All aboard the motor yacht Teal

The Teal crew on the Rondout: Owner John De Forest [co-owner Joe Thomas not pictured]; Emily Reis and First Mate Jason Ihrig

The Teal is co-owned by Joe Thomas and John DeForest, business partners who bought the craft in 2006 and have been operating in Kingston as North River Charters since. The yacht was built in 1961 on Harker’s Island, North Carolina by James Gilliken, but has been completely renovated and extensively upgraded since then, with a new mahogany interior with four-sided bar, new staircases and a fully renovated pilothouse.

“It’s always been a charter boat,” says Thomas, “but it actually started out as a fishing vessel. The deck behind the pilothouse used to be very narrow, with space left all the way around for fishing, but it was converted sometime in the ‘80s. The previous owner brought it here in ‘93 and did some more refits at that time, making it more or less what it is today.”

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Thomas had worked on the Teal for a number of years as a first mate, but working for himself was always something that he had wanted to do. So when the opportunity came up to buy the yacht, he and DeForest did just that. “John’s the business guy and I’m the boat guy,” says Thomas.

Ninety percent of its business is private charters, he says, and every trip is different. “As long as what the customer wants is safe and I’m comfortable with the operation of the boat, and it’s not going to put me into any situations that the Coast Guard wouldn’t like, we can find a way to make it work.”

Charters have been booked on the Teal for just about any special occasion that you can think of (even memorial services), and they do about five or six weddings every summer, as well as numerous rehearsal parties. Even Sweet 16 parties have been big lately, says Thomas. The private charters are customized, varying with the type of food, music or other amenities that the customer wants, so the prices really have to be discussed on an individual basis, says Thomas.

The Teal has a full bar, and food is outsourced from a restaurant or caterer. Arrangements can be made with local restaurants on the waterfront, and musicians or deejays who have gone over well in the past at other events can be recommended by the crew.

The Teal does hour-and-a-half sightseeing cruises, too – usually on Saturdays at 2 p.m., according to Thomas. Traveling at a leisurely pace, the yacht cruises past the sights, which include verdant landscape in spring and summer and fall foliage in autumn, and glimpses of old Hudson Valley estates. The yacht passes by the Rondout Lighthouse, and most of the time, depending on river traffic and variables like the tide, the farther-away Esopus Meadows Lighthouse as well.

Tickets for sightseeing excursions cost $15 for adults, $10 for children. Reservations with a credit card are taken over the phone, or a cash purchase can be made at the dock.

Thomas says that he’s often down on the boat working off-hours when the yacht isn’t booked, and people can stop by and talk to him about a charter in person, if they like. That personal touch is part of what makes the Teal special, he says, adding that both partners are on most trips, with at least one of them on every charter. “A lot of times on the bigger ships, you never even see the captain; but on ours, the pilothouse is right in the center, in the flow of everything, and people can come in and ask me questions directly.”

The Teal hosts Sip ‘n’ Sail cruises with a deejay on some weekends, which are not so much about sightseeing as they are about a party atmosphere. The normal Sip ‘n’ Sail cruise cost is $10 per person, but on Saturday, September 15, there’ll be a cruise from 8 to 10:30 p.m. with live blues music by Murali Coryell. The cost for that cruise is $25 per person; reservations are required.

Excursions for special days like Mothers’ Day and the Fourth of July are scheduled every year, and sell out weeks in advance. The Fourth of July trip is probably their most popular, says Thomas, and he says that, despite having done it for years now, it’s one of his favorite trips of the year as well.

The Teal departs from the Kingston waterfront at 1 Broadway from May 1 to October 31. Reservations with credit card are taken at (845) 750-6025. Sightseeing excursions generally depart on Saturdays at 2 p.m. The cost is $15 for adults, $10 for children. Sip ‘n’ Sail cruises cost $10. A cruise with live blues music by Murali Coryell on Saturday, September 15 from 8 to 10:30 p.m. costs $25; reservations are required. Private charters are customized and prices vary with arrangements for catered food and live or deejay music and amenities. The Teal has a full bar. For more information, visit www.hudsonrivercruisesny.com or call (845) 750-6025.

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