PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – While the ferry service between the city of Portland and Peaks Island is one of the more popular rides of the summer, there’s a secret tour that will get you a view of nearly all the islands… just hop aboard the mail boat.

It takes a few hours as the boat makes stops at most of the other islands to unload groceries the locals may need; or some lumber for construction. The mail boat also picks up the towns’ returnable cans and bottles and really, whatever else needs to head back to the mainland.

Along the route, Captain Gene Willard offers his visitors a history lesson and some fun facts about each of the islands – some true, others made up for dramatic flair (we’ll let you decipher once you take the tour yourselves.)

Willard has been guiding the vessel for more than 30 years. He started driving the boat when he was 14-years-old; when asked if that was legal, he laughed, “No. But I think the statute of limitations has run out on that.” As comes with decades of experience, Captain Willard can dock a ferry in the middle of a snowstorm and rough seas. He also knows most of the locals, and in his spare time runs the Portland Xpress Water Taxi service and offers rides on an old military boat, the UB 85.

The cargo cruise offers a unique chance to learn about the islands, even if you aren’t stopping to get off and explore.

Oh, and it’s BYOB and snacks.