BELGRADE – Knowing the potential dangers of delivering mail on Great Pond by boat has saved Norman Shaw a lot of grief.

His biggest concerns are running over a rope strung out to a buoy, and crashing into a pile of rocks with his Boston Whaler.

The independent contractor for the U.S. Postal Service has been delivering mail on the 8,000-acre lake for the past nine years.

Last Thursday morning, Shaw throttled back to idle as he inched his way to the dock. He quickly shoved letters into a mailbox, then backed out over a rope without tangling it up in his outboard engine.

“It’s all in the timing,” Shaw said. “In the southern end, if the wind’s blowing and I have to back up because of the ropes, water will come in over the back and I have to run my pump.”

But he and many of his grateful customers with summer homes are worried the mail boat service may soon be coming to an end. The three-month-a-year service was supposed to end last September, but the U.S. Postal Service gave him a two-year extension.

Customers worry, though, that it’s the last extension as the financially struggling Postal Service cuts back on expenses.

“A lot of them out this way have influence, and I think that’s how my contract got reinstated,” Shaw said. “There are people out here who got political help to get it reinstated.”

Tom Rizzo, Postal Service spokesman for Maine, said the service is dealing with some major issues and that the mail boat in Belgrade is not on its radar.

“There’s not any indication one way or another what’s going to happen with that service in two years,” Rizzo said.

Charles McCandlish, another customer who greeted Shaw at the dock, said the service is part of the Great Pond experience. It’s what makes the lake unique.

Shaw said the mail boat service has been around for a century. He noted that Dave Webster, who held the contract for 49 years, delivered mail to playwright Ernest Thompson. The writer modeled the mail boat captain after Webster for his play that later became the movie “On Golden Pond.”

A retired teacher from Hallowell, Shaw said he has built a relationship with the people he meets on his route and says they are “absolutely wonderful.”

Standing at the steering console, he slowly moved away from a dock and waved at a group of people on a pontoon boat. The pontoon captain yells: “It’s a nice day!”

“Yep, it’s beautiful,” Shaw yells back. “It’s all good on Great Pond.”

Shaw said he was worried about a couple of older lakeside dwellers who had not yet returned for the summer. “I get attached to the older people,” he said. “We seem to lose one or two a year.”

It takes about three hours for Shaw to make his stops and steer the boat in and around the islands.

He had 30 deliveries last Thursday, but said that will grow to around 105 by the Fourth of July weekend.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Mechele Cooper can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

[email protected]