Owning a boat in the city is a hassle, but knowing a famous person with a boat is always a good idea. Actor Matthew Rhys is sharing that opportunity, with anyone eager to charter his antique boats. Rhys' newest venture, Moveable Feast, immerses a small group in a Jazz Age experience any time of day, with amenities including music from gramophone records, picnics, oysters, coordinated proposals, tours and more.
Rhys recently displayed the vessel at a Talisker Whisky event to celebrate the second year of its partnership with the NYC nonprofit Billion Oyster Project.
"The idea literally came about when I saw the boat advertised on eBay," Rhys said of Moveable Feast. "Having been a lifelong Hemingway fan, I was shocked to find a Wheeler Playmate for sale on eBay, as I knew how rare they are." So rare, that there are only four registered Hemingway boats left in existence. "In an inebriated moment of lunacy, I bought her and set about a very long road of renovation. Thankfully, I had an incredible Captain who oversaw the whole thing and practically renovated it all herself."
The history of this cruiser boat, i.e. Ernest Hemingway's preferred seafaring vessel, is personal to Rhys. Back in 1939, his Wheeler Playmate was named Rarebit. "Being Welsh, naturally I believed that it was fated in the stars," he said of seeing the boat for sale. Though, "It could also have been the whisky."
Now the owner of an antique boat, which he brought from the West Coast to Brooklyn, Rhys began imagining charters around New York harbor, where people could have some kind of Jazz Age experience: "Listening to gramophone records and clinking cocktails while pooling past the Statue of Liberty," he envisioned. "I wanted people to enjoy her once again."
Along with Captain Kelli Farwell, who used to run her own Wood boat dining experience aboard a WWII minesweeper called Water Table, Rhys worked on restoring a piece of Brooklyn history, this boat, for three and a half years, and now the Moveable Feast (named after Hemingway's posthumously published memoir) experience is open to all.
"We put our time in on Rarebit but it's been worth it," Rhys said. "People can expect a very unique experience on Rarebit. In my mind, you're chartering a piece of New York History. People can play out their Hemingway fantasies, 1930's fantasies or simply charter a very unique, pretty wood boat. It's intimate, we only take six people out. They can expect good drinks, charcuterie, cheese and all the trimmings as they take in all the big sights the harbor has to offer. It's a pretty magical experience at sunset."
Rarebit can leave from Manhattan, Brooklyn or New Jersey. Charters start at $685 per hour, with a two-hour minimum.