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Rybovich 42 Express Walkaround

What grabbed my attention, for starters, was the hull color—“seafoam green,” Rybovich calls it. Thanks to the unique sense of tropicality it conveys, I had no trouble spotting Jimmy Buffett’s new 42-foot Express Walkaround from the dockmaster’s office at the Galleon Marina in Key West. With further study, I could see a host of classic details as well, even from afar. While I was aware that the hull and superstructure had been fabricated in vinylester-infused, Core-Cell foam-cored fiberglass by New Orleans-based and military-patrolboat builder United States Marine (not to be confused with U.S. Marine, the Brunswick entity), the appearance of the craft still borrowed much from Rybovich’s long wooden-boatbuilding heritage.

Flawlessly finished teak toerails stretched from the bow back along a lovely, broken sheerline. Teak caprails, also flawlessly finished, surmounted exquisitely thin wingwalls on either side of the steering station. And just above the waterline, in the vicinity of the break of the bow, I noted the faint beginnings of a long, retro-looking chine log, a slight, down-angled widening along the edges of the bottom commonly used on wooden planing vessels—Rybovich sportfishermen included—to flatten and reduce spray.

I let go a soft, appreciative whistle, then hustled down the dock. Time was of the essence. Although presently tied up working on a new album in a nearby recording studio, Buffett was antsy to play with his new toy. So four hours—maybe five—was all the time he was gonna let somebody else use her—especially with sea conditions being so sweet, at least inside the reef. From where I stood, it looked just about flat-calm all the way north to Garrison Bight Channel, although seas to the south, out toward the Florida Straits, looked six-foot or better.

When I got to the boat, there were two guys aboard: Buffet’s captain, Tyler Andresen, and a local fishing guide, Scott Irvine. After we’d hefted my test gear into the Burmese-teak-planked cockpit, exchanging pleasantries in the process, I suggested we hit the trail for the high seas as soon as possible.

Andresen eased the 42 out of her slip. I passed on maneuvering the boat myself, hewing to the belief that it’s never a good idea to dock or undock a million-dollar vessel in the absence of the owner. Once the big, varnished-teak transom was clear of the protruding fingerpiers, I took over and immediately began waving magnanimously at folks in the marina while tooling along, humming Buffett’s “Margaritaville.” The tune was totally appropriate, of course. It was why Buffett was calling the boat Margaritavich, thereby blending the consultative role he’d played in developing the prototype for a new line of production-type Rybovich 42s with the talents he’s demonstrated over the years for writing popular, boat-friendly music.

The steering was ball-bearing smooth. But then, what else would you expect from a system that combines Teleflex SeaStar hydraulics with a couple of SeaStar power-assist units, one on each engine, as well as an elegant Rybovich custom wheel? Idle-speed visibility was 360-degree superb, too, whether I was standing at the helm or sitting in the doublewide Stidd. Instrumentation and electronics were simply and understandably laid out as well: Cummins multigauges flanked a Simrad AP22 autopilot and a Simrad IS12 Combi depth/speed readout on a lower tier, while above, a Simrad CR44 fishfinder/plotter and a Northstar 6000i radar/plotter rotated hydraulically up out of the steering console, pop-up style.

Driving the 42 in open water was a blast, although sound levels at the helm were comparatively high; my 2000-rpm reading was 98 dB-A, for example, and some years ago I recorded just 91 dB-A at 2000 rpm on a Davis 45 Express with twin 700-hp engines. I got an impressive average top speed of 41.9 mph out of the boat in the smooth waters of Man Of War Harbor, but did the real, hardcore wring-out in sportier conditions south of Kingfish Shoals. Thanks to a hull form designed and engineered by Donald Blount and Associates, the 42 handled four- to six-footers with fast-paced agility, zooming dryly through tight turns and figure eights at three-quarter throttle. Tracking was excellent, thanks to a small keel and a longitudinal center of gravity positioned to promote quick and predictable handling.

Two glitches surfaced, however. First, the boat evinced a fairly high running attitude coming out of the hole, enough to momentarily limit visibility from the helm. While the attitude was not as high as some I’ve come across on express-type boats, it was problematic enough to prompt Rybovich to add small, running-angle-reducing wedges to the prop tunnels after our test. The second glitch arrived in the form of a bias to port while doing high-speed, sportfishing backdowns—no matter how much expertise I brought to the process, the 42 seemed to constantly slide off to port. A talk with Rybovich after an aprs-test haulout produced a possible explanation: Her port tab had been slightly deployed during the trial, I was told, a condition that had been both unobservable at the time and unaddressable due to a malfunctioning tab switch.

Once we’d eased on back to the Galleon, Andresen gave me the grand tour, beginning with the engine room. We entered it by simply hitting a switch. Shooop! Up went the steering console via a set of Kiekhaefer pump-powered hydraulic actuators. Auxiliary equipment installations below decks were satisfactory, although wire and hose runs were not as straight and schematic-like as I’d expect from Rybovich. Top-shelf brand names like Northern Lights, Delta T, and Charles Marine were evident thoughout, and engineering details were robust: Seldom do I encounter seachests or giant Scott centrifugal pumps with solid, stainless steel bodies on 42-footers these days.

Andresen lowered the console as I began checking out the interior. It was gorgeous. A smooth, optional bamboo sole accented both the sleeping cabin forward (with V-berth and hanging lockers) and the saloon/galley/dinette area aft. Cabinetry was of Hawaiian Koa wood, carved and inlaid. The joinery style was warm, informal, almost playful, and fit nicely with nautical details like coconut palm tree-decorated wallpaper and louvered cabinet doors.

As luck would have it, I finished up well before Buffet could get back to his boat. “The boss is runnin’ late,” said Andresen, snapping his cellphone shut.

Which was just fine with me, of course. Pestering celebrities for handshakes and the like is a goofy pastime in my book, at least for a semi-grown-up character like me. And besides, while I was walking away in contemplative solitude, I had the chance to turn around a couple of times and admire the classic good looks of the Rybovich 42 Walkaround Express.

She’s the perfect boat for the son of a son of a sailor.

Rybovich Spencer
(561) 844-1800

This article originally appeared in the March 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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