Local business owners tackle restoration of historic Rybovich yacht

Posted 3/2/22

Sara and Pat Shannon have taken on the major task of bringing a 55-year-old, historic Rybovich sport-fishing yacht back to life.

The beautiful but terrifically worn down “Lone Eagle …

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Local business owners tackle restoration of historic Rybovich yacht


Sara and Pat Shannon have taken on the major task of bringing a 55-year-old, historic Rybovich sport-fishing yacht back to life.

The beautiful but terrifically worn down “Lone Eagle II” began her journey to rehabilitation in September 2021, after the Shannons found an advertisement on (a boat sales platform) for the severely neglected relic sitting in Juniper, Florida.

Pat and his son, Will, flew down to meet the boat and her owner in Fort Lauderdale, despite wide-spread discouragements from their peers and boat brokers (one of which told the Shannons he wouldn’t take the vessel if it were given to him free). But, being equipped with their boat yard, SEA Marine, which specializes in repairs and maintenance, they figured they could take on this important project.

Pat and Will took charge of Lone Eagle II  and took her down the New River — a South Florida intercoastal channel — to the bay where her 35,000 pounds were lifted onto a transport ship bound for Victoria, British Columbia via the Panama Canal (after tossing out anything soft or wet to lighten the load). A month later, she arrived in Victoria. The Shannons then had to hire a captain to drive her across the Strait to Port Angeles, given the COVID-19 travel restrictions that prevented them entering Canada themselves.

From the beginning, the Lone Eagle II was a big project. But the Shannons had been looking for the right boat for over two years and fell in love with her history, shape, and style.

“What drew it to us is it’s a very historic boat; we have repaired other boats in the past but not to this extent, but we really love this style and if we can bring her back to life, she’ll be beautiful,” Pat said.

“And I think learning about the Rybovich family company and history made us a lot more interested in this fishing boat,” Sara added.

“Yeah, this is a piece of history, this company invented sport-fishing boats in this style,” Pat said.

It’s true that the Rybovichs hold a legacy in the boatbuilding world. The family immigrated to the United States at the turn of the century and in 1910, started building boats, “for the same reason we continue today — to improve on what is on the water,” the Rybovichs say.

They began their commercial boat repair yard in 1919. The company has been through many changes over the decades: World War II had all three Rybovich sons overseas,

leaving John Rybovich Sr. to run the company without their help; hurricanes and lawsuits stirred up trouble and massive expenses for the family; the 1970s saw the death of John Sr. and the oldest brother, Tommy (but not before he designed and built the Shannon’s Lone Eagle II).

The company has changed hands and evolved but the legacy of their designs remains strong. They’ve kept their sights on “innovation and the pursuit of perfection” and have “subscribed to the same philosophy: Listen, think, and create,” the Rybovichs say.

They add that, “that philosophy is grounded in hard work, a dedication to our craft, and the partnership that we forge with every customer that puts their trust in us.”

Completed posthumously by his brother Emil, “Little Pete” (the Lone Eagle II) was one of the last yachts built by Tommy Rybovich.

The design employed in her construction was considered “the most efficient design that Tommy ever produced,” the Rybovichs say.

Now, she will see her glory days again when the Shannons and their SEA Marine staff do a complete overhaul to restore her original beauty and ability. They aim to renovate her entirely, back to her 1960s designs, which will include restoring a large panel of windows in the front of the boat where they had been blocked out to allow for additional kitchen cabinetry sometime in the past few decades.

The Shannons didn’t have a full understanding of Little Pete’s damage until she was lifted onto the transport ship; the straps crumbled through the chine area as she was hoisted aboard.

Worms and clams and “a little bit of everything,” says Sara, had made their way, boring and nestling throughout the boat. Florida humidity took its toll as well and dry rot allowed certain sections to become a growing medium for mushrooms.

Pat has kept pieces from the worst areas that still have clam corpses deep within the wood’s profile and distinct wandering worm highways. Various renovations from over the years will also need to be renewed for historical integrity, like the window restoration.

It’s a big project, but the Shannons aren’t worried. Little Pete sits in the Navy building at SEA Marine, which holds some history of its own. The massive building was a former repair shop for locomotives in the Bremerton Naval yard, passed through multiple armed forces for various purposes over years of war, and eventually, sometime in the 1950s, was loaded onto a northbound barge, pushed onto logs on the Point Hudson beach, and rolled to its current location in the boatyard, where it has become a staple of Port Townsend’s maritime community.

Inside, the historic yacht sits safely, hulking in the immense building, bathed in squares of sunlight, and coated in evidence of extensive labor.

The Shannons will soon install lifelines above the boat so that the SEA Marine crew can strap in safely to replace a significant chunk of the front deck. Using Edensaw Woods’ Douglas fir and mahogany, the deck will be restored and once again structurally sound with several layers of diagonally patterned wood reinstalled, pliable enough to bend to the hull, and coated in three layers of fiberglass.

“And we’re gonna cover it up?” Sara jokingly asked Pat as he held alluring strips of planed fir to the light, standing in the deliciously pungent woodshop.

Plenty of beautiful wood features will remain visible, however, such as the bar area, the kitchen, the wood-front refrigerator and freezer cabinets, and the walls throughout the berths below.

Another feature that will remain is the strangely floor-seated safe in the master bedroom.

“For some reason they have a floor safe,” Pat laughed as he lifted the little hatch that conceals the combination dial. “We’ve gotta get a locksmith to open it up, it may be our fortune of diamonds or something in there,” he joked.

“Yeah, we think it’ll pay for the boat,” Sara said in good humor.

Pat deflates those sails quickly, adding, “More than likely it’ll have more worms and clams.”

The tuna door will also remain — one of the first of its kind, a chunk of the stern swings open to allow crew to pull a 5-600-pound tuna aboard.

A Rybovich staple, the gracefully curved handrails running along the top deck allow crew to use a footstep below, grab the rail, and quickly swing up onto the deck, will also stay.

Pat compares another original feature to Star Trek-like swiftness: a small, silver foot peddle by the rear steering hub triggers wooden sliding doors to gracefully part, opening to the inside living space. They’ll refurbish this system, which neighbors the cables and pulleys of the steering system, typical of the 1960s and ‘70s. They hope to keep this original design but add some hydraulics to make steering easier.

But of course, it can’t all be saved. All of Little Pete’s wiring will be brand-new.

Clay Jones, SEA Marine expert in all things mechanical and welding-related, climbed through a hole the team had cut in the floor.

“Clay shimmied down there to get some of the wiring out and put on his timecard, ‘I’m the first person since 1967 to be in this area,’” Pat laughs. “It’s kinda neat.”

The SEA Marine crew is almost as excited about Little Pete as Sara and Pat.

“The guys love it, I mean this is what we do so ... everyone wants to be on this project cause it’s a fun one to work on,” Pat says.

He credits a significant amount of the tough work to his crew and their impressive abilities; “It’s amazing how many things they can fix, like ‘You can’t reach back there’; ‘Oh yeah, I can contourt myself to get back there, I can fix that.’”

Intense projects are nothing new for this team and Pat says they do a similarly extensive project every few years.

For the Shannons though, this is just their second personal boat to undergo such major work.

“This is our second major redo. The first one was a 38-foot called ‘Eggsplorer’ that needed extensive redo,” Pat said.

“It didn’t need as much as this one,” Sara clarifies. That’s the boat on which they meandered through the San Juans and raised their kids with.

Now, their kids can’t wait for Little Pete to take their kids, Pat and Sara’s grandchildren, on explorations and adventures.

Little Pete is in good hands at SEA Marine, where so many vessels have been loved on before, and friends co-own and co-run a small crew of experts, and a cheerful blonde shop dog will welcome you at the door of their bright, open lobby, equipped with snacks and beer.

Port Townsend can look forward to seeing this historic yacht beautifully restored and hitting the bay in about a year, continuing the Rybovich legacy and showing off the hard work and dedication of the Shannons and their team.