It’s autumn in New York, but winter feels close as captain Eric Rosen takes the New York Media Boat 10 a.m. tour at 24 knots up a breezy Hudson River.
Bundled in anti-exposure suits, a dozen customers on saddle seats get a 90-minute closeup of New York City, riding a 30’ rigid hull inflatable boat that Ribcraft, Marblehead, Mass., built for New York Media Boat’s diverse missions.
Started as a media support business in 2012, the company today runs a thriving adventure sightseeing and private charter business, along with providing workboat support and platforms for television, film and video productions.
Running out of the North Cove Marina near Manhattan’s World Trade Center, the tour business draws on the downtown tourist trade, running up to 10 trips daily during times of peak summer demand.
The waterborne tour trade is surprisingly robust nearly year-round, and stops only “when it gets solid, usually in February,” said Bjoern Kils, who worked for years as a TV photojournalist and brought that experience to bear in starting New York Media Boat. New York Harbor is a challenging environment at any time of the year, and Kils went to Ribcraft looking for a boat to handle it.
“I was looking for a RIB with a collar because I like the way they ride,” said Kils. He wanted a deep-vee hull to handle the harbor chop, and wanted enough power. Ribcraft usually outfits its 9-meter boats with twin 250-hp outboards, but this one came with twin Yamaha 300-hp power when it went into service in September 2017.
“We have a lot of horsepower on the boat to fight the current,” said Kils. Chop from other boat traffic can be less in the cooler months, “but it doesn’t really matter because the boat performs well,” he added.
On Thursday the west wind was gusting past 15 mph and white water was flying as the Ribcraft cruised past the West Side piers. But customers stayed dry, low in the hull and behind the inflated collar.
“All you see is water, but the tube deflects it all,” said Matthew Velluto, Ribcraft’s director of marketing.
The company’s 9-meter design started as an offshore boat for tactical and patrol use, but it also makes an ideal platform for Coast Guard-certified tour operators, said Velluto.
“We’ve done some COI boats before, but not in this configuration,” he said.
Compared to a tactical boat, built to deliver a squad, the tour version has two rows of seating, allowing customers more freedom of movement for photography and videos. The boat has 12 seats forward, and an after bench behind the helm that can seat two additional, a good spot for small children.
One feature is a 6” raised platform for the helmsman, to clearly see over the heads of guests often bundled in coats and hats.
The typical tour route takes a group up the Hudson and back down along the New Jersey side, then partway up the East River to see the Brooklyn Bridge. A swing back west past Governor’s Island, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island completes the circuit.
Even in winter, the $95 ticket price has its novel attractions like harbor seals. “We have a lot of locals, a lot of repeat customers,” said Kils. “It’s a fun thing to do in New York when you have friends visit.”
In all New York Media Boat operates six vessels based out of Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, N.J., including six-passenger boats and a former Coast Guard 26’ response boat that is the service vessel.
Another 30’ Ribcraft is on the way, with delivery expected in February to begin service in the spring season.
“The Ribcraft is our workhorse,” said Kils. “This boat runs every day.”