Remembering George H.W. Bush
George H.W. Bush, the 41 president of the United States, died on November 30, 2018. He was 94.
Bush had a long, remarkable career in government, having served as a U.S. Representative, Ambassador, Director of Central Intelligence, Vice President of the United States and eventually the President. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was one of the youngest aviators in that military branch’s history.
Forbes called him the most sporting president in U.S. history, citing his love of baseball tennis soccer and golf. He even famously jumped out of airplanes from 10,000 feet each year on his birthday.
But his two favorite sports, at least in later years, were boating and fishing. Bush fished all over the world and owned a succession of Fountain center consoles with multiple outboards. Before the Fountains, he owned a Cigarette Racing boat. He used these boats during summer breaks at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, during his presidency and in later years.
During a 2007 visit to Kennebunkport, the 83-year-old Bush told the Forbes writer that: “I find quiet and tranquility when I fish.” But he also had some fishing stories. “You may be talking to the only guy who ever caught a chipmunk on a fly rod,” he told the writer. A Secret Service agent released the rodent unharmed.
At that point, Bush said he wanted to do something that had not been done: catch a Permit with a fly rod.
Dean Travis Clarke, the former editor of Sport Fishing magazine and a longtime boating writer, fished with the elder Bush multiple times. “He loved to drive the boats fast,” says Clarke. “That was maybe a throwback to his fighter-pilot days. That’s certainly why he became such good pals with Reggie Fountain and owned a series of Fountain fishing boats.”
Clarke fished with Bush in Maine, the Florida Keys and Outer Banks. “He was comfortable and gracious company,” says Clarke. “That we ever caught fish during his presidency was a miracle. Not only did we have our boat, but we inevitably were surrounded by boats filled with secret service agents, media, divers and medics, not to mention U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats and a helicopter overhead.”
“So much for stealth,” Clarke adds. “Yet, we did catch fish.”
Tony Esposito, then public relations director for Mercury Marine and now a boating writer, recalls a day in 1996 when he spent the day fishing with the elder Bush. “He was very gracious to everyone he met,” says Esposito, noting that the President loved speed. “He could drive a boat. Fast.”
At one point during the day, Esposito said to Bush: “Mr. President, there are more than two positions on that throttle.” He said that Bush “chuckled knowingly” and a secret service agent nearby said: “Welcome to my world.”
In 2010, Mercury President Mark Schwabero, Reggie Fountain and then-Fountain CEO Bill Gates delivered Bush’s fourth Fountain center console, Fidelity IV, to Kennebunkport.
“I am honored to have President Bush as a repeat customer and a longtime friend,” said Reggie Fountain at the time. “He is not only one of our country’s great patriots, but also a great sportsman. We are proud to say that the Commander in Chief chooses a Mercury-powered Fountain.”
Last May, just a few months short of his 93 birthday, the Washington Examiner reported that Bush was back on his Fountain. “He is already focused on when he can get his boat over to Walker’s Point,” said Bush’s spokesman, adding that Fidelity IV was “like a guided missile.”
Richard Rubin, who covered George H.W. Bush’s presidency for the Wall Street Journal, recalls the president taking the children of press members for rides in the boat around Kennebunkport Harbor. “It was just remarkable that the president of the United States would show that level of kindness,” Rubin said on NPR, in looking back at the president.
“Sports are good for the soul and good for life,” Bush told the Forbes writer in 2007. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.