Sights Are Set On Spring 2021 Return For Lake Cruiser
CELORON — Rick Willman never intended for the Summer Wind, the 130-passenger scenic cruiser of Chautauqua Lake, to be out of service this long.
But a one-two punch – first Mother Nature then a worldwide pandemic — has kept the popular boat used for birthdays, weddings and tours moored at the Boatworks in Celoron for more than a year.
“It has been devastating for business,” said Willman, owner of the Summer Wind.
A powerful wind storm that rolled through the south county June 1, 2019, sheared the upper deck off the Summer Wind and damaged the docks in the process. Debris littered the area surrounding the Boatworks, and put an indefinite hold on the season that was about to commence.
At the time, repairs were estimated between $30,000 and $50,000.
The Jamestown-based Williams Fabricating was hired to make repairs on the boat and Willman figured the Summer Wind would be ready to launch for the 2020 season.
However, the coronavirus reared its head in March, and repairs that included replacing the deck and constructing a support structure to hold a new canvas were delayed. Further complicating the matter were state guidelines that limited businesses, especially ones that involved people being in close contact.
The decision was made in April to cancel the entire 2020 season.
Willman estimates he has lost about $150,000 in revenue from the canceled 2019 and 2020 seasons.
“I’ve lost all my tourists,” he said in Celoron, as the last of the structural repairs were completed this month by Williams Fabricating. “The COVID is not helping us, either.”
“Captain Rick,” as he is known locally, is optimistic the Summer Wind, which hasn’t seen a passenger since September 2018, will be ready for the 2021 season. He said the boat will be brought out of the water in the spring for an inspection, and new coats of paint are planned.
“They’ve done a good job restructuring it,” he said. “We’ve redesigned it a little bit to make it a little more usable and better. … We’re going to go through the boat and revive everything and hope to be up and running in late May or early June after we get all of our testing and everything.”