This weekend marks the first time this summer that both historic Chautauqua Lake vessels, the Chautauqua Belle and the Bemus Point-Stow Ferry, are in service for all to enjoy.
The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry has been running for more than 200 years. According to Tom Bustin, one of the ferry's operators, the ferry that is currently making the trek back and forth to Bemus Point and Stow was launched in 1939.
Bustin said that the most enjoyable part of running the vessel is the people that he is able to meet on a daily basis, as well as the stories that he has the opportunity to hear.
The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry is in operation after complying with all state regulations. View more photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
"A lot of people have been on (the ferry) when they were kids, and they want to come back and ride it again with their grandkids or company. They want to bring them up, take them for a ride and show them what it's like," Bustin said.
Gary Gassman, from East Amherst, is one of the people to whom Bustin referred.
"Every time we come down to Bemus (Point), we always make it a point to take the ferry if it's running. When I was a little kid we used to do it. Now, we do it every year. Our daughter is up from Virginia, and we want to make sure that she understands the history," Gassman said.
Gassman, who was riding the ferry with his wife and daughter, said that the family makes a day out of coming to the area. He said that they are able to enjoy the ferry and the lake, before heading to Midway State Park to play skee-ball.
"Nobody knows when (the ferry) runs, and they should. Everyone should take a ride," Gassman said.
Several miles down the lake runs the Chautauqua Belle, making her voyage between Mayville's Lakeside Park and Chautauqua Institution's Miller Bell Tower.
"The Chautauqua Belle is one of only four still-remaining authentic steam-powered steering wheelers left in North America. There used to be tens of thousands of these vessels, and we're down to only four left in our country," said Mat Stage, owner and captain of the Chautauqua Belle.
Passengers aboard the vessel enjoy a cruise along the lake that lasts one hour and 45 minutes. Along the way, they learn facts about the boat and the area. Additionally, it has food and drinks available for purchase on-board, as well as a variety of cruises throughout the summer.
"We create a unique experience on board, where it's not just a narration, but it's a historical tour, and you involve yourself in the history. This type of physical power and motion - watching the paddlewheel turn, the steam engines chugging along - it brings you back into the day," Stage said.
Like Bustin, Stage said that he enjoys meeting a variety of people every summer while the boat is running.
"Every single day, we see the generations come back year after year, from the ones who went on with their grandparents, and now are bringing their kids on board. It's a heartwarming experience," Stage said.
Jerri and Walter Workman, summer residents of Chautauqua Institution from Kerrville, Texas, were two of the many people that chose to ride the Chautauqua Belle on Saturday morning.
"We wanted to be better acquainted with the wonders of nature in this area," Walter Workman said.
Walter Workman said that he had taken a ride on the boat before, however it was Jerri Workman's first time on the boat.
"I loved it," Jerri Workman said. "It's just a different view of the lake than you get from onshore. There were lots of facts about how few steamers and paddlewheels there are today, and how it was restored, and the history and facts about the lake."
The Workmans said that they hoped to be able to bring their grandchildren on the boat, and intend to ride it several more times.
"It's a good look at what America used to be. It's delightful, enjoyable and fabulous," Walter Workman said.
The Bemus Point-Stowe Ferry runs Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 9 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day. There is no cost to ride the ferry, but donations are appreciated.
The Chautauqua Belle office is located at 78 Water St. in Mayville. For updated rates and schedule, visit the Chautauqua Belle website at www.269belle.com.