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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Old Forge, NY ,

Lance Maly hands off parcels to customers and brings a box of biscuits along for the dogs that greet the mailboat.

Captain Bob Hipkens drives the boat while Lance Maly gives outgoing parcels a special stamp.

Your Old Forge Mailboat hosts, Lance Maly and Bob Hipkens.

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Old Forge mailboat delivers

Monday, July 15, 2013 - Updated: 5:08 PM

By MEGAN ULRICH

Express News Staff

There are many small town, Adirondack traditions in Old Forge and one of the oldest is the mailboat. How many folks can walk down to their dock Monday through Saturday, receive their mail by boat and get a treat for their dog at the same time? If you are one of the customers on the Old Forge Mailboat route it is a daily occurrence throughout the summer months.

From June 1 through Sept. 15 the 35 foot Benjamin Harrison delivers the US mail to about sixty customers from Old Forge Pond to Fourth Lake, on both the north and south shores. It is a service contracted with the US Postal Service and is run by Old Forge Lake Cruises. Tours are offered for the daily trip so that others might experience this unique and nostalgic mail delivery system.

They leave the dock on the pond close to 10 a.m. for the three hour cruise, which runs like a well- oiled machine. As the mail boat approaches, the captain blows the horn to alert the customer to the incoming delivery and give them time to get to the dock.

The first mate prepares for a quick exchange, some at the bow and others at the stern. The captain navigates the boat into the dock as the first mate trades the customer a bag of mail for an empty sack from the previous day. Children sometimes greet the boat to send off postcards detailing their Adirondack summers and there are many pups along the route that make their way down to the dock for their daily biscuit. The mailboat always has a stash of Milkbones for their furry friends.

The Old Forge Mailboat is a time honored tradition on the Fulton Chain of lakes and is the first and longest running mail boat system in the United States. It began operation in 1901 when President Harrison had his mail delivered to his home on a peninsula between First and Second Lakes. Back then much of the Fulton Chain was only accessible by water and supplies as well as mail were transported via boat. The president also did some of his grocery shopping dockside, making purchases from a local indian woman selling products out of her canoe.

First Mate Lance Maly, a native of Old Forge, narrates the journey as the boat makes its stops. He shares the stories behind some of the homes on the lakes and about the owners and guests that have taken up residence over the years. He knows the ins and outs of the chain of lakes from growing up in the area and spending years as a DEC officer. Maly points out the popular swimming and camping spots and the deepest points on the lakes. He waves at other vessels and the occasional dog out for a swim along the way.

Anything can happen as you cruise along the lakes.They have had deer, moose and bear swim across the water in front of the mail-boat on different occasions.

"You never know what you're going to see out here," he says.

The mail-boat runs Monday through Saturday during the summer months and delivers anything that the US Postal Service delivers and like the USPS, they deliver in any weather. Some days the doors to the small cabin are closed to the wind, rain and chop. The mailboat cruises along the Fulton Chain, getting the mail delivered no matter what.

"It hasn't been real nice out on some of the rides lately. The lighthouse was lit a couple of days this week because the skies were so dark," says Captain Hipkens.

Any Old Forge postal customer with a dock that has four feet of water on the Fulton Chain can have their mail delivered by boat. There's something nice and simple about skipping the traffic and post office trips in the height of summer. Just sit back on the dock and wait for the Benjamin Harrison to motor by with your mail.It's a little piece of Adirondack history, a glance into how things once were.

The captain and first mate have room for ten passengers daily, so reservations to ride the mailboat are recommended. Call Old Forge Lake Cruises at (315) 369-6473 or visit www.oldforgelakecruises.com.

     

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