That’s right! The boat even has its own zipcode: 48222.
The J.W. Westcott II is a converted tug boat that’s 45ft long, 13ft wide, travels 15 knots and is powered by a 220-hp engine.
It was founded way back in 1874 by John Ward Westcott as a little red rowboat off the coast of Belle Isle that he would row out to lake freighters to deliver mail.
The sea was in Westcott’s blood. He was born December 19th, 1848 at Warnersville on Lime Island, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the St. Mary’s River. His mother was the daughter of the keeper of Manitou Island lighthouse and on April 23rd, 1844 his parents became the first couple ever to be married on board a steam ship in the Great Lakes.
Westcott himself would follow this tradition when he married Henrietta Crane onboard a steamer at Mackinac Island on December 30th, 1878. Westcott and his wife lived in Detroit at 142 West Hancock Ave, on what is now the campus of Wayne State University.
In June 1895, the J.W. Wescott boat started the first “mail-by-pail” delivery.
This is the currently used method where they pull up alongside a boat, the crew lowers a big bucket down and J.W. Westcott puts mail in the bucket and sends it back up.
On July 1st, 1948, the vessel became an official US Postal Service mail boat, making some 6,000 trips per year and handling over one million pieces of mail from early April to mid December.
Lake freighters and other vessels in the Port of Detroit receive mail thru JW Westcott II via:
“write vessels name here”
Marine Post Office
Detroit, MI 48222
In over 140yrs of operation, the boat has logged only one disaster:
On October 23rd, 2001, the original J.W. Westcott boat sank in the Detroit River off Zug Island while delivering mail to a Norwegian oil tanker.
Cpn. Cathy, aka: Catherine Nasiatka (48) of Algonac and deckhand Dave Lewis (50) drowned in the accident. Lewis’ body was not found until November 28th.
The J.W. Westcott II is currently run by President James M. Hogan (son of Mildred June Westcott) and the brick and mortar headquarters is located 1200 yards downstream of the Ambassador Bridge at 12 24th St, Detroit, Michigan.
Viva los nautical mail delivery!