For scuba diving in Midcoast Maine, Rockland’s Breakwater, which we refer to as RBW, is a great option. It actually offers three different dives at the same location, each one different, giving a surprisingly varied view of the ocean.

Located off Jameson Point, Rockland Breakwater is at the end of Samoset Road and abuts Samoset Resort’s golf course. Parking can be formidable; you want to park as close to the footpath as possible. Spaces fill rapidly on summer days, which could mean an even further hike for you and your gear to the water.

Some divers like me prefer to gear up at the vehicle then ‘backpack’ down to the entry point. On a warm day that can be a sweaty slog and I am grateful when we actually “splash,” the term for when we enter the water. Others use two- or four-wheel carts to roll their tanks and weights instead. Either way, it is a haul. And at dive’s end, when you are wet and cold and tired, the return hike back up to the vehicle can be tough.

By early 1830s, South Thomaston began considering a breakwater that could be accessed at Owls Head. It would help protect coastal developments from flood tides and nor’easter storms. Rockland also considered such a structure; they began petitioning federal officials in 1835. Damage from major storms in the 1850s further showed the need for some sort of harbor protection. In 1879, the Owls Head lightkeeper logged 22,000 ships passing in or out of Rockland Harbor and those were the ones only seen during daylight!

The three dives at RBW all offer something different. Option 1 is a shore dive on the harbor side of the Breakwater. What is nice about this choice is that it is not as far to haul gear as with Option 2’s ocean-side entry. Harbor-side gets you in the water sooner and from an entry point of a relatively smooth beach, which stretches from the beginning of the footpath over to the Breakwater’s base.

One drawback is that to get to this beach you still have to scramble down (and back up) a fairly steep slope. Not an easy thing to do when weighed down with gear and sometimes with snow or ice underfoot!

But a harbor-side dive is colorful and chock full of things to see. At times, this protected side offers better dive conditions than the other two options, especially when ocean-side has significant waves or surge. One time we had planned to dive ocean-side, but upon arrival and seeing actual conditions, we opted for the calmer and safer harbor-side.

Harbor-side seems to accumulate ghost traps, fishing gear and lines, buoys and other artifacts. There is also a sunken fishing boat half-way out along the Breakwater if you know where to look. The Breakwater granite slabs are also covered with anemones and sea-stars. Harbor-side also has some seriously thick growths of Rockweed; you need to either maneuver around or power through.

Work on RBW started in 1881 by the Army Corps of Engineers. Over 700,000 tons of granite blocks were dumped in nine sections. Work ended in 1899 at a total project cost of $470,529.17. At its end, a small portable light station was built for marine navigation and a 204-foot section was left open until the very end of construction.

The ocean-side option requires quite a hike, with gear, from the parking area just to get to the Breakwater base and enter on its far side. The entry is not off a beach, like harbor-side, but rather over rocks, which can be treacherous and slippery. These “ankle-busters” are tough to navigate, especially in waves or surge. It is easy to take a digger or two until you get your fins on and out deep enough to float horizontal. Those same rocks are waiting for you on exit as well!

Ocean-side is wilder, open to weather and seas, and the surge can be tough. But it offers a ton of wildlife. It was here we saw a half-dozen large Moon Snails chugging along the sand bottom. About a third of the way out along the ocean-side, there is a large patch of sand dollars, hundreds of them. RBW rocks are also crammed with anemones and sea urchins, making for great photo opportunities.

Slightly out from the breakwater, there is a huge granite erratic boulder, glacially deposited ages ago. First time I approached it, the boulder appeared through the murk like the bow of a huge sunken ship; the site of it quickened my heart rate. We found it covered in urchins.

RBW juts into the harbor 4,346 feet or four-fifths of a mile from Jameson Point, where a light station once stood. It is 43-feet-wide at its top and 175-feet-wide at its base. When tides are especially high, walking areas can be awash. A lighthouse at its end was built in 1902, roughly two years after RBW construction finished. In March 1981, the lighthouse was put on the National Register of Historic Places.

Which brings us to Option 3. This involves a boat trip out to the lighthouse and a dive on the end of the Breakwater. This is because RBW’s length makes it impossible to dive from its base out to the lighthouse and back. Most shore dives on either side get maybe half-way or a bit farther out, before someone in our group makes the “turn” signal. So, unless you want to lug your gear all the way out to the end and enter from there, a boat dive makes the most sense.

One dive buddy had a friend with a large enough boat for five of us to dive from. We boarded at Rockland town dock and motored out to the lighthouse. I had been invited by the dive instructor to tag along, who had three students doing check-out dives for their certification. One task was to descend along a buoy line and chain to the bottom, a depth about 60-fsw (feet of seawater).

Once done with skill drills, we were able to search around RBW’s terminus at depth, which was pretty cool. Lots of interesting and colorful sea life. I surfaced at one point to get a shot of the lighthouse from the water — talk about a different perspective!

We visit RBW in all seasons and I have yet to be disappointed. If you do go there to dive, get there early to find a close parking spot. Also pay attention to anyone fishing off the rocks; getting snagged by a lure is not fun. In fact, I always strap an extra dive knife on my calf to go with the one on my belt as well as the EZ-line cutter on my chest harness, as there are lots of old fishing lines all over the rocks. Entanglements are no fun.

Charles Lagerbom teaches AP U.S. History at Belfast Area High School and lives in Northport. He can be contacted at He is author of "Whaling in Maine," available through