WELLS – Shirley Polinger was cruising along in her boat early Saturday afternoon when the vessel came to an abrupt stop.

She and her six passengers were about halfway between Kennebunkport and Wells Harbor when the boat’s propeller stopped, possibly after she hit a lobster buoy. Polinger was surprised by her boat trouble – and by the man who came to her rescue: Neil Bush, son of former President George H.W. Bush and younger brother of former President George W. Bush.

Neil Bush was aboard the Fidelity IV, one of his father’s high-speed fishing boats. Not only did Bush stop to help, the 58-year-old jumped in the water to try to fix the boat and then used the Fidelity IV to tow it back toward shore.

Bush apparently was visiting the family compound in Kennebunkport on the weekend before heading to Washington, D.C., with his more high-profile parents.

Neil Bush is the chairman of Points of Light, an international nonprofit focused on increasing volunteerism that was inspired by the elder Bush’s “thousand points of light” vision in his 1989 inaugural address. On Monday, Neil Bush joined his parents at the White House for a ceremony recognizing the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award.

Polinger, who lives in Wells, was glad Bush happened to be nearby to do his own good deed on Saturday.

Polinger said she saw a boat headed toward Wells and flagged it down for help. She had seen the Fidelity IV on the water before, but didn’t immediately recognize it as belonging to the former president.

“The boat came right over to us and this man resembled George Bush,” she said. “He was very, very eager to help us.”

“I was looking at the front of his boat and I saw ‘Fidelity IV.’ I said, ‘Oh my God, it’s Bush’s boat,'” Polinger said.

Worried that something was wrapped around the propeller of her 23-foot Sea Ray bowrider, Polinger asked Neil Bush if he had a knife she could borrow in case she needed to remove whatever had become tangled. Instead, he sprang into action, she said.

“He came right on the boat, took off his shirt and went in the water,” Polinger said. “He felt around the prop, but nothing was wrapped around it. He got out of the water and asked me where I wanted to go.”

Bush hooked up Polinger’s boat — named Thank You Norman after her father, who left her money to buy it — and towed her to the jetty in Wells Harbor. The assistant Wells harbor master, Charlie Bashaw, met them and towed the Thank You Norman the rest of the way into the harbor.

Neil Bush, who spoke at the White House ceremony Monday, was not available to comment, a Bush spokesman said.

Unlike his father and two older brothers, Neil Bush has not held elected office. He was a member of the board of directors of Silverado Savings and Loan during the Savings and Loan crisis in the 1980s, then went on to co-found Ignite! Learning, an educational software corporation.

Other than the connection to the Bush family, Saturday’s rescue incident was a “pretty uneventful assistance call,” said Wells Harbor Master Chris Mayo. He said it is likely that Polinger hit a lobster buoy.

The Fidelity IV made headlines in July 2010 when it ran aground on Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk. As many as 500 spectators watched as the 38-foot boat was pushed back into the water. As for Polinger, she expects to get her boat fixed soon — she misses being on the water already — and said she is very grateful for Bush’s assistance.

“He was extremely friendly and extremely helpful,” she said. “I couldn’t be more grateful and I couldn’t thank him enough.” 

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.