Aug 5, 2019

Riding the mail boat on Skaneateles Lake

There are seven mail boat contracts in New York but not all carry
passengers and deliver to personal mail boxes. When I was a teenager summering in Raquette Lake I worked in the soda fountain of the General Store and each morning the mailman who delivered mail by boat to the camps on the lake would stop by for ice cream.  One day he invited me to go with him on the mail run. A couple of years ago I took the mail boat cruise of Fourth Lake. And, recently, I enjoyed a three-hour cruise on the Barbara S. Wiles while it was delivering mail on Skaneateles Lake. All great experiences.

Skaneateles Lake is about 15 miles long but Captain John and his assistant, Emily, did not start to deliver mail until about mile five because that is basically where the road on the east side of the lake bypasses the camps so the only access to the camps, at least most of them, is by boat. Along the way the captain pointed out the homes owned by some famous people: John Walsh of “American Most Wanted” fame; Scott Gregory, the Olympic skater; the owner of Revlon Cosmetics, and others.

They deliver mail to 25 customers but also make sure they have
treats for the dogs that come running when they hear the mail boat.  The children who come down on the dock to meet the boat also get a treat, too. There are mailboxes but many of the customers meet the boat… big excitement of the day.  If a camp has outgoing mail but no incoming they wait
on the dock and wave. Lourdes Camp is on the mail route and they offer special entertainment.  The staff and some of the campers gather on the dock doing high kicks like the Rockettes.  The camp usually receives a bunch of care packages from the family of the campers. 

In some places the terrain becomes high so access to the shore is
facilitated by steps, long ones, or, in some cases by trolley or an elevator-like system. The well-known football player, author, and lawyer, Tim Green’s home has one.  One estate has a car tunnel from the shore to the road.  Another large estate is owned by a
stamp collector who used the proceeds from the sale of one stamp to build his mansion. The largest home is owned by a person who owns a cell tower company. Most of the houses and cottages on the lake are beyond the price of most people so is membership is the Skaneateles Country Club which starts at $20,000. 

Captain John pointed out Staghorn Cliffs, a paleontological site that
was once a coral reef from 400-million years ago and where stag horn fossils are embedded in the rock.  He had a sample to pass around. 

Mail boat is not the only unique way the post office delivers mail.  The Havasupai Indians live at the bottom of the Grand
Canyon and receive their mail by mule train. Much of Alaska and also some place in the lower 48 have their mail delivered by bush pilots.  A mail boat on Detroit River delivers mail to passing ships via the “JW Westcott” which has its own zip code. The Skaneateles mail boat runs daily at 10 am in the summer. The fare is $30 for adults, $25 for children, you may bring your own lunch or snack, but they have beverages for sale on board. It is a great three hours on the water.