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Traderbill

mail boat run - Maine Islands

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Any opinions on the mail run boat? it sounds so cool. Is it worth going on & is there a lot to see.

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hey there traderbill! which port for the mail run boat? sounds fab![/quote

 

Portland. You buy tickets at the pier between $14-$16. Travels to 5 islands. About 2-3 hr. trip

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We did it last fall. It was a hoot. Great fun. The Casco Bay Ferries website will have the details, but if there are more than a specified (rather small) number of tourists then they do a live (not recorded) narration from the bridge. The day we did it there were two cruise ships in port, so there were more than enough tourists to merit the narration. Also, a simple map was distributed.

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I'm from Portland, and I've recommended the mail boat run several times here on CC. It runs twice daily, but the later run is too late for cruise ship passengers. It gives a great tour of Casco Bay and the Calendar Islands (so called because there's one for every day of the year), and an initiation to the unique nature of island living. The boat brings more than mail for the islanders, when they come to the mainland for groceries, they are specially packed at the store, and brought by the store to the dock, and palletized by island (each person's name on each box), along with coolers for perishables, and the islanders will come down to the dock and collect their groceries. Other times it is propane delivery day, and the boat will drop off quantities of the large propane tanks for the islanders. The islands typically have an elementary school on each island, but for middle and high school, the kids have to take the 45 minute ferry ride to the mainland. Mainland schools have special dismissal times to allow the kids to be bussed to the ferry terminal for the ride home.

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I'm from one of the islands the ferry stops at and I always recommend the 10AM down bay trip. Grab a cup of coffee/snack before you board because there's nothing on the ferry but a couple of machines with soda and candy.

 

FYI, you don't need to buy the "tour". Just get a ticket to Cliff Island. It's the last island out. Stay on the ferry (all tickets sold are round trip) and come back. Bring your own map of Casco Bay. The one they give tourists isn't much better than a placemat!

 

Also.. if you're 65 or older ask for the senior rate. Last summer tickets to Cliff were $11.25, senior fare was $5.75. There's a ticket kiosk in the waiting room by the wall of windows if the line at the counter is long.

 

Most islanders are very friendly people. Strike up a conversation and you'll learn a lot about the islands! Riding that ferry gets BORING when you do it all the time. I love talking to the tourists. :)

 

Oh... and bring a sweatshirt or something if you plan to sit up top. It can be nice and warm in town but out on the water chances are good it will be chilly.

 

https://www.cascobaylines.com/

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I'm from Portland, and I've recommended the mail boat run several times here on CC. It runs twice daily, but the later run is too late for cruise ship passengers. It gives a great tour of Casco Bay and the Calendar Islands (so called because there's one for every day of the year), and an initiation to the unique nature of island living. The boat brings more than mail for the islanders, when they come to the mainland for groceries, they are specially packed at the store, and brought by the store to the dock, and palletized by island (each person's name on each box), along with coolers for perishables, and the islanders will come down to the dock and collect their groceries. Other times it is propane delivery day, and the boat will drop off quantities of the large propane tanks for the islanders. The islands typically have an elementary school on each island, but for middle and high school, the kids have to take the 45 minute ferry ride to the mainland. Mainland schools have special dismissal times to allow the kids to be bussed to the ferry terminal for the ride home.

Thanks for information. Any opportunity to get off at one of the islands and walk around for a few minutes? I realize that the milk run is only 2 - 3 hours so this might not be possible.

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Thanks for information. Any opportunity to get off at one of the islands and walk around for a few minutes? I realize that the milk run is only 2 - 3 hours so this might not be possible.

 

Depends on the cargo. If they are wrestling with the monthly Propane delivery, you could get 10-15 minutes. And it doesn't come back to the island until afternoon, so if you get left, you'll have to find an islander with a lobster boat to take you back to the mainland.

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I love ideas like this, off the beaten path (or water) especially with opportunities to see and hear about how others live. It’s island living, but not the type that usually comes to mind when one hears that phrase and it’s also steeped with lots of history and tradition, much of which has faded away.

 

Coincidentally, a few days ago The NY Times featured a story about life on one of these islands, Matinicus, how it is now and how it was. The ferry is everything: seasonally challenging weather often prohibits planes from arriving, careful planning isn’t just a goal, it’s vital. There are two students in the schoolhouse. There’s a busy part time and smaller full time population here so it’s just another world.

 

It’s not for everyone but there are folks that have been living on and visiting these islands (some haven’t even had power!) for ages because they were looking for something else. It’s New England but it’s even more than that because it’s unique and different from anyplace else and for people interested in a not so routine type of experience, this would be the more authentic type of experience to seek out.

 

Probably for SURE only if the weather is good though, just so you can make it back to your ship but you likely didn’t need me to tell you that ;)

Then again, what an adventure getting from the islands to your ship at the next port or wherever? Now THAT’S being in New England.

 

Thanks to the OP & everyone for striking up the conversation of an offbeat way to enjoy the day. :)

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Portland's islands in Casco Bay are not quite as "rustic" as Matinicus, but island living is certainly unique. Craig's list is ripe with 20 year old Subaru's listed as "perfect island cars", meaning they won't pass safety inspection, but run good. If a car is taken to the islands and kept there, you don't have to have it inspected, or even registered. Many families share island cars, as they are really only used to run supplies from the dock to the house.

 

One of my sons, when he was in middle school, was assigned to go to Cliff Island, the farthest out year-round island, to talk to the kids in the one room school about "stepping up" to go to middle school on the mainland. The teacher was kind enough to bring him and his teacher back on his lobster boat, rather than having to wait on the mail boat.

 

I remember a few years back, Frenchman Cove on Matinicus was advertising that they would give away a building lot, foundation, and septic system to anyone who would move out there, could support themselves (author, work from home, artist, etc) and had children. They were frantic to keep the island school open.

 

MEcruzr can probably tell better, but I don't recall a ferry running very late, even in bad weather. And since the mail run leaves at 10am, and lasts only 2-3 hours, there shouldn't be any worries about getting back in time.

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I'm from one of the islands the ferry stops at and I always recommend the 10AM down bay trip. Grab a cup of coffee/snack before you board because there's nothing on the ferry but a couple of machines with soda and candy.

 

FYI, you don't need to buy the "tour". Just get a ticket to Cliff Island. It's the last island out. Stay on the ferry (all tickets sold are round trip) and come back. Bring your own map of Casco Bay. The one they give tourists isn't much better than a placemat!

 

Also.. if you're 65 or older ask for the senior rate. Last summer tickets to Cliff were $11.25, senior fare was $5.75. There's a ticket kiosk in the waiting room by the wall of windows if the line at the counter is long.

 

Most islanders are very friendly people. Strike up a conversation and you'll learn a lot about the islands! Riding that ferry gets BORING when you do it all the time. I love talking to the tourists. :)

 

Oh... and bring a sweatshirt or something if you plan to sit up top. It can be nice and warm in town but out on the water chances are good it will be chilly.

 

https://www.cascobaylines.com/

 

Thanks for this detailed information, MEcruzr. Is there a way to get the bay map ahead of our cruise or can you point me in the right direction to get one once in port? Thanks much!

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There really isn't enough time to get off the ferry. They let passengers off, then passengers on and then take off the freight. Once that's done they haul the gangway and go. About enough time to run off, hug someone and jump back on! You COULD, however, decide to get off on Long Island... it will arrive there about 10:50. There's a 12:05 back to Portland from Long. It's the same ferry making its return trip. You'd miss a lot of scenery and there's not much to do... but if you were determined to visit an island it's possible.

 

As for cars... there are more golf carts than cars on most of the islands. There are NO cars on Little Diamond. I don't think LD has any year round residents right now. Most of the islands have a winter populations that are about 10% of the summer population. It's a totally different kettle of fish in the winter. The ferries run until the winds reach a certain speed and then they may not be able to go at all... or may not be able to stop at every island, depending on the wind direction. There are lots of you tube videos. Search Long Island, Casco Bay, Chebeague Island, Cliff Island.

 

This is the map they give you... http://sunsetlandingmaine.com/Resources/CascoBayMaps.jpg As you can see, it's quite simple, but it helps you know where you are and what you are seeing.

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We took a ferry to Peaks Island, then hired a taxi for 10 or 15 bucks to ride around the island and tell us stories. A few times she picked up local passengers and they rode with us, too. We enjoyed it. There’s a few restaurants and bars on the island.

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