Chip Duryea’s compiled writings have recently been published in a book entitled Full Circle. Perry III is the official name, but Chip, as he is called, was instrumental in bringing the Lobster Deck restaurant into successful fruition alongside his father, Perry II. “He was the visionary and I was the implementer,” Chip explains. It was Perry II who in 1990 was inspired to build a deck on the outside of the lobster house where people could enjoy delicious food and sunsets; Chip is the one whose inspired words describe the challenges and rewards of running a restaurant where lobster was the main fare.
Restaurants are notoriously difficult to keep in operation; in one chapter called “Ten Days in the Desert,” Chip relates a harrowing week-and-a-half dedicated to restoring power to the Duryea buildings. Coolers and freezer doors were kept closed to prevent ice from melting. Silence replaced the “hum of the lobster tanks”; only the click-clicking sound lobsters make when they are out of water could be detected. One generator after another went bust, even as the Deck managed to serve record crowds during a very hot July. When the power was finally restored with a brand-new service, the lobsters – and the Lobster Deck – were still alive.
Red tail disease and too-cold water can wipe out these beautiful crustaceans. Therefore, a must-have passion for the lobster business and the right boat and equipment underscore its success. “I have vivid memories of waiting in my grandparents’ house on Fort Pond Bay for the Perry B. to come in with a load of lobsters…The Perry B. could hold 13 to 20,000 pounds per trip, some in lobster crates, and more in huge portable water tanks with seawater circulating throughout. You could see the boat round Culloden Point and head for the dock, with the lights of Connecticut twinkling in the distance… I would run down the hill, filled with excitement, and even a little afraid as the Perry B., all 120 feet of her, loomed up out of the darkness, running lights blazing and diesel engines thundering. My father would appear to confer with the captain as to the nature of the trip, and then he would take the winch as the first of the lobsters came out of the hold…”
In 2015 Chip Duryea put the lobster business and the Lobster Deck behind him. The decision to sell made sense for him and his family, but the salt air and woody smell of wet lobster crates will forever be sweet nostalgia for him. “As long as lobsters are bought and sold, there will always be a summer tourist demanding, in a hoarse voice, ‘You got any lobsters?’ The response, invariably, is ‘we might have a few.’ ”