May 212011
 

Check out the posts on TripAdvisor about whale watching, and you’ll find a lot of negatives – no whales, long trips, cold weather, and sea sickness.  Still want to take your family on a boat ride when you visit Acadia National Park?  The Dive-In Theater gets rave reviews.

This five-star cruise leaves from a pier at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor on the aptly christened Starfish Enterprise.  My daughter and two of her friends joined me on a  two-hour trip into Frenchman Bay, a body of water so deep and cold that it provides a rich habitat for an array of sea life.  The bay is spotted with small islands, which further enrich the environment.   

Suddenly the boat began to circle a small rock outcropping and there on the top sat a large bald eagle.  Lying on rocks below and swimming in the area were about twenty harbor seals.  Minutes of leaving this sighting, we spotted harbor porpoises gracefully creating arcs in the water.  

But this was only the beginning of the show.  

 We moored at a dive site and Diver Ed suited up with considerable fanfare.  Fanfare isn’t really the right word.  It’s more shtick.  (Clearly, only his love of Maine and kids has kept Ed from stand-up.)   

With a little help from his friends, Diver Ed took the plunge with a collection bag, real-time video and sound equipment, and Mini Ed, his action figure alter ego, who would provide scale for the adventures on the ocean floor.  We then learned that this was Mini Ed #104.  (The prior 103 had been unsuccessful in their battles with lobsters and crabs from the deep.)  

 

Sitting comfortably on our benches, we watched on a large projection screen as Mini Ed began to explore.  I glanced away only occasionally to see such sights as the Margaret Todd sailing by.

What happened when Diver Ed returned with critters in tow?   We touched them, of course.

Whether a beautiful sea star (starfish to the uninitiated), slimy sea cucumber, or angry lobster, these creatures of Frenchman Bay were taken into temporary (and protective) custody in touch tanks, as we learned more.  Did you know that sea stars can not only regenerate lost arms, but themselves be regenerated from a single arm?

We gently probed their varied surfaces.  (I will not say the same for the four-year-olds who thrilled to the chaos of the touch tanks and, inhibition abandoned, initiated some aggressive dive-bombing with the lobsters.)

Most of the families on the cruise seemed to have four-year-olds in tow, but the three eighteen-year-olds who came with me were pretty enthusiastic.

But I surpassed them all.  

For more information about what to do in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA.  It features reviews of restaurants, rock climbing schools, kayaking trips, and more.

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