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Sea Lion headed for historical park

Boat that sat in Barcelona for 10 years is getting refurbished

October 29, 2015
By Jimmy McCarthy ( , Westfield Republican

A renowned ship sitting idle for years is en route to a new destination and a brighter future.

Work to transport the Sea Lion from Barcelona Harbor began Oct. 22 as it heads to Albany and eventually to its destination at Henricus Historical Park in Chester, Virginia. Henricus Citie Militia, a volunteer group working with the historical park to recreate the second English settlement, will restore the ship to its former elegant state after stabilization work is completed by a company in Albany. The Sea Lion has sat at the entrance of Barcelona Harbor for more than 10 years.

"It was literally a dream of about six people when it started," said John Cheney, member of the Sea Lion Project Ltd. "They all got together, and Ernie Cowan did the drawings and made a lot of the tools. Ernie was the backbone of the Sea Lion."

Article Photos

Photos by Jimmy McCarthy
Constructing the Sea Lion started out as a dream, and now, the ship will see a brighter future as it heads to a new location down south.

Dennis Strawderman, director of the Henricus Citie Militia and the newly founded Sea Lion Foundation, said the ship will be situated and restored at the park to give visitors the opportunity to see its progress. Strawderman said the ship will add to the park's list of historic features that include a Native American village, a fort and a hospital.

"This is going to make for a more living, breathing type of visit for people with a new nautical venue," he said. "We're really excited about it. This is all due to the dedication of the people up here who built it, sailed it and brought it up from the Lake Erie waters."

The Sea Lion, a replica of the three-masted British ship, began sailing on Chautauqua Lake in 1985. After a legal battle ensued, the ship was sold in 1992 to Buffalo Maritime Society. The Sea Lion then moved from Chautauqua Lake to Barcelona Harbor and up to Buffalo where it sank in the waters of Lake Erie in 1999. Local divers headed by Sam Genco raised the ship in 2000. After being resurrected from the water, the Sea Lion was towed back to Barcelona Harbor.

Thousands of students rode the famed ship during its time in Chautauqua County, showing the younger generation what it took to build America, Cheney said.

"That was what the dream was all about," Cheney said. "We sailed it on Chautauqua Lake, but it was not big enough for the ship because we couldn't turn it around due to the wind and the shores. It just wasn't feasible."

The Sea Lion's presence at Barcelona Harbor was truly significant as visitors from across the country ventured to the area, Cheney said. Individuals as far as Finland came to the area with plans to build replicas back in Europe.

With Henricus in possession of the Sea Lion, Cheney said the dream that originated many years ago when a group of men began construction continues.

"They're going to fix it the way it should be," Cheney said.



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