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Paddling Along

Bemus Point-Stow Ferry May Be Back In Action In 2020

The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry is pictured at its temporary home in Mayville in photos taken from the Chautauqua Belle recently. Photo courtesy of Friends and Fans of the Bemus-Point Stow Ferry

Sea Lion Project Ltd. officials believe there is a good chance the Bemus Point-Stow Ferry could return to action on Chautauqua Lake next year.

Chris Flanders, Sea Lion Project Ltd. secretary, recently updated progress on the ferry. With much of the work previously required by the state finished, the ferry was inspected again by a state marine surveyor. The inspector found a small stress crack at one point of newly welded metal. The ferry was pulled back into the lake while the Chautauqua Belle received minor repair work and will soon be returned to the cradle for David Hohl of Hohl Welding to reassess the bottom of the ferry.

“But it is far from the end of the world as we know it, and certainly not the end of the story of the Bemus Point Stow Ferry by a long shot,” Flanders said in an email. “Our core of experienced volunteers and many others have accomplished miracles. The donated welding and advice from Hohl Welding in Buffalo was very valuable. We would still be half done with our list from the State if it weren’t for their keen interest in keeping the ferry on her cables, crossing between the shores far into the future.”

Over the last two summers, the ferry has received new I-beams, created a sturdier deck, is welded closed along its whole perimeter, and covered in a sturdy, long-lasting paint job. All places where rain, waves and melting snow got into the bilges are now closed. There are new pumps in all the bilges with alarms and the bilges are painted for weather and rust protection. Three of the hatches down into the bilges are new and all hatches are fitted with new, tightly sealed covers. There are new supports for the paddle wheels on both sides. Venting is now complete to allow the bilges to stay dry and volunteers are working on a plan to relay the wooden deck in pieces in a way to allow us access to all points on the deck and into the bilges where maintenance will always be needed. There is also a plan to do the cosmetic touches to the buildings and covers to the paddle wheels.

“We want everything on the ferry to be 100%, with no places missed,” Flanders wrote. “She deserves this care. So now to the ‘except’ part of the title of this story. We need a larger patch welded into the bottom of the ferry before she will pass inspection. David Hohl has consented to lead this portion of the repair and will inspect the whole bottom this month before we take her to Stow for the winter. That is the sad news, for all of you, but particularly for us volunteers who have given so many sweaty and fatiguing hours to the repairs. She won’t run this year.”

The ferry's deck features several new I-beams, with the wood decking yet to be replaced. Photo courtesy of Friends and Fans of the Bemus-Point Stow Ferry

Between now and spring, volunteers plan to do cosmetic work on the ferry and reconstruct the wooden deck. Then, the ferry will be taken from Stow to Mayville once the Chautauqua Belle launches for the 2020 season, at which time the welding repairs to the ferry will be made. Once the welding is done, the ferry will be inspected again by the state marine surveyor and, possibly at that point, be returned to service.

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