Sail mail

Bill Redding and Sam Buchanan take the boat out for a mail delivery on the Detroit River. Image: Atlas Obscura

Capt. Sam Buchanan is no ordinary riverboat operator.

Buchanan works for the J.W. Westcott Co., which has delivered U.S. Mail to ships passing through the Detroit River since 1948.

From mid-April to December, Buchanan and crew make daily deliveries to awaiting sea vessels.

“These people rely on us to get them their stuff,” Buchanan told the Atlas Obscura news site last week.

Buchanan operates the J.W. Westcott II, the company’s main delivery tugboat, which has been used since 1949 and has its own ZIP Code: 48222.

During a typical delivery, Buchanan pulls alongside the destination ship and its crew lowers down a rope into the tugboat where Buchanan’s crew attaches the mail.

In addition to mail, Buchanan’s deliveries include other cargo, like TVs, groceries and even unusual items like pizza and flowers.

“I go out in all kinds of weather, at all hours of the day to try to make sure that they get it,” he said.