Jimmy Buffet Memorial
On Land and At Sea with Jimmy Buffett | Triton Original Article by Jim Bronstien via The Triton; Published September 21, 2023

When he owned Rybovich, Triton co-publisher Jim Bronstien got to know Jimmy Buffett, who died September 1 at age 76. Here, Jim recalls adventures, laughs and of course, some amazing boats.

In the yachting industry, many of us are fortunate enough to encounter a few celebrities, musicians and other famous people along the way. For many of them, boating is the reward for that success. But for a select few of these famous folks, it is boating that was always the priority, regardless of the success.

Jimmy Buffett was the latter. Boating and fishing were his lifetime passion and his world revolved around it. The success just made it easier. Through that connection, I was one of the lucky ones who developed a special relationship with him.


Somewhere in the mid-90’s, Jimmy showed up at my office at Rybovich one day, unannounced. He had just bought a small downeaster boat and wanted us to bring it back to life. When the boat arrived and we did a quick look-over, it became clear that it would cost a lot more to restore this boat than it was worth. I told him that. He was disappointed but appreciated my honesty, and he agreed to donate the boat to a charity as a “Boat once owned by Jimmy Buffett. Tax deduction!

That was the start of a long-term relationship with Jimmy, both as a customer and as a friend. While we took care of his various boats over the years, from the 62’ Nordhaven to the 90’ Cheoy Lee and 125’ Delta, there was much more than that. Since he was living part time in Palm Beach, we had occasion to get together for lunches, dinners, drinks and more. One day we went to lunch at the famed Rachel’s Adult Steakhouse, the one that has a great buffet, sports and stocks on the TV’s, and lots of girls. “This has everything you could want for lunch, says Jimmy. I was quickly reprimanded by his manager for taking him somewhere he probably shouldn’t be seen. “Only a couple people recognized him, I pleaded with his manager. “It’s all fine! Jimmy had a blast! And it was his idea!”

Another day I was at the yard with one of his best friends and fishing industry icon, Spider Andresen, when Jimmy arrived. During some conversation, Jimmy learns that Spider and I were planning to go shoot sporting clays the next morning and he asks if he can join us. Of course! He didn’t have to ask permission! So, what does Jimmy do? He changes his entire schedule of flying out to rehearse for a concert tour so he can shoot sporting clays with us and his son.

That was the Jimmy I got to know. Always on the go, impulsive for fun, but thoughtful about it all. And more than anything, Jimmy knew boats. He had it in his blood. Hanging out at a boatyard was his love. As he wrote in an email to me: “I am rummaging around boatyards all my life anyway so why not build one.”

So that’s what he did, over and over with many builders. In our case, talks often turned to fishing boats and what we were building at Rybovich, ultimately leading us to jointly bubble up the idea of a semi-production 42’ Rybovich Express Walkaround fishing boat, the first of its kind. Express Walkaround boats were not in the mainstream then. Perhaps we were a little ahead of our time in design and price but the vision, the passion, the details and the fun were all there, down to the custom Jimmy Buffett Martin guitar insignias etched into the corners of the settee.


Jimmy was now a boatbuilder! Humorously dubbed the “Margaritavich series, his “Last Mango” got a lot of attention and a lot of press, including an iconic kickoff party at the old Bahia Cabana during the 2002 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, where Jimmy put on a free private concert for about 300 invited guests. He offered that to me for no fee instead of signing autographs at the boat show, which he did not want to do. But he did remind me more than once how much he usually charges for private concerts – to which I said, “I could never have paid you that, so thank you very much for the show!”

While that party was memorable for everyone who attended, it was the actual arrival of Margaritavich to the Lauderdale boat show earlier that week that really stood out. On the day we had to bring the boat from Palm Beach to the show, the seas were rough, and we had no choice but to take the Intracoastal to Lauderdale. With Jimmy along for the delivery trip, it became clear we were going to be very late to arrive at our designated time for the inside slip, thus causing about 30 other boats to wait three hours for our arrival in the pouring rain. The talk on the VHF was getting ugly and talk of symbolically destroying Jimmy Buffett CDs was making the rounds. I told Jimmy that it will not be a pleasant arrival. Once we got to the slip, we tied up and left the area so fast before anyone could give us grief. Lo and behold, the next day, the boat was encased in toilet paper by upset brokers and delivery captains. Jimmy found great humor in that whole experience.

I was fortunate to have also taken a few trips with Jimmy including one memorable night in Ocean Reef with me, Jimmy and Spider for the inaugural 42’ trip. The celebration started with vodka martinis (not margaritas!) and ended with him playing an impromptu show at the local bar until 3 a.m. I am not sure if Ocean Reef has seen that sort of scene since! Jimmy always had a guitar handy or was able to borrow one if need be. On one trip to New Orleans where we were building the hull to the Margaritavich, a small group of us were finishing dinner at a restaurant and Jimmy says, “Let’s go to a bar. I think I own one around here.” We all get to the famed Margaritaville bar on Bourbon Street and Jimmy asks the guy playing there that night if he could borrow his guitar. The guy playing says, “Who are you?” Jimmy replies, “This is my place and you’re singing my songs!” That guy was embarrassed. But it was another fun 3 a.m. night.


Jimmy was a generous guy. He even let my family spend a week on his Cheoy Lee yacht in Eleuthera. I think I bartered a bit for some yard work, but the fact that he offered was special and unexpected. That was Jimmy. Of course, while on the yacht, people often asked if Jimmy was on board. The crew would say, “Yes, Jimmy is here,” and I would wave.

In exchange, I was able to sponsor Jimmy and his family to become members at a private club in Palm Beach. But to be accepted, he had to have a dinner and meet the membership committee. I picked him up at his house and reminded him this one dinner night required a tie, to which he says, “I only own one tie and it’s at my house in New York!” I had figured as much so I had a couple extra ties in my car just in case. He was accepted into the club.

This was also the era of “5 O’clock Somewhere,” which he famously collaborated with Alan Jackson. At the time, we were building Alan a custom 60’ Rybovich while also creating the 42’ for Jimmy. One day I asked Jimmy if he knew Alan and he says, “No. I heard he’s a great guy and likes to fish also. I need to meet him.” Two weeks later, they met in the Bahamas and connected the Rybovich and fishing dots, and the rest is history!

Jimmy was a worldwide legend. He will forever be linked to the boating lifestyle, and he always knew that. It was genuine. One day while in his plane flying over the Keys, he looks down at the hundreds of boats and says to me, “See all those boats down there? 90% of them have my music on their boat right now!” Who else in the entire musical planet can say that?

Jimmy was always on an adventure, always upbeat, always appreciative and as friendly a guy as you would ever meet.

The motto he assigned to the 42’ was right out of his own song A Pirate Looks at Forty. In an email he wrote, “I love the slogan taken from Pirate ‘Got to stop wishing, got to go fishing.’ I think it should be our signature slogan. It says it all without saying it at all. See you manana.”

Tight lines and fair seas Jimmy. The world will never forget you.