Whose Boat Would You Build?

Four builders name their favorites

four boat builders collage
We asked four boatbuilders who, besides themselves, would they have construct their next sport-fisher.(from Left): Courtesy Titan Custom Yachts, Courtesy Steve Goione, Courtesy Tommy Thompson, Courtesy Erwin Gerards
Russ Garufi titan custom yachts
Russ GarufiCourtesy Titan Custom Yachts

Russ Garufi, Titan Custom Yachts

I would build a Duffie Boatworks. Just starting construction on his 63-footer, Jon Duffie is not only a fantastic fisherman, but he is also an innovative thinker with a great work ethic. His new facility is almost complete, and it is the height of modern technology. I have spent several hours with him at my shop discussing new ideas and techniques. I take pride in everything I am personally involved in, and his willingness to do things the way I would want them and to experiment with new ideas, together we could create a sport boat that I would be proud to call mine.

Sunny Briggs of Briggs Boatworks
Sunny BriggsCourtesy Steve Goione

Sunny Briggs, Briggs Boatworks

In the 1980s, I met a young man from Frisco on Hatteras Island who was very creative in the art of boatbuilding. Blessed with an eye for fairness and quality workmanship, and a passion for style, innovation and speed, Mark Willis is a hands-on builder. After a 1990 move to Stuart, Florida, his quest for perfection was ignited, and a tour of one of his most recent builds, the 77-foot Uno Mas, confirms his real talent. Like most great boatbuilders, you can always find Willis with tools in hand, and something new and creative on his mind. I would be honored to have him build me a boat.

Tommy Thompson of Bertram Yachts
Tommy ThompsonCourtesy Tommy Thompson

Tommy Thompson, Bertram Yachts

I started my career working on commercial fishing and diving boats in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. One of them was a dive boat in Pompano Beach, Florida, so I’ve seen more than my fair share of Merritt deliveries out of that facility. I’d have to tip my hat to Roy Merritt and admit I’ve secretly always wanted to build a Merritt. But, it’s my commercial boat roots that make me want to build some sort of lobster boat; that function-over-fashion thing that I have always liked: Stupid-wide, heavy-duty everything, and they’re more about the cockpit than living space. Okay, who am I kidding? I’d build whatever my wife wants!

Erwin Gerards of Gamefisherman
Erwin GerardsCourtesy Erwin Gerards

Erwin Gerards, Gamefisherman

This question doesn’t take much pondering. I would have Michael Rybovich and Sons build me a boat. I started my yacht-design career at Rybovich under head builder Gary Hilliard, and was lucky enough to work with Mike at Rybovich and Sons. I have learned a great deal from them both. Mike’s incredible knowledge, eye for detail, honesty and passion are admirable—he is a true boatbuilder. With everything he has going on, he still takes the time to talk to anyone who walks in the yard. And, I would definitely give him a really hard time on the build, just to mess with him—payback!