We planned the dive trip to Eastport, Maine, few months in advance and it was really hard to wait for it. Finally six of us, me, Bert, Jason, Suzanne, Molly and Lou got to the big house we rented for few days from Homeaway.com. The location of the house was perfect, 1 min walking distance to downtown.
Diving in Easport is tricky due to high currents between tidal changes. You can only dive at slack tide. Good news is there isn’t much difference in visibility between low and high slack tides as we usually observe in Peirce Island or Blue Heron Bridge. Since we were alien to the conditions and dive sites, for first 3 dives we wanted to have a guide. Dennis, from Downeast Divers, located right at the Old Pier site, was our guide.
First day the plan was to dive Old Pier for afternoon high tide and evening low tide. Dennis had planned 2 consecutive dives for the afternoon dive. We were very lucky that during those two dives we really did not feel any significant current. In the first dive, we went sort of parallel to the shore. The bottom terrain was mostly gravely muck. We would come across different marine life on groups of small rocks lying here and there. There were a few northern reds, a lot of “orange” footed sea cucumbers and abundance of green sea urchins. The high point of the dive was the two ocean pouts we came across. They were sitting next to each other, “Awe! So cute!” until they started a deadly fight. So it was not a romantic moment we observed at the beginning, it was a just recess in a big territorial fight ☺.
Second dive we headed to the old pier. At high tide you take the 130 bearing out and after bunch of seaweeds you come to the drop of the wall. The wall is full of life, it is covered with northern reds, stalked tunicates, sponges, you name it. There are lots of huge crevices covered with colorful life. I was also very exited about seeing red Acadian fish sleeping in the crevices, it was the first time I saw these fish since my first year of diving. Our very cautious and attentive guide, Dennis, ended the dive ~ 45min into the dive. Later he mentioned that we were extremely lucky that we did not observe any current in both of those dives.
First day at Old Pier
Due to some air fill problems we were offered a boat dive to the wreck of Diebolt next day instead of evening dive and tomorrows Dawson St dive. Due to our guides description of the marine life at the wreck we were quite excited about the boat dive, the life on wreck would be very similar to Dawson St, if not better. Plus there were some eerie stories about the wreck. Hell yeah, awesome wreck dive with possible ghost encounter, that’s almost as good as whale encounter during a dive. When we went down unfortunately the conditions were sub optimal, with lots of silt floating around reducing the visibility significantly. With all the silt being lifted by the currents most of the life on the boat was covered with dust, making it quite hard to get good photography. Bert, Jason and me, three people taking photos or video, sat through the second dive, and decided to use our remaining tanks for shore dive, while Molly, Lou and Suzanne had really enjoyed the first dive and went in for seconds. While I would really preferred to do Dawson St dive instead of the boat dive I was happy to see two new species for me: anemone spider and Aesop shrimp.
Boat dive, the wreck of Diebolt
So, we only had three tanks available for the next 2 days. We decided to do one noon, high tide dive at Old Pier, explore the bottle drop (on the left) and get to the wall in one dive. Unfortunately, so much different than first day of diving, the currents were very strong, we hesitated to enter, waited ~20 mins to reach exact slack tide and then did only 30-40 min dive at the wall only. The winds had picked up and the surface became very choppy.
However we were lucky that the bad conditions were gone by the evening and Bert and I could get in a night dive at low tide. At low tide it is so much easier that you can actually see the Old Pier wall from the surface and you go down right next to it. With the lights shining on the colorful life on the wall and everything being dark, I can comfortable say that the night dive at the wall was the best.
Third day at Old Pier
With our one remaining tank we head to Dawson St at low tide next morning. We gathered all the info we got from our diver friends who dive regularly at this site, about the general considerations as well as the coordinates of the wolf fish (Thanks to Timur Kolodenko, Jerry Shine and Jonathan Bird). While the same tidal considerations apply for this site we were told that the currents get much stronger here, so we had to be extremely cautious. That’s why we wanted to dive at low tide when the slack tide window is longer. While we were not lucky to find the wolf fish the first dive we found the awesome huge wall, which falls on your right when you start descending once you get in at the intersection of Dawson St and Customs St. In my opinion this wall was so much more occupied with marine life compared to the Old Pier. Bert, Jason and I thought this was definitely not enough for us, we had to come back, however the weather and current conditions did not agree with us. There was no diving for the rest of the day.
Luckily we could get in another dive next morning just before we left for home, and we had the best encounter with the resident wolf fish. We found three and I got to feed two of them! After 3 years of looking under rocks for a wolf fish at every dive I had finally I got to see the amazing wolf fish. And they were so cool! And big!!!
Dawson St, dancing with the wolves
The diving at Eastport was different than what I expected. For some reason I thought the moment we go down we would be overwhelmed with the life right there. But in reality the life was accumulated on the big walls sitting here and there. It was different but definitely not disappointing. Most of us had the opportunity to see a few new species after a few dives.
After seven dives I saw red Acadian fish, many very cool colored grubby and short horn sculpin, a sea raven, rock gunnels, radiated shanny, two ocean pouts fighting (or mating very passionately) and THREE wolf fish. Not bad for a place not so famous with their fish ☺. The invertebrate life was so rich, I saw many different kinds of starfish including a basket star, stalked tunicates, all different kinds of sponges, shrimps, nudibranchs, anemones, anemone spiders orange footed sea cucumbers, jellyfish… The list would go on. Now looking back at all the stuff we saw I cannot wait to go back. This trip was to get ourselves and eyes acquainted with Eastport diving. Next time around I want to see beyond the obvious, all little things hiding in the background.