★★★ Evolution of Sportfishers ★★★
Newport Beach, CA, is the site for a family reunion of the nautical kind June 9-11, 2017.
For the first time, the Newport Beach Wooden Boat Festival is showcasing the evolution of sport fishing boat design. They’ve come a long way, as you can see from the field on display.
At the turn of the century, sportfishing was done from boats rowing around in order to troll. With the advent of propulsion systems for cruisers from the 1910-20s time frame, single screw cruiser type boats were set up to catch the big ones, even though they were more yacht than sportfisher as we know the class today. Colnett is an example of that time period.
Trolling the waters between Key Largo and Bimini, author Ernest Hemingway and other celebrities helped to introduce the well-heeled of the Roaring Twenties to the challenges of catching marlin and sailfish. In 1934, he asked the Wheeler Shipyards of Brooklyn, New York, to build him a modified Playmate cabin cruiser with: extra tankage so he could fish farther and longer, a transom lowered 12 inches for landing fish, a live fish well and an auxiliary inboard motor. She also had a wooden roller spanning her transom to ease fish into the cockpit. Today, you’ll find sportfishers with a transom door for this purpose.
Thanks to Papa Hemingway and his 38-foot fishing boat Pilar, millions of Americans think nothing of spending a day, weeks, or a life of weekends on the water. He was a founding father of the multibillion-dollar sportfishing industry today, along with legends such as Charles Holder, Michael Lerner, Tommy Gifford, the writer Zane Grey and General George Patton.
An early adopter of outriggers, Hemingway added a flying bridge with controls to his boat a few years after he bought her. John Rybovich and Sons rose to fame after Hemingway brought his Wheeler to the Rybovich boatyard for sportfishing modifications. The 1930s were a time of experimentation. Everyone was trying to improve the boats, the tackle and the fishing techniques, laying the foundation for sportfishing today.
Miss Chevy II, a 34-foot craft, was commissioned by car dealer Charlie Johnson in 1947. The boat included the first fighting chair and first set of aluminum outriggers. The three Rybovitch sons introduced models equipped with transom doors and tuna towers. Their boats were edge-glued and glassed from bow to stern, which give them longevity.
In 1952, Miss Chevy IV introduced the company’s broken sheer design, providing a more sleek profile than the previous seven, trunk-cabin craft. From the fighting chair and the transom door, all of the Rybovich’s on display, Bimini Babe (1954, #13), Four Bells (1955 #16), Drambuie(1956 #23) and Cracker (1956 #24) represent the dawn of a new era.
The growing popularity of sportfishers led to amenities and technologies for family and friends on long-range trips. The Elliott Dolly is an example of the larger, more luxurious accommodations. The Huckins Huck Fin represents another boat company well known in the 1960s. Other popular builders known to build wooden sportfishers in the ‘60’s include Chris Craft, Viking, Egg Harbor, Marliner, Dittmar Donaldon, Drake and Post.
Bertram came on the scene in the 1960s with their fiberglass sportfisher. Fiberglass quickly replaced wood as the desired building material and ultimately replaced wooden boats for decades. In the mid-80s, new construction techniques with epoxy and cold molding, using wood once again, came into fashion. Boat builders using these techniques began producing lighter weight boats that were stringer faster and more efficient than their fiberglass counterparts. Ironically, in 1964, Rybovich started using this process, Merritt and other manufacturers adopted the modern process and 50 years later the majority of the ultimate sportfisher builders of today are building boats out of wood again.
In this full circle from wood to fiberglass to wood again, the elite builders are recognized for their consistent quality, level of fishing functions, range of customized options. They have greater flexibility on the design of the layout along with improved power options that have produced yachts with mind-boggling performance. Add the craftsmanship and state of the art building processes that includes the utmost attention to detail, these boats deliver an incredible level of owner and crew satisfaction. In addition to Rybovich and Merritt, mentioned above, there are many other builders delivering magnificent boats that are wood at heart. Some of these builders include Garlington, Spencer, Bayliss, American, Monterey, Jim Smith, Tribute, F & S, G & S, and others.
The common thread is these boats are designed and built for comport, style, speed, efficiency, and safety all to provide the good life in pursuit of your dreams.