At a recent emergency board meeting of the historic Bemus Point-Stow Ferry, the State of New York annual survey was discussed. Each year the Ferry is inspected carefully to make sure it is safe to operate and for the public to ride. This year was the 10th year survey where the boat has to be hand-steered to the Steamboat cradle near Mayville Park and the bottom inspected for wear and for proper maintenance.
The board members knew that this year’s inspection would be one that might indicate a possible large expenditure of money and repair time for the Ferry. Proactively we had the Ferry hauled out at Mayville at the end of the 2017 summer season for a Marine survey to help us plan for her repairs. The hull was surprisingly sound for its age and we were somewhat relieved when we returned her to her dock in Stow.
Our thinking about the Ferry echoes that of many of its riders over the past years, we want her to survive and to continue running her path from Stow to Bemus Point far into our children’s future. We want to hand down her history and how it relates to our past intact. For this reason, we want to be transparent in our thoughts for the future.
The Ferry was inspected on Thursday, April 12th by a NYS inspector after a team of us removed the wooden decking, exposing the metal decking and the watertight covers into the bilges. The final report was delivered to us this week. The Ferry is officially “out of service”.
After lengthy discussion and review of the complex survey, we needed to assess our financial position and our availability of trained workers who know the Ferry and have helped all along to keep her ship-shape. Most importantly, would she, could she get back on Chautauqua Lake?
We have spent tens of thousands of dollars over the past 10 years in an attempt to bring the Ferry back to life. Many of the issues outstanding started decades ago. Unfortunately, years and years of neglect from before our watch has resulted in today’s situation.
Our dilemma is how to accomplish all we need to do to get her back on the water. Our goal is to do all we can to get her safe and back on Chautauqua Lake as soon as possible. It will likely take more than just the resources of our board, volunteer members and ferry drivers to accomplish this task. It will take welders, carpenters, donations and possibly some corporate help to get this done. It may be necessary to return the Ferry back to Chautauqua County who has deeper pockets.
We want to thank the village of Mayville for allowing the Ferry to be dry-docked for her out of the water inspection on May 30th. We have no idea what this bottom survey will find and will not be able to make a repair plan until we receive the written notice from this inspection. Please consider helping in any way possible or if you are unable to help, maybe you know someone who can help us get the Ferry back in service, flags flying and people waving. At this point we don’t know what will happen to the historic Ferry.
After her 200th season celebration in 2011, it was obvious that the whole county and those who return to our lake each summer would be devastated if she no longer ran. Our greatest thrill each summer is to hear the stories of all who ride her, some for the first time in 40+ years. There is a soft-spot for her, a link to the past and many stories to tell your children and grandchildren about. Please check out our Facebook Page (Friends and Fans of the Bemus- Point Stow Ferry) for photos and history. Also, check out A Ferry Tale, written by Art Thomas to know more about this maritime link to our Chautauqua County History.