Sobe Sunset yacht owner Cyril Silberman and his wife

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Credit: Miles Cherkasky

My life in boats: how an engineer turned owner runs his boat off a single computer

10 April 2024 • Written by Grace Trofa

Every month, we speak to yacht owners about their life in boats. This month, Cyril Silberman, an engineer by training, says he’s having a good time experimenting with his 29-metre Sobe Sunset, which runs on a single computer...

I got involved in boating in high school when I built my first boat with friends. A good friend of my father’s started Interplastic Corporation. He spotted us five gallons of his experimental epoxy and we built the boat with plans we found in Popular Mechanics. I think I still have fibreglass resin in my hair.

Over some 60 years, I have had around six boats. The last one, a 19-metre Horizon, I owned for 15 years before I started my current project, Sobe Sunset. No boat was ever just right, so I set out to build the perfect one. I started designing this thing 25 years ago. 

For 58 years, I ran an engineering firm that built most of the world’s retractable roofs for stadiums and docking systems for space centres. I spent my whole life working for clients, but you reach the point where you get tired of building stuff for other people because you must give the key back when you’re finished!

Courtesy of owner

I spent $100,000 drawing up a boat from the keel up then went to shipyards to see if I could work out a deal. I now understand why the Navy can never get a ship built on time or on budget. 

I finally decided to buy and rebuild an old hull and rented a space on the Miami river and took some of my employees. I kept track of every nickel, and since my wife Florence is the purser, the boat is efficient but economical.

I did my first sea trial in January 2023 and it ran pretty darn good. I stripped out all the hydraulics and conventional engines. It has two small diesel engines and two big electric motors, and with no rudders it steers like an airplane. 

It is 100 tonnes, 29 metres and my wife and I run it, no crew. The whole boat runs on a single computer. We have an engineer back in the office who monitors the boat, watches everything and can even steer.

Courtesy of owner
Credit: Miles Cherkasky

I don’t want to go into the boatbuilding business, but I would like to license some of these ideas. I’m having a good time here at Sunset Harbour (on Miami Beach). I run down the back stairs of the condo and off  I go on my boat. 

For the first three years I was president and helped get this place started. My wife and her friends set up a club called The Reel Boat Wives of Miami; everyone wants to join! I like hanging around with everybody, that’s what I enjoy.

I’ve had my moments on the water, like the time I was taking my motor cruiser back to Miami from the Bahamas, alone. The boat’s on autopilot and I’m up on the bridge reading a magazine when, out of nowhere, I get hit with a rogue wave. It came 5 metres up, right over the bridge. One minute I’m looking at blue sky, next minute green water. I jumped up, counted my fingers and teeth, looked around and saw nothing.

Within minutes, all the circuit breakers went off with little smoke rings, the windshield was broken, and I had to chug along at five knots. At some point I caught sight of a Coast Guard boat and finally used one of those flares that I’d been saving for 25 years. 

Ultimately, they left a couple of guys on board to travel back with me. The fridge was out, so we drank all the beer and ate all the goodies, but at least I had company for the eight-hour trip back.

First published in the April 2024 issue of BOAT International US Edition. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.

Read More/My Life In Boats: the owner of 21m yacht Seabear shares a lifetime of sailing and boats

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