Ask Rich Zawaski what he likes most about Boston and he’ll tell you it’s the Bruins. And lobster fishing.
“On days like this I take a little extra Lipitor®…” he jokes, dropping his eighth lobster of the day into his Montauk’s livewell. “I like a whole lot of butter with my lobster!”
And the Zawaski family eats a whole lot of lobster, or “lobsta” in Bostonian. “We’ve caught 85 this season,” Rich says proudly, “and we’ve still got a few weeks to go.”
This is the second season for the family’s 210 Montauk, the boat Rich and his wife, Donna, waited through career building and child rearing to buy. “We’d always look at boats and he’d try to convince me that one day we’d own one,” Donna says. “Then a couple years ago he started building one on the Boston Whaler website. That’s when things got serious. He’d say, ‘Hey Donna! Come see this!’ Then a week later: ‘Hey Donna, what do you think of this option? or ‘What if we changed this and added that?’ Then one day he was done. He just said, ‘Here’s our boat.’
“I was amazed when we actually walked into Russo Marine and Richie said, ‘We want to buy this Whaler,’” she continues. “I was so proud. I thought, ‘Yeah, this is a good time for us to own a boat.”
But before the Zawaskis’ order could be finalized, the 210 Montauk had to pass one critical test. “I’d always known I wanted a Whaler, but it had to have a head that was satisfactory to all my girls,” Rich laughs, referring to his three daughters, Dina, Michelle and Jenny; two granddaughters; and, of course, matriarch Donna. “So before I bought the boat I made each of my girls visit the dealership and pretend to use the head on the floor model, just to make sure they could fit in there happily.”
They did. They also fit on the comfy cooler seat and on the spacious sun lounger. “We drove our salesman crazy,” Rich jokes. “We’d come in and look at the floor model while ours was being built, then before you know it it’s snowing outside and we’re coming in to have lunch on the boat once a week, right there in the middle of the showroom. They were just great to us.”
Russo Marine, New England’s leading powerboat dealer, is a third-generation, family-owned-and-operated business that’s been serving customers for nearly 75 years. The dealership gladly welcomed the Zawaskis’ visits, and their enthusiasm. “We created a family-fun environment in our showroom where customers can hang out and daydream, especially in the winter months when being out on the water is an impossibility,” says President and CEO Larry Russo, Sr. “We really enjoy that. We’re a family business, and the customers become a part of that family.”
When the family finally took delivery of the Montauk, they made those lunches a daily event. “I’m down here every afternoon,” says Rich, a recently retired utilities employee. Donna, a schoolteacher, joins him every day during her summer break. “Sometimes we don’t go out at all,” she says, “or we just take a cruise in the harbor to see the sites. But on my favorite days we go way out toward the islands, stop the engine and just float. It’s my favorite part. Just listening to the sounds of the ocean, barbecuing and relaxing as we drift back in.” But even with all the float time, the couple has already put an impressive 300 running hours on the Montauk.
Of the three Zawaski girls, it’s Dina who’s taken most passionately to the Whaler experience. “When my dad handed me a spare set of boat keys and said ‘Don’t crash it!’ it was a pretty surreal moment,” says the ever-grinning Master scuba diver who works as a dive guide and volunteers at the Boston Aquarium in her spare time. “I love being on the water so much that to have this kind of unlimited access to the ocean, well, it’s kind of dangerous. It makes me feel like I never want to come back on land!”
“When Dina was little, I took her swimming with the dolphins at Sea World,” Rich says. “She didn’t want to go in, but I made her. And that was that. Now you can’t get her out of the water.” Dina and boyfriend Chas Belliveau are always ready for an outing on the Montauk, especially one that involves anchoring out among the Boston Harbor Islands where Dina can dive from the boat, swim with the sea lions and explore the islands’ rocky ledges. Shipwrecks abound in these waters, their remnants so profuse you can actually buy a map of them that reads like a Hollywood Map of the Stars.
A favorite hangout of the family’s is Calf Island, most famous as the summer home of actress Julia Arthur, who with her businessman husband, Benjamin P. Cheney, built an enormous colonial mansion on the island in 1902. Today, but a single ornate chimney still stands, the last of the building having burned down in 1971.
After pulling the lobster traps and stowing their clicking treasure, the Zawaskis anchor the 210 in the shelter of Calf Island and spend the afternoon relaxing. Donna fires up the grill while Dina dons her gear for a dive.
“It’s my favorite feature on the boat,” Rich says, reaching into the Montauk’s huge livewell and plucking out one big lobster after another, readying them for the pot. For Donna it’s the roominess created by the Whaler’s center console layout and wide forward beam. “It’s set up so you can have fun all day. And not just fishing—it’s so spacious and comfortable we spend all afternoon out here, having lunch, relaxing, and we’re never bumping into each other.”
When they’re on the boat, the Zawaskis laugh a lot. And they talk about the Bruins, the Patriots, the Red Sox. And lobster. There are lobster stories that go way back, like the time Rich went out on Christmas Eve to buy fresh lobster for the annual lobster pie and came back with 232. “I used to go to the dock and buy them straight from the fishing boats, but that night I bought all the lobster from all three of the boats on the dock. I got a great deal, and they were so happy to go home!” There were lobster all over the family’s house that Christmas, Donna recounts: “In the sinks, in the bathtubs, they were everywhere.” “Yup, it was a great Christmas!” Rich laughs.
Everything goes quiet as the family devours the day’s catch. It might not be Donna’s famous lobster pie, a dish that requires only Ritz crackers, lobster and copious amounts of butter, but today’s “sea bugs,” steamed in sea water and gobbled unembellished from paper plates, go down just as well.
“Mmm,” Rich says. “Mm-hmm,” agrees Dina. And then it’s the sound of ocean and a few shrewd seagulls awaiting the scraps as the Zawaskis’ Whaler heads back toward Boston.