Interview With Captain Jim Morash
He's got mail!
When Jim Morash watched the mail boat go by on Lake Winnipesaukee as a kid, he never imagined he would one day be its captain. “It was a natural progression,” he says. “I did grow up around boats and have operated them since I was 4 years old so I guess it was in the back of my mind somewhere.”
His family summered on Bear Island and, when he was in college, he got a job as a deckhand aboard the Mount Washington. “From there,” he says, “I was in the right place at the right time, and I loved what I was doing so I stuck around for 30-plus years.”
Today he is chief of operations, captain and part-owner of the Flagship Company, which operates a fleet of three vessels: the 230-foot M/S Mount Washington and two smaller boats, M/V Doris E. and the mail boat, M/V Sophie C. “Captain Jim” takes the mail boat to five islands on Winnipesaukee, mornings and afternoons from June 15 to September 14, There’s been mail service on the lake since 1892, with the Sophie C. operating as the mail boat since 1969. Ask him if he’d rather captain the Mount Washington or the mail boat, and he says he does have a favorite, but he’s not sharing: “Let’s just say they are both very special to me.”
Do you have childhood memories of the mail boat coming to Bear Island? Absolutely. But not as one might think. I grew up on the southern end of the island so my memories are of her passing by our cove and I going out in my little boat to “catch the waves.”
Did you stand on the pilings as it came in? No, I was more interested in my ice cream that’s sold on the boat. Besides, back in my day the pilings weren’t as sturdy as they are now. We would, however, jump in the water after she left to feel the backwash from her propeller.
I’ve heard the coming of the mail boat is a social event. Yes, in many ways it is. Whether we are stopping at an island or just passing by someone’s camp, the Sophie C. is used as a clock by the island residents. Some come to get their ice cream fix; others might be just relaxing and begin their cocktail hour when we pass by.
True there’s a post office on board? Yes!
Does the boat have a cancellation mark? Yes!
Who operates the Post Office? We do. Basically, we are an independent contractor for Laconia Postal Route RFD #7. We (the Flagship Company) hire a postal clerk, which happens to be my sister Anne, and she operates the post office.
True it’s the oldest floating post office in America? Yes, and we can lay claim to this by an act of Congress in 1916, which created this route and gave to it a cancellation stamp. We were the first official floating post office in America. I’m not sure we’re not the only floating post office in America.
Has the Internet, with e-mail, had an impact? Yes, but we still handle nearly 25,000 pieces of mail each season. Before e-mail we handled about 28,000 pieces each season.
What’s your favorite part of making the run? I’d have to say the people. For instance, meeting the passengers as they board and visiting with the island residents where I stop.
Least favorite? Closing duties on a hot summer day, such as having to go below deck to shut down the engine.
Do you go through “rain or shine, snow or sleet” as the regular Post Office does? Yes, we do. It can get nasty out there on the lake, but Sophie is a great boat and she handles pretty much everything Mother Nature gives it.
What do you see ahead? Since we just signed a new three-year contract, I see great things ahead. With all that’s gone on with the US Postal Service over the past few years, it’s comforting to know we are still an important part of their plans. I know the residents are glad as well.