows an engine's raw-water pumps to be used as emergency bilge pumps. I loved the monster rachet handle clipped to a nearby stringer that ensured you close even the stickiest seacock in an emergency. The heavy zip-tie securing the "crash valve" prevents any accidental opening that on lesser boats would aereate the cooling water and cause grave damage to a raw-water pump, and thus a major engine failure.
Hats off to Sean Pavlik, of Pavlik and Son, who worked with Rupp and Rybovich on the interior. Ryco's elegant cabinetry and flawless joinery, combined with Rupp's love for Chinese antiques, work wonderfully with the fabrics, carpets and Shoji panels that provide diffused natural lighting.
Original art and a leopard motif make the master stateroom as elegant and comfortable as any bedroom suite found in a palatial home. A hidden locker behind an oil painting allows the owner to swap decorative cushions for cozy sleeping pillows without struggling with heavy and bulky pillow covers.
Everywhere I looked, the boat abounded with innovative ideas where form and function melded into luxurious living. The sound system and entertainment center allow each crew member or guest to watch TV or a video or listen to music without annoying or interrupting other passengers.
China Girl is not for sale at this time, Rupp says. "Working with Mike is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. I have talked with him about building another boat, but I don't want to be without a boat now, especially this boat. We really have enjoyed both building and using this one."
You cannot ask more than that of a custom boat! If you have a good sense of style and favorite works of art, if you know how to fish and what gear you need or merely want to have on board, you might be able to create a boat as marvelous as China Girl. If you can put your ideas on paper, Ryco can build your dream boat.
Article reproduced from the May 2003 issue of Marlin magazine