Casco Bay Mailboat

Casco Bay Mailboat

Early last summer, I headed up to Portland, Maine to ride the Casco Bay Mailboat run. The mailboat is the longest running service of its kind, delivering mail and freight to six of the 136 islands just off the coast in Casco Bay. The adventure takes three hours or so, depending on freight and passengers heading out. For a mere $16 – it’s a great little cruise.

Maquoit II

Maquoit II

Built in 1994, the 98 foot Maquoit II mailboat leaves port twice a day to travel Casco Bay and holds 399 passengers and 1 vehicle. Passengers are divided to the main and lower decks; the main deck offering bow seating as well as covered seating below the wheelhouse. The lower deck has covered seating as well as open stern access. The upper deck behind the wheelhouse is reserved for freight and crew. The vessel has a top cruising speed of 10.5 knots powered by two Detroit Diesel Series 60 engines.

We were able to get on the 10:00 a.m. boat on a gorgeous June morning. The air temp was a comfortable 62° with bright blazing sun. With the ocean still in the low 50°’s – a light jacket was needed. Many showed up without one, and the goose bumps were pretty evident on their arms.  It’s easy to forget that sea temp and land temp are not the same.

The 98 foot Maquoit II mailboat leaves port twice a day to travel Casco Bay

We made several stops at various islands where the crew would first off load any passengers that were visiting, then deliver the freight and mail to the dock before letting new passengers aboard.  For the most part, people were departing and very few came aboard.  I assume it’s the reverse on Sundays.

My favorite part of the cruise was seeing all the homes on the islands of Casco Bay, and imagining the life out here. We were told, for example, that Cliff Island had a population of just 60 people. There are no paved roads on the island and just the one general store. On the island, there is a one-room school house (pre-K to grade 5) with just a half dozen students! Once they hit grade 6, they must take the early ferry to Portland and don’t return until late in the afternoon – about a 10-hour day for them.  Oh, the island life!

Other points of interest on the tour are some of the famous lighthouses like Bug Light, Portland Head and Spring Point Light – then the famous forts from the War of 1812 through WWII. Fort Gorges is one of the most striking and you can see a photo of that near the bottom of the post.