A perennially popular draw to the Rondout waterfront since 1986, the good ship Rip van Winkle has shown many passengers a good time, but has seen better days. The happy news from Hudson River Cruises is that the tour boat is about to be replaced by a newer and spiffier model, comfortingly dubbed the Rip van Winkle II.
Built in 1980 by Edward T. Gamage in East Boothbay, Maine to be an oil industry shore well platform service vessel, the original Rip was purchased instead by Charles Robertson, owner of the New England Steamboat lines, and converted to passenger service. An upper deck, lavatories, a snack bar and a liquid bar were added, and in 1982 she was put into service as the Yankee Clipper, carrying people across Long Island Sound from Haddam, Connecticut to Greenport and Sag Harbor. During this period, the vessel was also contracted by the US Navy to ferry sailors out of New London.
Hudson River Cruises brought the boat to Kingston in September 1985 and began running tours aboard the Rip the following year. Since then, thousands upon thousands of locals and visitors to the Valley have packed its decks for two-hour guided loops enjoying the historic sights lining the banks between Kingston and the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, not to mention music-fueled dance parties, cruise-and-dinner packages, sunset cruises, murder mystery parties, fall foliage and fireworks-viewing excursions.
The recently refurbished Rip van Winkle II, set to take over her touring duties this month, is described by Hudson River Cruises general manager Kevin Buckel as “an upgrade in every way from the Rip van Winkle, in terms of comfort and accommodations,” providing “a more authentic riverboat experience.” The new Rip has three decks instead of two, accommodating 400 passengers instead of 300, with the Main Salon on the lower deck offering air conditioning for the first time.
Hudson River Cruises offers daily sightseeing cruises at 2:30 p.m. every weekday and at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on weekends, from May through October. Themed and music cruises will also continue to be offered throughout the season – the Slam Allen Band will play live on the tour embarking at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 11, for example – and like its predecessor, the Rip van Winkle II will be available for private events such as weddings, rehearsal dinners, reunions and social gatherings. The vessel departs from the Rondout Creek on the Strand at the foot of Broadway in Kingston’s marina district, right next door to the Hudson River Maritime Museum. For tickets, private charters and other info, call (845) 340-4700 or visit www.hudsonrivercruises.com.
Rip van Winkle II Hudson River tours, Monday-Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m., $20-$55, 1 East Strand St., Kingston, (845) 340-4700, www.hudsonrivercruises.com