The Captain Lord Mansion in Kennebunkport, Maine is one of the most romantic places to “bed and breakfast,” and is a stately Federal home on the National Register of Historic Places. Previously owned by a ship captain, the home is now a place for guests to get cozy in and includes an adjacent carriage house and quarters. The Captain Lord overlooks the Kennebunk River, but its’ grassy, maple tree-covered gardens, including Ganny’s (a garden dedicated to local resident/former First Lady Barbara Bush), and manicured landscaping serve as a peaceful buffer to the summertime bustle.
“We have some beautiful sandy beaches and we’ve got the rocky coastline, too. In the summertime you can do so much. There’s bicycling as well as whale watches, and we have sailing cruises on old windjammers,” said Captain Lord’s owner Rick Litchfield. “We have a package at the Captain Lord Mansion where you can even go aboard a lobster boat cruise.”
Photo Credit: The Captain Lord Masion
During a recent trip, I was able to experience the lobster boat captained by Bob Danzilo. The Rugosa, a classic New England wooden lobster boat, takes guests on a 90-minute tour of the Kennebunk River and the Atlantic coastline, including Bushes Walker’s Point home. “We make sure people get a photo with the President’s home in the background, but we do ask the tourists on board to stay as quiet as possible. And we’re respectful of just how close we get to the house and how long we stay in the cove,” shared Danzilo.
Previously, Danzilo was captaining charter boats in Ft. Lauderdale when Stephen Spenlinhauer, a friend of Danzilo’s, coaxed him to come north. “My first night in Kennebunkport Stephen told me he wanted to take some friends on a fireworks cruise so he hired me to captain the yacht,” Danzilo remembered. “I started to welcome guests aboard when I noticed President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Bush, plus other members of the Bush family, and other very famous, powerful people getting on board. It was quite a surprise.”
Photo Credit: The Captain Lord Masion
Now aboard the Rugosa, it is Danzilo who treats visitors to the sight of President Bushes speedboat The Fidelity, either at sea or docked. In either case there is a Secret Service zodiac boat right behind Bush, often chasing the speeding former Naval Aviator. Once the Presidential gawking is finished, the lobsters take center stage. “We pull lobster traps up from the seabed with a hauler and bring them right into the boat and let people learn to handle the lobsters safely,” said Danzilo. “They get to touch them, band them, and smell them. It’s a real lobstering experience.” He admits that while The Rugosa will pull up three traps per trip, real lobsterman haul up 200 traps in a morning, sometimes on a rolling, icy deck in the middle of winter.
“On the Rugosa we don’t keep the lobsters but we bait traps and fish them just like the lobstermen do. It’s an amazing animal that’s been around since before the dinosaurs and has evolved perfectly. During the cruise we teach people lobster biology: how it mates and reproduces, how it sheds its shell, and how we keep our fisheries healthy and sustainable, which is why we have such a great lobster population.”
Photo Credit: Mabels Lobster Claw
Danzilo may admire lobsters, but Robert Fischer loves cooking them. He’s the chef and proprietor of Mabel’s Lobster Claw, a 63-year-old seafood restaurant very near Rugosa’s dock, and a favorite of the Bush family. “The President loves to order a dish we call The Duke. It’s a blend of scallops, shrimp, lobster and haddock baked in a casserole dish with garlic, butter, Chablis wine and topped with seasoned crumbs,” said Fischer.
The lobsters served at Mabel's come fresh off the boat across the street every morning, the going rate to the fisherman is about $5 per pound. The hardy seamen might likely turn their earnings right back around to eat Mabel’s Lobster Savannah, the dish Men’s Health Magazine called the “manliest meal.” “It’s a baked, one-and-a-quarter pound lobster filled with scallops, shrimp and fresh mushrooms in a creamy Newburg sauce, topped with provolone and parmesan cheeses, and roasted peppers. It’s very unique,” explained Fischer.
Photo Credit: Cape Arundel Inn
Fischer describes Kennebunkport as a quaint little fishing village. And despite the occasional presidential diners, he insists “Mabel’s is a place you go to get a good meal and not worry too much about your attire.” While a lobster bib is a smart fashion accessory at Mabel’s, one may wish to dress a bit more formal at Ocean, the gorgeous southern French and Mediterranean dining experience presented at the seaside Cape Arundel Inn.
The restaurant is frequented by the Bushes and their steady stream of guests because it overlooks the crashing surf of the open Atlantic and their Walker’s Point home. The inn is a stately cottage built in 1895 on a coastal knoll with a classic wooden porch and wicker chairs. It is designed to let overnight and restaurant guests linger and marvel at both the tranquility and tempestuous nature of the surf and sky along the Eastern seaboard, and take in the aromatic ocean air. “It is simple luxury, charm and sophistication. The lure of the ocean,” said Lana Wescott, Kennebunkport’s premier special events planner. “We have the best of both worlds here, in that we honor our historic seaside roots but also offer contemporary accommodations and hip restaurants.”
The Bushes leave for Houston in the fall, but Kennebunkport is a year-round tourist destination, especially for fall colors. “October’s Pumpkinfest Weekend is fun, as is our Haunted Halloween Weekend. December’s Christmas Prelude is straight out of Currier and Ives, with Santa arriving by lobster boat,” said Litchfield. Kennbukport is 90 miles north of Boston, 30 miles south of Portland, Maine and about two-hours’ drive from Manchester, Maine. The Lobstering Adventure Cruise and Dinner package starts at $199 per person and is available from Memorial Day (late May) to Columbus Day (early Oct).