STOW - If you would like to travel down memory lane and learn what crossing Chautauqua Lake was like prior to the Interstate 86 bridge, then visit the Bemus-Point Stow ferry.
On Friday, officials held a summer grand opening for the ferry, which has received its state certification to legally travel across the lake this year. The vessel will run 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 6 or 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The ferry is free to ride, with donations accepted for the trip.
In May, the ferry didn't pass its inspection because of state regulations that require all water vessels to have an anchor, an electric horn and automatic sump pumps with an alarm system in each of the seven containers keeping the barge afloat.
State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-Chautauqua County, and John Cheney, director of vessels for the Sea Lion Project Ltd., which operates the Bemus Point-Stow ferry, on the vessel during its grand opening for the summer Friday. The ferry will operate from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 6 or 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The ferry is free to ride, donations are accepted.
P-J photo by Dennis Phillips
During the grand opening, Cheney discussed the new state regulations, which called for an anchor for a boat that is connected to a cable and the seven sump pumps instead of just one for the entire vessel.
''All of a sudden this year it was not sufficient,'' he said.
Cheney said if it wasn't for all the volunteers and businesses who donated parts and labor, the ferry might not have gained state approval to run.
''It isn't me. It is all the people that helped,'' Cheney said about the vessel finally being prepared to operate for the summer.
In fact, when people heard the ferry needed an anchor to run, Cheney received several phone calls from people wanting to assist.
''I received 11 phone calls from people willing to donate anchors,'' Cheney said in June. ''I had an anchor dropped off. I don't even know who it was from. I didn't know I had so many friends.''
State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-Chautauqua County, said the state regulations have to apply to all vessels, even though not all boats are the same. However, he said thanks to the donations, the regulations like needing an anchor were met.
''We have so many anchors now we can say ''Anchors away,''' he said.
Goodell, who is licensed to operate the ferry, said he remembers being a child riding the ferry as the only way to cross Chautauqua Lake.
''It was always a great adventure,'' he said.
In June 1811, Thomas Bemus was granted a license to operate a ferry from Bemus Point to Stow. The ferry began operations out of necessity in order to get goods from one side of the lake to the other. Now the vessel is an historic asset to the county that draws tourist to the region every year. The ferry has been in near continuous operation since it was first operated.