Year after year I catch myself thinking how attractive and beautiful scuba diving in North Atlantic is. And I’m talking about the whole experience because besides stunning underwater flora and fauna, the gorgeous topside scenery alone worth the trip. And just as another prove to my words, this weekend trip to Deer Island was exceptionally rich with unexpected surprises above and below the surface of the ocean.
Of course, you should drive very safely, but here is one useful tip – get your camera off your bag, attach a good telephoto lens and keep it by your site, otherwise, you’ll miss a lot if you are not ready to use it quickly. It seems that I would learn my lesson, after seeing 2 black bears, moose and deer on my previous travels to Eastport, Deer Island, Saint Lawrence, Les Escoumins and Saguenay River. And yet, before the border with Canada, we saw 5 hawks, wild turkeys and even one, apparently confused beaver, slowly waddling to and fro right in front of our stopped vehicle. But sadly, by the time I pulled my camera, got the right lens and set everything for a rapid fire the animal disappeared in a little brook.
One wrong turn and you are … complete;)
Well, that was a miss, but wasn’t the end of our trip. As soon as we crossed the Canadian border, Andrea spotted a bald eagle proudly perching on a top of a dead tree. We pulled to the side of the road and were able to snap a few shots.
Bald eagle. (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Getting to the island involves short, 20 minutes long ferry ride. It’s free and it runs every 30 minutes before 7:30 pm and then every hour until 10:30 pm (Atlantic Daylight Time. Link to the ferry schedule). On the island, we saw deer and bald eagle again.
From L’etete to Deer Island on the board of Deer Island Princess II
It looks like the 45th is tucked into a quiet, framed by the thick vegetation, corner. Sizable lot, in front of the motel, allows you to back up your car right to the door of your room, therefore loading/off-loading your car is a easy.
Apartments are small, but very comfy for at least 2 persons, bathrooms are spacious and everything is very clean. In the room, you’ll find a large table, small refrigerator, television, toaster, coffee maker, portable heater and plenty of clean towels.
The Internet is available, but due to a remote location, the connection is sporadic and slow. There is spooled garden hose, attached to the middle of the building, hence if you brought a bucket, you can fill it with fresh water and soak your camera, dive computer or other gears after a day of activities. Plastic chairs can be used to hang wet suits.
45th restaurant located just in 20-30 feet from the motel, it serves good, tasteful food, including beer. (Keep in mind that you cannot buy alcohol in the island’s grocery stores)
The distance from 45th to the Cancat dive site is about 2,5–3 miles, and from there, in less than a minute, you’ll get to the Point Park.
At Cancat dive site
At Cancat dive site
Seal at Point Park dive site
Diving at Deer Island
All diving activity at Deer Island is tide dependent, hence Andrea and I, from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon, were able to make 4 dives – 2 during low tides at Cancat and 2 at Point Park at high tides. I may exaggerate a bit, but at Cancat, during low tide, you can practically walk to the reef. Navigation is easy, but I’d highly recommend diving at the Deer Island with someone who has dove there before. While underwater, you must observe your time very closely, especially at Point Park, because when tides begin to pull, you may not be able to collect enough rocks to weight you down so you could crawl to the same shore you’ve entered the water 🙂
Flabellina verrucosa at Cancat dive site
If in Eastport, at high tide, it takes literally a few steps from a car to the water, at Deer Island some walking is involved in both locations. At Cancat and Point Park, you can bring first your fins and camera to the shore, then don all your gear and pick up your camera with fins when you are ready to plunge. Andy, for instance, besides camera and fins, was also assembling and putting on his BSD right at the edge of the water as well (very smart). Also at Cancat and Point Park, you can park your car right near two large picnic tables, so dealing with your gear is an easy task.
Important to remember, that at Deer Island you are at Atlantic Daylight Time (ADT) which is an hour later than Eastport Maine. At Cancat you can enter water 5 minutes before slack tide, and that is according to the Fairhaven Tide Chart (ADT), or 15 minutes after slack tide indicated by Eastport Chart (EDT). At Point Park, you should enter the water on the dot and keep it under an hour. By the way, if you own a smartphone you can download “Tides Near Me”, the app available for both Apple and Android devices (search for Canada and then Fairhaven).
The water temperature was 42-44°F and visibility about 5-7feet.
Northern Red Anemone (urticina felina)
At both dive sites, you can find a great diversity of a beautiful marine life. As soon as you’ve reach the bottom, you’ll see fields of stalked tunicates (boltenia ovifera), large and small northern red anemones (Urticina felina), swimming anemone (Stomphia coccinea), dead man’s fingers (Alcyonium digitatum), finger sponge (Haliclona oculata), boring sponge (Cliona celata), sea strawberries soft corals (Gersemia rubiformis), tubularian hydroids, (Ectopleura crocea) varieties of sea stars, nudibranchs, fish, etc.
Orange-footed sea cucumber (Cucumaria frondosa)
During my others trip to Deer Island, it was a big deal for me to see Atlantic spiny lumpsucker (Eumicrotremus spinosus), but this time I saw 2 during one dive at Cancat and one more in Point Park. Andrea and Andy spotted yet another one, but I was too far to get a shot.
Atlantic spiny lumpsucker (Eumicrotremus spinosus)
Usually, I swim slowly along the reef, carefully searching rocky surface for small animals. So imagine my surprise as I’m lifting my head and see right in front if my eyes quite a large specimen of the Atlantic Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus). He, (I think it was he) was raised on his pictorial fins, displaying his mighty body to anyone who would encroach onto his territory. I was so close that he was almost completely out of its den. It was very interesting to observe that as I was backing up, the wolffish mirror my movement by sliding back into its nest. I had to get back up quite a bit, because I had a macro lens attached to my camera, and if I wanted to photograph anything but an eye, I needed to gain at least 4-5 feet between the subject and my lens. I opened f-stop to 16, slightly spread flashes and was able to get his considerable muzzle.
Atlantic Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus)
It just happened that Andrea and I arrived at the island a day before Andy and David could join us. At first, I was surprised, when Andy, after hearing that I saw wolffish at Cancat, described me to a tee an exact location of its lair. But then, when he turned to a David and expressed his amazement, how year after year most likely the same fish kept coming back to the same spot, I recalled Gene, another wolffish that not only gets annual visits of his admirers, buy also made to the pages of “Fifty Places to Dive Before You Die: Diving Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations”.
This trip wasn’t overwhelmed by nudibranchs sighting, I think between Andrea and I we saw 5, maybe 6 species. but there was so much to see that we probably missed quite a few.
Anyway, I’d like to thank Andrea, Andrew and David for being a part of an awesome excursion, beginning with a visit to “Saeng”, ending with … well, the same Thai restaurant and everything in-between – road sceneries, food, storm, hail, animals, birds, Lawrence Lord’s Old Farm Museum, people, diving, marine life – all will leave an indelible positive impression. And my only wish is that Deer Island, really an amazing place for divers and nature lovers, not only was able to survive, but prosper and flourish for years to come. Thus, if you have a few days and want to experience something extraordinary, pack your gears, set your course northeast and explore Deer Island, you won’t regret.
On the way back home. Maine
Best wishes, safe diving and many new discoveries to all. Remember – LITS 🙂