Erie Canal Boat Seneca Chief

The Buffalo Maritime Center is constructing a traditionally built, full-sized reproduction of the Erie Canal Boat Seneca Chief, at the Longshed at Canalside in Buffalo, NY, to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Erie Canal happening in 2025.

By opening a route to the Great Lakes and beyond, the Erie Canal played a decisive role in America’s expansion to the West, and the literal shape which the country took over the remainder of the century.

The building of the Erie Canal Boat allows us to practice and preserve traditional boatbuilding skills. Building publicly at Canalside lets us engage the public in considering the history and legacy of the Erie Canal. Once it’s complete, the boat will travel the route of the Erie Canal, acting both as a host to educational exhibits and as an exhibit in its own right.

The keel is white oak, and the planks on the boat will be larch over cypress. The interior of the cabin will be outfitted with cabinet-grade hardwood. The fittings will be wrought iron and cast bronze. The finished construction will be 73’ long, 12’6” wide and it will weigh over 20 tons! The project is scheduled for completion in the Fall of 2023.

Stop by the Longshed and walk on the floor of the Longshed to see the construction up-close and talk with BMC volunteers about the project and process to build this 73 foot-long vessel!

For more information about the Erie Canal Boat Seneca Chief, please click here to read Chris Andrle’s Fact Sheet.

Erie Canal Boat Project | Seneca Chief

The Idea

The Design

The Keel

Cutting the Keelson

USS Trippe

The USS Trippe is BMC’s representation of an early 1800’s commercial sailing vessel, which was outfitted to fight in the historic battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. It’s also one of the BMC’s most significant community boat building projects.

The original USS Trippe was built in the fledgling port of Black Rock as a merchant vessel. As the War of 1812 reached the Niagara Frontier, she was bought by the U.S Navy and hastily converted into a warship. The Trippe was the smallest vessel to fight in the Battle of Lake Erie. Our boat began as the personal project of the late Kevin McCarthy and evolved into a full-fledged BMC volunteer-built project. When the boat is launched, she will serve as an operating example of a traditionally rigged Lake Erie sloop.

Buffalo Wailer

The Buffalo Wailer is another community boatbuilding project underway at our 90 Arthur St. shop. The Wailer is a newly built example of a historic, locally significant design: the Lake Erie shallop. Prior to the age of motorized boats, shallops like this were the typical commercial fishing boat in Buffalo and Lake Erie. At 20’ long, the Wailer is a shorter, more nimble version of the traditional shallop design.

This project has been undertaken by a capable and dedicated crew of volunteers. When launched, the Wailer will join the BMC’s on-the-water fleet and offer new opportunities for youth and community sailing programs.

Erie Traveler

The Erie Traveler is a 52-foot replica Durham boat built in 2016-2017 at the Buffalo Maritime Center by a team of 40 volunteers for the Lockport Locks Heritage District.

Based on extensive research, the boat is a replica of those that were in use on the Niagara Frontier when the Erie Canal opened and were quickly repurposed to the canal.

This year, the boat begins its sixth season in Lockport, New York where it is used by the Lockport Locks Heritage District Corporation to demonstrate the functioning of the restored Erie Canal Flight of Five locks.

BMC’s On-the-Water Fleet

The BMC maintains and operates a fleet of boats based on traditional and locally relevant designs from the age of working sailboats and early motor launches. We believe that sailing traditional craft deepens the understanding of the history and the relationship of Buffalonians and our local waterways.

The Buffalo Maritime Center partners up with the Traditional Small Craft Association (TSCA) to encourage the use of traditional wooden boats and the BMC has a local chapter of the TSCA. In fact, sailing our on-the-water fleet is a TSCA/BMC activity! For more information about TSCA, please contact Roger Allen at


At 28’ long, this example of a Lake Erie shallop has been the flagship of the BMC’s on-the-water fleet for many years. Built in 2007, Scajaquada was one of the BMC’s earliest boat building projects and has since spent many seasons on public display at the Commercial Slip, the Terminus of the Erie Canal. A true working exhibit, the Scajaquada offers the public an opportunity to sail with us on this historic type of boat.

The Scajaquada is currently undergoing a year-long restoration project but is anticipated to be ready for the 2022 summer season.

White Electra

The White Electra is an example of an early 1900’s electric launch. Boats like this were used to ferry passengers at Buffalo’s 1901 Pan-American Exposition. Our boat was completed by BMC volunteers and is used to offer the public free boat rides and tours of Buffalo’s Inner Harbor.

O.K. Clark

The O.K. Clark is an example of a “No Man’s Land” type boat, a small boat developed in the Mid-1800’s for use in the Atlantic Ocean on the south side of Cape Cod. Although not a type common to the Great Lakes, the boat is a seaworthy and stable part of our fleet. The O.K. Clark can usually be seen at the Commercial Slip in the summer and is sailed as part of the BMC’s free public sailing program.