A popular seasonal tour boat that has operated out of Bar Harbor for more than 20 years is moving to Eastport for the 2021 tourist season.
Ed Monat, who fishes in the winter and owns and operates Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater in the summer, said the reason for the move is pretty simple. Eastport is well known to scuba divers as having some of the best diving on the East Coast, he said, and the sea creatures that he shows to his passengers are more plentiful off Eastport than they are in Frenchman Bay.
“We’re bringing it to the place where the wildlife is,” Monat said.
Monat takes a video camera with him as he dives underwater and then, via a cable, shows passengers what he sees on a large video monitor mounted on his boat, the Starfish Enterprise. He wears a special helmet during the dives so he can talk to his customers while he is underwater. During each tour, he brings creatures such as crabs, starfish, lobster and sea cucumbers up to the surface to show his passengers before he returns them to the ocean.
Monat said he loves Eastport, both the city and the local diving, and thinks there currently is better diversity of sea life in the surrounding water to show his customers than there is off Bar Harbor.
Frenchman Bay, in particular around the Porcupine Islands where Monat took his passengers, has seen an increase in invasive tunicate species the past few years — a “pancake-like” creature that squeezes out native species — and more traffic from cruise ships and fishing boats.
The logistics in Bar Harbor also have become more challenging.
The town in general has become more congested since 2000, when Monat started offering wildlife tours on Frenchman Bay. He has operated for the past several years from College of the Atlantic, where he attended school in the 1980s, after the cost of renting dock space in downtown Bar Harbor in the summer became prohibitively expensive.
But even at COA, which Monat said has treated him “great,” the logistics of co-existing with other summer programs, providing customer parking and directing passengers to walk across campus to the school’s dock at times has been complicated.
By operating from the Eastport Windjammers dock, adjacent to the city’s breakwater pier in the heart of the city’s walkable downtown, it will make things simpler for Monat and his customers, he said.
Eastport Windjammers will help him with ticket sales and providing crew for his tours, he said. Parking in Eastport in summer is not as challenging as it is in Bar Harbor, and he will be able to sleep overnight on the boat. He and his wife Edna Martin will continue to live in Bar Harbor, where Monat will return one day a week. He said his tour boat will operate Monday through Saturdays in Eastport.
Monat said he has taken tours out of Eastport before, in conjunction with the city’s annual pirate festival, and so is familiar and friendly with other fishermen and tour boat operators who dock their boats in the city. He said whether he continues to operate out of Eastport after this summer depends on how well it goes.
“They’re making it worth it for us,” Monat said. “They treat us like family.”