STOW – The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry is back and better than ever after a three-year hiatus.
The 90-year-old boat, which operates on two steel cables utilizing two large side-mounted paddle wheels for locomotion, was in need of some major tune-ups and improvements after the 2018 season.
“It basically had a problem with leakage from the top deck into the lower hull,” remarked Jay Kuntz, the co-president of the Bemus Point-Stow Ferry Board of Directors. “There was rust… on the inside of the hull, and that needed to be replaced.”
According to Kuntz, a 96-square-foot piece of the hull was replaced. The deck also was restored to prevent leakage. The boat then underwent four inspections before returning to the water.
The ferry is not only historic, but unique: it is “one of two cable ferries in New York state,” according to Ro Woodard, a current ferry operator and rider since she was a child.
Unlike most ships, the vessel doesn’t pivot in between trips across the lake; instead, the front side of the boat (the bow) becomes the back end of the boat (the stern) and vice versa.
“We’re always going forward. The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry never goes backward,” exclaimed Kuntz.
Although I-86 now allows for a speedy trip across the lake, “there’s still an enjoyment of being able to connect over there,” said Kuntz, motioning across the lake, “with a slower way of looking at life.”
The vessel also serves as a reminder of good times for many people.
“That was part of the summer; you rode the ferry,” said Woodard.
A ribbon cutting, re-dedication and blessing over the boat happens Friday before the craft will be open to the public Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Rides are free, although donations are highly encouraged as it’s the sole source of funding for the group.
“If you give me 50 cents, I’ll thank you. If you give me five dollars, I’ll thank you. If you give me fifty dollars, I’ll probably give you a book that we have,” explained Kuntz.
To learn more about the ferry and volunteer group that runs the craft, visit bemuspointstowferry.org.
“Come out, ride the ferry this summer. We’d love to have you,” furthered Woodard.