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In the News: Mail Boat Jumper Tryouts

13 Candidates Seek the Best Summer Job

Two Jumpers Take a Plunge

By: Holly Murphy,  age 13

Mail carriers work through snow, sleet and rain to deliver the mail, but on Geneva Lake, mail jumpers deal with white caps, slippery piers and moving boats. For 99 years, Gage Marine in Lake Geneva has been delivering mail and newspapers to the mansions on Geneva Lake by boat.  New mail jumper candidates are evaluated each year. The 2015 tryouts were held on Thursday, June 11.

Ellen Burling of Gage Marine was overseeing the tryouts and told me what she was looking for in the jumpers. "We will be rating them on jumping skills as well as their narration of the tour." Burling went on to say that the jumpers not only deliver the mail, but explain the history of the lake and homes to the passengers who ride along on the Lake Geneva Cruise Line, while the mail is being delivered. "What better job for high school and college students, where they are given the opportunity to speak in front of hundreds of people each week."

Jumper Captain, Neill Frame, has been working with Gage Marine for over 40 years.  He spoke about the challenges that jumpers face. "During bad weather, the boats needs to move faster, so the jumper has to be athletic and have good timing." He added, "We need them to be able to move with the boat, not against it."

This year, there was a panel of eight judges, all former mail boat jumpers, with at least one jumper representing each decade. Some judges include; Bruce Pett, a jumper from 1962, Amy Aman, a jumper from 1990, and Nancy Williams, the second female jumper ever to work at Gage Marine, in 1973. Williams and told me that jumping runs in her family. She had four siblings and two daughters who all were jumpers. Her youngest daughter, Joannie, was at this year's tryouts, hoping to land a spot on the team for the second year. 

The tryouts began on land where the thirteen candidates learned how to jump onto the boat safely and correctly. The boat never stops so they need to be fast enough to catch the boat without hitting the water first. Next they practiced tying knots, since tying up the boat is one of the many responsibilites the jumpers have. They will also be involved in the loading and unloading of passengers, so safety is a big concern.

Once the boat set sail, the candidates took turns narrating the tour route from a script, while the boat began making passes at the piers. One at a time, the candidates put on their life vests, grabbed a rolled up magazine and took a leap of faith off the boat, onto the slippery, rain covered pier to deposit it in the mail box.

All of the candidates did very well, but two took a refreshing slip into the water! Nora Maus, a 15 year old attending Burlington Catholic Central, was off to a fast start, but didn't stop, and ran right off the pier. The airbag in her life vest deployed and she smiled and said "It works!". If you were worried about the mail, I am pleased to let you know that Nora still safely put the mail into the mailbox. 
 
Another candidate that had a big splash into the water was Thomas Peck, a 16 year old Badger High School student, who jumped far enough to reach the boat but wasn't fast enough to catch it.  He ended up falling into the water, just behind the boat. 
 
Every candidate tried their best, and had a blast in the process. Those who don't earn a spot on the team will continue to work at Gage Marine in other jobs. 
 
The lucky 5-6 candidates who become jumpers will find their days beginning at 7 a.m., when they arrive at the Lake Geneva Post Office.  From there they sort through the mail, rubber banding each house's mail, and planning for the route ahead. They will be delivering the mail and newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Sun Times and Wall Street Journal, which means the route runs seven days a week. 
 
Veteran jumper Anna Vogt, age 20, explained that the job is tiring and takes a toll on your body. Thankfully they have enough jumpers so they can rotate their shifts to give the jumpers a break.

Lake Geneva is the only place in the US that still has mail boat deliveries. Passengers are invited to travel along with the jumpers while they make their way through their route.  You'll learn about the history of Lake Geneva while enjoying the thrill of watching the jumpers race to catch the boat! 

For more details about the Lake Geneva Cruise Line, CLICK HERE.  For a list of all the fun things to do in the Lake Geneva area, visit the Best of Lake Geneva's Events Calendar