2016-06-17 / Community

Town’s first floating restaurant sets sail

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Kylie Raymond sits at the bar of the 100-seat restaurant opened this week with her brother Nick and father Dwight aboard the schooner Spirit of Massachusetts, moored at Performance Marine on the Kennebunk River, between Lower Village and Kennebunkport’s Dock Square. The unique attraction for the area features seating both above and below decks, with a full-service bar and a tapas fare menu of fresh seafood and light meals. (Duke Harrington photo) Kylie Raymond sits at the bar of the 100-seat restaurant opened this week with her brother Nick and father Dwight aboard the schooner Spirit of Massachusetts, moored at Performance Marine on the Kennebunk River, between Lower Village and Kennebunkport’s Dock Square. The unique attraction for the area features seating both above and below decks, with a full-service bar and a tapas fare menu of fresh seafood and light meals. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUNK — What could soon become the place to be seen in the dining scene of the Kennebunks has finally weighed anchor.

In late 2014, Dwight Raymond had a whale watch boat haul a 125-foot-long schooner into the Kennebunk River harbor and announced plans to turn it into a 158-seat floating restaurant.

Named “The Spirit of Massachusetts,” the schooner reportedly was the last ship built at the Charleston Naval Shipyard in South Carolina when it launched in 1984. It has sailed from Canada to the Caribbean, and across the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of Africa, eventually settling down to life as an Ocean Classroom teaching vessel in Boothbay Harbor.


Some of the staff at The Spirit, the restaurant aboard the 125-foot-long schooner The Spirit of Massachusetts, moored at Performance Maine in the Kennebunk River at Lower Village, posing in 40-seat dining room below decks in the the f’oc’sle, or former crew quarters, includes, from left, Sam Driscoll, Nicole Sciabarrasi, Dan Cole and Calina Hood. (Duke Harrington photo) Some of the staff at The Spirit, the restaurant aboard the 125-foot-long schooner The Spirit of Massachusetts, moored at Performance Maine in the Kennebunk River at Lower Village, posing in 40-seat dining room below decks in the the f’oc’sle, or former crew quarters, includes, from left, Sam Driscoll, Nicole Sciabarrasi, Dan Cole and Calina Hood. (Duke Harrington photo) She now sits with gangplanks at the ready, tied to the moorings at Performance Marine, also owned by Raymond, whose other businesses on site are First Chance Whale Watch and Lobster Cruises, and the Pilot House restaurant.

However, while everything is ship shape now, with 60 seats topside and another 40 below decks and a full-service bar made of polished Douglas fir decking boards, getting The Spirit restaurant opened was no easy task.

For one thing, Raymond and his crew, including son Nick and daughter Kylie – who will run the seasonal restaurant, managing a peak season staff of about 35 – put in yeoman’s work trying to get the business opened in time for this weekend’s inaugural LAUNCH! maritime festival.

“There were a lot of nights over the past few weeks that we were here until 3 in the morning, and back at it at 7 a.m.,” he said Tuesday.

But also clouding the waters: Uncertainty on Kennebunk’s five-person site plan review board over what to require of Raymond’s plan, along with which rules and regulations should apply.

“There was a lot of questioning – is it a building or is it a boat,” said Kennebunk’s Community Development director, Chris Osterrieder.

The Kennebunk River is no longer regulated by the federal government above Doane’s Wharf, Osterrieder said, while the shoreland zone in the area only extends 25 feet from the river’s edge. That means a floating restaurant would be reviewed largely under municipal building codes, not by state or federal environmental protection agencies. However, Raymond has maintained a Coast Guard certificate inspection for Spirit of Massachusetts – “We’ve kept all the rigging and everything, we could sail out of here tomorrow with just a few changes, if we really wanted too,” Raymond said – meaning the ship falls under all the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard.

Meanwhile, on land, there were questions about adequate parking for the facility within a tourist mecca already oversaturated with automobiles. Although concerns with an adequate parking plan conspired to keep Raymond from opening in 2015, as originally hoped, most of those issues finally went away when he decided to lower his seating chart from 158 down to 100 diners, when fully outfitted.

“He’s got an expert staff in that that really manages the parking, with the tour buses and everything, so it all works out,” Osterrieder said.

The review board finally gave its blessing in March, setting the stage for Raymond to get to work on a flurry of last-minute construction, including the addition of a sprinkler system below decks and the addition of handicapped accessible bathrooms.

“It finally came together just last week,” Kylie Raymond said. “Our marina crew and a few local woodworkers were here seven days. There was a lot for them to wrap their heads around with all the requirements involved, a lot to figure out. It was hard for state, town, us, to decide what rules applied, because no one seemed to know. But we all got together and worked it out. It was just a matter of, anytime you’re the ones doing something for the first time, somebody has to pave the way to figure it all out.”

“No one really knew who had jurisdiction, or how to class the boat,” Raymond said. “I think it was so complicated because it was so new, so we were put to the test on everything. But we’re fine with that. It’s just so unique. It’ll be a lot easier if we were to do it again.”

The Spirit is now open seven days from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

According to Kylie Raymond, the menu, cooked up in the small kitchen in the stern of the schooner, is tapas style, or light fare.

“Everything is done right here on the boat, light and fresh, no fried food or anything heavy,” she said. “It’s very different for the Pilot House. We think the two really compliment each other.”

And while most diners will undoubtedly revel in the deck tables, where they can wave to passing boats in good weather, when the side curtains are drawn up, others exhausted by a tough day of shopping area stores in the how sun may prefer the tables in the former f’oc’sle, or crews quarters.

“We’re actually below water,” Kylie Raymond said, “so it’s a natural air conditioning. You can feel how much cooler it is down here. It’s been a lot of work doing everything that needed to happen. I can’t remember the last time any of us had a day off. We’re really excited to have it ready and open.”

“I’d just like everyone to come and see it, because it really is neat,” Raymond said. “I really think this is going to become a destination attraction in Kennebunk.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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