With the summer breeze in your face and the sun on your back, let the Chautauqua Belle take you on an unforgettable cruise!
This season we are please to announce the new schedule and ports of call for our vessel. In time-honored tradition of the original steamboats that once plied the waters of Chautauqua Lake, we are scheduled to arrive at the world famous Chautauqua Institution to pick up and drop off passengers who wish to visit the institution on a daily basis during the season. Learn about the history of Chautauqua on our daily narrated tours. Our local historian Helen Ebersole says “The Running Commentary by the personnel is an accurate, worthwhile and colorful review of lake history!”
In 2007 US Steam Lines Ltd, was formed by Captain Mathew Stage to purchase the steamer Chautauqua Belle from the failing Sea Lion Project Ltd which had put her up for scrap auction.
Captain Mat grew up on Chautauqua Lake, a small lake in the westernmost corner of New York State. Chautauqua is one of New York’s most treacherous lakes, with its north-south orientation to Lake Erie and vulnerability to high winds she generally claims at least one or more lives per year.
For many years Capt Mat’s family vacation was a cruise in the Caribbean. It was pre 9/11 and he would spend most of his nights on the bridge of the cruise ship with the officers, learning all he could. All too frequently an officer could be overheard saying… “does that kid always ask that many questions”
With a PASSION for boats, Captain Mat started working at the age of 8 or 9 on Chautauqua Lake public vessels, such as the Celebration, Miss Rose, the Summer Wind and Frolic. With a jet ski as a primary means of transportation, he was able to get to work daily, in an effort to further his goal in life…. what had now become to be, the Captain of a cruise ship.
At the age of 18 and with 10 years of experience in the tour boat industry, Captain Mat purchased the Chautauqua Belle. Beginning on a multi-year restoration project, he attempted to keep every part of the Chautauqua Belle original, just as the builder, James Webster had done. Developing a historical tour around the late eighteen hundreds history of the Chautauqua Lake area, as well as catering dozens of parties, receptions, or weddings, each year the Belle is running almost daily throughout the summer. 1 of 5 operating steamboats left in North America, the Belle is one of the most photographed and well-known icons in Western New York. Her classic Steamboat lines, tall stacks and gingerbread lattice have been seen in photos all over the world.
Graduating from SUNY Maritime with an Unlimited 3rd mate license, Captain Mat continued to follow his passion. Today he sails with Oceania Cruise Lines on their flagship Riviera, a luxury Cruise Line operating into and out of, ports all over the world. With an “unlimited” license (officer of the watch, any vessel, any ocean in the world) Mat is now a second officer with day-to-day responsibilities, as the officer on the bridge. While he continues to work towards his goal of being a Captain on a cruise ship, his first love is still Chautauqua Lake and the Chautauqua Belle. Won’t you please join him as he continues to work on this wonderful restoration project, to keep it operating into the future for generations to come.