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Mail boat on Winnipesaukee brings island residents together

  • Skipper Bob Reed doubles as a tour guide to passengers aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat during its route across Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Mail clerk Annie Nix delivers mail on Bear Island, Meredith, while the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat is docked on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • A crowd gathers on a Bear Island dock to greet the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat as the vessel docks to deliver mail and sell ice cream bars and other snacks during her route across Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Manuel Bettencourt and Pauline Tenaglia of Methuen, Mass., take in the views of Lake Winnipesaukee from the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Mail clerk Annie Nix sorts through incoming mail between stops aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Skipper Bob Reed guides the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat to its next stop as mail clerk Annie Nix (left) sorts through mail during a route across Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Deckhand Sam Saliba of Moultonborough sells ice cream during a stop at Birch Island from the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on last week. This is Saliba’s second season as a deckhand. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Mail clerk Annie Nix (right) delivers packages and sacks of mail to Merrimack Valley YMCA Camp employee Bruce Corsetti, during a stop at Camp Lawrence on Bear Island, Meredith, as the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat makes her rounds on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The view from aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Emma McLaughlin, 11, of Saugus. Mass., receives help from her dad in mailing postcards from the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. The floating post office has a unique post mark that lists Lake Winnipesaukee as the location. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • While docked in Weirs Beach, deck hand Sam Saliba (left) and skipper Bob Reed load packages to be delivered by the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat during its route across Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Young swimmers jump off the dock posts after the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat pulls away from Bear Island during its route across Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Families wave goodbye to the Sophie C mail boat as it leaves Birch Island on its route across Lake Winnipesaukee on July 26. The wave, and the subsequent splash of kids jumping off dock posts, are a traditional daily occurrence when the Sophie C pushes off. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Mail clerk Annie Nix adds post marks to incoming mail between stops while aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. The unique stamp lists Lake Winnipesaukee as the post office location. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Mail clerk Annie Nix prepares sacks of mail for delivery while aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Behind her merchandise is displayed for sale. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Deck hand Sam Saliba is reflected in a mirror while aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat during its route across Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Deck Hand Sam Saliba prepares the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat as they leave Cow Island during a route across Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Visitors to Three Mile Island come aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat to buy ice cream during a mail stop on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Mail clerk Anne Nix delivers packages to Merrimack Valley YMCA Camp employee Bruce Corsetti, during a stop at Camp Lawrence on Bear Island, Meredith, as the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat makes her rounds on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Passengers disembark the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat at Weirs Beach on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from aboard the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The docks at Weirs Beach are seen from the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • A sailboat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The docks at Weirs Beach are seen from the M/V Sophie C. U.S. Mail Boat on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The M/S Mount Washington on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The M/S Mount Washington on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • A jet ski on Lake Winnipesaukee on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Thursday, August 03, 2017

Along the shores of Bear Island in Lake Winnipesaukee, summer residents gathered as the M/V Sophie C. pulled up to the dock.

As children scampered on board, eager to spend their allowance on ice cream, candy and drinks, mail clerk Anne Nix made her way off with her mail bag, ready to plunk letters and packages in their corresponding mailboxes on the dock.

The Sophie C. is one of a long line of ships to deliver mail on the lake, assuming its role in 1969, after the previous boat, the Uncle Sam II, was deemed too expensive to operate.

“It’s a tradition. ... Mail service started in 1892,” said Nix, the boat’s mail clerk. “We are actually considered the oldest post office in an inland waterway.”

The Sophie C. makes trips throughout the islands twice a day – delivering mail and treats to both large and single-resident islands, as well as summer camps.

The trips aren’t limited to the mail clerk and skipper, though – from mid-June to after Labor Day, any paying community member is invited aboard to take the journey, which begins at Weirs Beach.

Often captaining the ship is Bob Reed of Melvin Village in Tuftonboro.

Throughout the journey, Reed shares his knowledge of the region with guests at a frenetic pace, pointing out every mountain he can and sharing local myths and legends about the island.

Reed, a former teacher who has captained the ship on and off since 1994, said a tour on the nimble Sophie C. is the best on the lake.

“We get into little coves and areas where the big ships can’t go,” he said. “Meeting the islanders is great.”

Nix, who grew up spending her summers on Winnipesaukee, said the boat helps create a sense of connectedness on the lake.

“We kind of bring the different island communities together,” she said. “When Sophie comes in for her stop, it’s a social event for people. People come down to collectively greet us and chat with other residents on the island. We consider ourselves island folks.”

Among these “island folks” who greet the Sophie C. when she makes her rounds is Kelly Rich of Palm Harbor, Fla. Rich spends her summers on Bear Lake with her husband’s family, which has owned property on the lake for years.

“It’s my daughter’s favorite,” she said. “All day long she waits for the mail boat to come. ... It’s a huge event, a favorite on the island.”

One of Rich’s favorite Sophie C.-related traditions is the dock jump. When the ship pulls out, a group of kids line up on the dock and jump into the water, waving goodbye to the boat.

The Sophie C. is greeted with a thrill on Three Mile Island, as kids from across the island come to get ice cream and see the ship.

“Everyone looks forward to the ‘ice cream boat’ every day,” said Paul Flanagan, who’s from Massachusetts but spends his summers on Winnipesaukee. “It gives them something to do; there’s not much to do on the island.”

Nix said spending time on the Sophie C. and delivering mail to people like Rich and Flanagan is the perfect way to spend her summers.

“It’s just a fun, non-stressful summer job,” she said. “Why wouldn’t anyone want to be cruising on a vessel all day?”