Andre the seal came home yesterday -- a cause for rejoicing from the Rockport, Maine, household of his owner to the Augusta, Maine, office of his governor.
"This is absolutely delightful," declared Gov. Joseph Brennan. "All of Maine is most pleased that our most famous summer resident is back. It's a clear indication that summer in Maine is now starting up."
The 23-year-old harbor seal, who winters at the Mystic Marinelife Aquarium in Connecticut and summers in Maine, where he was born and raised, entered the waters off Provincetown, Mass., April 23 for his 230-mile rite of passage to Rockport. He hadn't been heard from until yesterday. As a score of fans cheered his return and an NBC camera crew preserved the event for posterity, Andre entered his pen in Rockport Harbor at 6:12 p.m.
"He swam in and fell right asleep," said his owner, Harry Goodridge, who announced that Andre's nightly performances in the harbor -- his tricks include an impressive Bronx cheer -- will commence this evening. "I don't know if there'll be an audience. I'll have him do them anyway, if just for my own amusement."
Andre was first spotted at 2 p.m. in Camden Harbor, about two miles north of his destination.
Goodridge was informed of the sighting by phone and sped by truck to Camden to confirm it.
"My friend Bud Chater spotted him first, and took me out in his power boat to see him," Goodridge said. "It was Andre, all right, swimming up at the head of the harbor to about 20 feet off shore. I called him over and told him to give me a kiss. I leaned over and he did. His whiskers tickle, too."
Yesterday's arrival came six days and four hours after Andre's departure from Provincetown at 12:40 p.m. EST. That, Goodridge said, will be the official time for bettors who have been guessing at Andre's ETA.
Goodridge, 69, an erstwhile tree surgeon and salvage diver, said he had been beside himself with worry over Andre's whereabouts. This "formal swim" to Rockport, his 10th, marked the longest time he had ever gone without being seen in transit. Andre, who will be 24 in May, is an old seal -- which compounded Goodridge's concern.
"That damn thing about not hearing from him was the worst," Goodridge said. "He could have at least sent me a post card or called me collect -- anything."