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DAY 1 – Kennebunkport ME. Bye, Bye Mr. Bubbles. Sayonara Lefty.
The kids giggled as they threw them overboard.
Lefty and Mr. Bubbles are lobsters—live lobsters that had followed the bait into a trap just offshore in Kennebunkport right near former President George H.W. Bush’s home, in fact.
They are too small to be keepers. But even if they were bigger, we’re aboard the Rugosa, a 38-foot boat hat while a traditional New England Lobster Boat is designed to teach families about lobstering and where lobsters come from rather than bring them home.
We’re here at the suggestion of Tim Harrington, the owner of the newly renovated Hidden Pond Resort and new style family resort who says “Kids don’t know where food comes from.”
And certainly they don’t get how much work it is to get these lobsters from the sea to a restaurant.
“It was fun to throw them back,” said nine year old Meghan Beswick here with her parents and brother and sister from Toronto.
“Made me hungry,” added her 10 year old sister Kate, who had to be coaxed to pick one up.
We learn from our affable captain Dave Coleman that Maine provides the world with 75 per cent of its lobsters and that licensed lobstermen work very, very hard—with each one having about 800 traps and checking on about 150 a day. We see how much work it is for Dave to haul in just the one trap, check the bait (herring this time) and the lobsters for size (there are strict laws that lobsters heads must be at least 3 ½ inches long and that they can’t be pregnant — he shows us the difference between a male and a female).
Too big and they get thrown back too—over five pounds.
We head out along the Kennebunk River (which divides Kennebunk and Kennebunkport) to the “Gulf of Maine” which is part of the Atlantic Ocean. We know former President Bush is here because we see all the black secret service boats with American flags.
There are other lobster tour boats in Portland, Bar Harbour and elsewhere and it is a great way to show kids where the food they may well be trying while in Maine (lobster roll anyone or chowder?) comes from.
It lasts just the right amount of time too — about 90 minutes. We laugh when Coleman explains that until the early 20th Century, only the poorest and those in prisons ate lobster. “You wouldn’t want to bring a lobster roll to school. You’d get teased,” he told the kids. They were once so plentiful that people would pick them off the beach.
That all changed as the French began to use lobster in fancy cooking and wealthy families from New York and Boston began to summer in big houses here. Now of course, you’ll see lobster on the menu everywhere from “lobster shacks” where you eat at a picnic table, to the toniest restaurants, to backyard barbeques.
Today you see lobster tee shirts (“Got Lobster?” one reads), lobster socks, lobster dish towels… you name it. Along with blueberries, Maine is all about encouraging tourists to try anything lobster, though some locals tell me they didn’t even try one till they were grown.
“It’s fun to watch the kids dive into a lobster,” said Brooks McDonald who with his wife, Luanne owns the well known Kennebunkport restaurant Hurricane. ”Lobsters are hard to eat and a lot of people don’t know how. Kids get really into it.”
Whether you go to a “shack,” or a white-table cloth restaurant like Hurricane, let your kids try one.
“It’s part of the whole Maine experience,” says McDonald.
So is meeting Lefty and Mr. Bubbles (so named because he was exhaling bubbly salt water from his mouth).
I think of them as I dive into my lobster cobb salad. The Beswick kids, meanwhile, went off in search of a lobster roll, talking about Lefty.
Next: Hidden Pond — a resort for 21st Century families