Chautauqua Belle To Dock In City This Year
One of the last operating steamboats in North America will be docking at a new home this year.
On Monday, city of Jamestown and U.S. Steam Lines Ltd. announced the multiyear lease agreement that will allow the Chautauqua Belle to dock at the McCrea Point Park boat landing.
During dates in May and June and in September and October, the Chautauqua Belle will make round-trip passenger excursions on the Chadakoin River from the boat landing to the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel. During July and August the Belle will be back in Mayville making trips along the northern part of the lake.
“Being able to arrange this lease agreement with the owners of the Chautauqua Belle is just another piece to the overall redevelopment of the waterfront and (Greater Jamestown) Riverwalk in the city of Jamestown,” said Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor. “Having an historic steamship traverse the Chadakoin on a regular basis will recreate a nostalgic activity on which this city was built. Residents have hoped for and requested the Belle paddle down the Chadakoin and now it will be a reality.”
The agreement between city and U.S. Steam Lines officials will allow the company to lease and maintain the dock within the boat slip in McCrea Point Park. The lease is good between May 1 and Oct. 31 each year for the next five years, with an option for the company to lease the dock for an additional five years. U.S. Steam Lines will pay the city $250 the first year for the use of the dock. The rent will increase $25 per year to a final lease price of $350.
The city has agreed to install a 30-amp, 220-volt, 3-phase electrical service at the dock for the tenant’s use, and the tenant has agreed to pay all electricity charges for its operations. U.S. Steam Lines will also be allowed to install appropriate signage for the Chautauqua Belle operation and take any and all measures to run a safe operation.
Teresi said the conversation about bring the Belle being operated in the Jamestown area started in the summer of 2017 when city officials hosted a community event at the newly remodeled McCrea Point Park. During the event, the Chautauqua Belle made its way to the city to provide rides to those who attended the activities. The Belle was originally scheduled to make only three trips around the Jamestown area, but because of popular demand five trips were made that day.
“It opened up eyes that there were opportunities here in Jamestown,” Teresi said.
The Belle running through the channel from Chautauqua Lake to the Chadakoin River will also have a natural dredging process, which will help all boats that travel the body of water, Teresi said.
“It’s going to bring more life and activity to the waterfront,” he said.
Teresi said the Belle is owned and operated by three generations of the Stage family. In 2007, US Steam Lines was formed by Captain Mathew Stage to purchase the Chautauqua Belle from the Sea Lion Project Ltd., which had put the steamboat up for scrap auction. Stage grew up on Chautauqua Lake with a passion for boats. He started working at a young age on Chautauqua Lake on public vessels such as the Celebration, Miss Rose, the Summer Wind and Frolic. At the age of 18 and with 10 years of experience in the tour boat industry, Stage formed U.S. Steam Lines and purchased the Chautauqua Belle.
Stage’s father, Paul, and grandfather, Del, have also been involved in operating the Chautauqua Belle. Del Stage said it has always been a dream of Mat Stage to provide rides on the Belle in the Jamestown area.
“We are excited. This is great for Jamestown, and it is great for us too,” Del Stage said.
Del Stage said they are ahead of schedule in putting the steamboat into the lake and noted that rides at McCrea Point Park should be available before June.
Taking on a multiyear restoration project, Stage attempted to keep every part of the Chautauqua Belle original, just as builder, James Webster, had done. He then developed a historical tour that was based on the late 1800s history of the Chautauqua Lake area. Stage has also catered dozens of parties, receptions and weddings each year on the Chautauqua Belle.
The Chautauqua Belle is only one of five operating steamboats left in North America. The Belle’s classic Steamboat lines, tall stacks and gingerbread lattice have been featured in photos all over the world.
In addition to his passion for the Belle, Stage graduated from State University of New York at Maritime in the Bronx with an unlimited third mate’s license. Today, he sails with Oceania Cruise Lines on their flagship Riviera, a luxury cruise line operating into and out of ports all over the world. With an “unlimited” license (officer of the watch, any vessel, any ocean in the world), Stage is now a second officer with day-to-day responsibilities as the officer on the bridge. While he continues to work towards his goal of being a captain of a cruise ship, his first love is still Chautauqua Lake and the Chautauqua Belle.
For more information on days and times that the Chautauqua Belle will be paddling down the Chadakoin, visit the company’s website at 269belle.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.