The picturesque little Saturday Cove in Northport recently had its parking area redone and dock worked on. The place is a beautiful spot of Maine coast and is the home to residents, summer visitors and working fishermen.

I used to ride my mountain bike down to it from Belfast and back. The place just seemed steeped in history. Saturday Cove does have a lot of good things going for it, its maritime history goes way back. More on that later! As far as diving goes, however, Saturday Cove does not get the love as much as some other nearby sites do. That, I think is not right.

Problem is, I cannot get much interest in my dive buddies to want to dive there. We toss out Beauchamp Point, or Duck Trap Harbor, or South End Beach and divers go “Yes, awesome!” You mention Saturday Cove and there is usually pause then a half-hearted “Well, maybe.”

Nice entry to Saturday Cove down the boat ramp next to the dock (Photo by Charles H. Lagerbom)

One issue is that at low tide, the cove pretty much empties out of water. So, in order to dive there at low or lowering tide times, you have to trek pretty far out from the boat ramp and dock over mud flats to get to any water deep enough to start your dive.

At higher tides, those now submerged mud flats make for a bottom terrain that can charitably only be called sparse of life. You might spot a crab there, a seaweed sprout there, a shell or two there…etc. When I approached a fellow dive buddy with the suggestion for us to dive Saturday Cove, he smirked and said why? Ouch!

Saturday Cove actually has a lot of marine things going for it, even if my dive buddy did not think so! It has a great parking area and a super easy entry into the water down a boat ramp conveniently situated beside a large dock. As you are gearing up, to be able to stand alongside that dock and put your fins on in knee deep water is wicked helpful.

There is also rarely rough water or surge in this quiet stretch of water. Saturday Cove is kind of tucked in off the bay, so conditions are usually good. The stream which empties into the cove does not bring all that much volume, so water temps do not drop like they do off Duck Trap Harbor. With not as much fresh and saltwater mixing, there are also fewer haloclines to deal with.

Just outside Saturday Cove, Penobscot Bay can show you its true power. We were diving the cove one time after high tide and had worked our way out towards the mouth. This was fairly early in our diving of local sites; in fact, it was my first time to dive there. So, we weren’t all that sure what to expect.

Large Atlantic Rock Crab at home at Saturday Cove (Photo by Charles H. Lagerbom)

We had liked the parking and easy entry. The water temperatures were good too, another factor from the shallow depths. We had to work our way fairly far out into the cove to see any appreciable depth or anything interesting on the bottom. Suddenly my dive buddy motioned me to stop and held out his arm in front of him. It quickly swung to the side.

I looked at him and then did as he had done. It was like putting your hand outside the window of a car, the current whipped it aside. We were right at the boundary of the cove and there was a clear delineation between the calmer, more still waters of the cove which we were in and the ebbing current of Penobscot Bay into which we could stick out our hand. Kind of cool, but also a reminder to be cognizant that that kind of current could make getting back into the cove more challenging if not impossible.

Saturday Cove is also where I had my encounter with the Lions Mane Jellyfish, which I wrote about and described in one of my earliest attempts at this column Half Seas Over. I was tracking a crab scurrying across the bottom when some tendrils drifted across my face. Thinking they were seaweed or some debris, I tried to swipe them away with my arm. Then I realized they were the tentacles from a decent sized Lions Mane.

Close-up encounter with a Lions Mane Jellyfish at Saturday Cove (Photo by Charles H. Lagerbom)

They wrapped around my hand and arm and slowly tried to back away gently so as to not hurt it or me. I finally managed a somersault which somehow extricated myself and I crashed into my dive buddy, who never saw a thing. Luckily, I somehow caught the encounter on video. Therefore, I like to say that Saturday Cove has some decent sea life to see if you are lucky.

Someone told me that sturgeon have been seen in the cove or just outside it. And schooling fish like pogies sometimes come into the cove in swarms. You can always see Hermit Crabs and big Surf Clams.

Pretty big Atlantic Surf Clams found at Saturday Cove (Photo by Charles H. Lagerbom)

But Saturday Cove is also where I did some early dive jobs, work I found pretty interesting and rewarding. I once got picked up there to do some mooring work around the corner and when they brought me back at the end of the day they could not get very far into the cove as it was very low tide. They brought me in a far as they could, but it was still woefully short of anywhere near the dock or where I had parked. Already dog-tired, I ended up hauling all my gear through knee deep mud and rocks the decent distance to shore.

Hermit Crabs found all over Saturday Cove (Photo by Charles H. Lagerbom)

Another time, a local lobsterman called me to report he had lost a large crate full of lobsters, which had gone overboard from his moored lobster boat into about 30 feet of water. He wasn’t sure if it had landed upright or broken open, which would have allowed the occupants to escape. It had been chock full, so represented a pretty decent amount of money. Still, he thought it worth it to hire me to go look for it, but I had to do it fairly quick.

Time was of the essence, because if it had landed upright and closed with the lobsters still inside it, it was only a matter of time before they began to cannibalize each other. Yikes! I was still fairly new at underwater recovery and search techniques but jumped at the chance to locate the crate.

I met him at the dock, and we motored out to his lobster boat. Descending the anchor line, I hooked up my finger spool and started doing a circular search pattern. This proved more difficult and challenging than you might think. Finally, I snagged an errant buoy line from the something on the bottom. Seeing that the buoy did not reach the surface, I figured this might be the crate I was seeking.

The buoy line led me down to the crate, which was sitting all proud and complete on the bottom. It had indeed landed upright; I could see a lot of the lobsters through the slats eyeing me as I tied a rope around it. At the surface, they hauled it back aboard the lobster boat all safe and sound. Everyone was happy and I even got a bonus of a half-dozen lobsters to take home!

There was another Saturday Cove work job that came fairly soon after the lobster crate experience. Got a call from some summer people renting one of the sea-side residences on the cove. Seems they were all out enjoying the Maine summer weather but inadvertently left a bunch of things out on their float at the end of their long pier.

A windstorm that evening had come up and blew everything off the float. A large plastic storage bench had gone into the water, some water skis, and other assorted summer-time beach things. My daughter accompanied me on this job and helped me haul my gear out the long pier onto the float. I gave her the ok sign and rolled into the water.

Recovery of the white bench that blew off the float, now without the crabs in it (Photo by Audrey C. Lagerbom)

In no time, I spotted the big plastic storage bench. It had gone pretty much straight to the bottom and had landed flipped over with the bench seat open. When I went to move it to see if I could maybe muscle it to shore, a dozen quite large Atlantic Rock crabs scuttled out from underneath it, one of them right up my arm! Yes, it startled me, but I am pretty certain my scream did not reach the surface!

I did recover one of the water skis but could not find the other. Weird. The other assorted items had scattered around the bottom. So, I just toured around scooping up a bucket, some water shoes, a scuba mask, thermos, stuff like that.

So, I salute you Saturday Cove, and the many other little tucked away places along the coast that other divers might roll their eyes at. Each has its own unique identity. For diving, there is always something of interest. You just need to recognize it, even if it might be being ensnared by the strands of a Lions Mane Jellyfish!

Charles Lagerbom teaches AP US History at Belfast Area High School and lives in Northport. He is author of “Whaling in Maine” and “Maine to Cape Horn,” available through Historypress.com.

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