Eastport

44° 54′ 22″N , 66° 59′ 24″W

Eastport

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Photo: West Quoddy Head Lighthouse by J Labrador

The course past West Quoddy Head to the borders of maritime Canada is a challenge accepted by only the most determined of cruising skippers. The water is cold, the fog is thick, currents are tricky and dangerous; any help in case of calamity is scarce or nonexistent. To safely ply these waters requires a vessel and crew fully prepared and on top of their game. Eastport is the historic hub and jumping-off point to the wonders of New Brunswick’s notorious Bay of Fundy and the hidden Canadian treasures of Campobello Island, St. Andrews, and Grand Manan. Perched among the barrier islands that ring Cobscook and Passamaquoddy Bays, this remote port of entry in U. S. waters is a welcoming oasis of attractions and services for a boat on the way to the ambitious goals of Saint John or the rich cruising grounds of Nova Scotia.

Approach & Cautions

Photo: Eastern Head Harbor Lighthouse by Doug Bruce

Both navigable approaches to Eastport from the south along Grand Manan Channel should be taken seriously. Lubec Narrows, just before the western headland of Canada’s Campobello Island, offers the first option for the boat venturing east. The fixed bridge from Lubec to Canadian territory at Campobello Island offers only a forty-seven-foot clearance for your masthead at mean high tide. Although this entrance is somewhat shorter and allows you to remain in U. S. waters, the huge tides and resulting currents you must deal with are reputed to be the stuff of Greek mythology. Lubec is a colorful hamlet, but if you are destined for Eastport, the lack of a good anchorage or dockage here should seal the deal. An easier way to visit this lovely and ageless fishing village is by water taxi from Eastport.

From “neap to spring” the tides in this area may range from 16-27 feet twice a day. Tides surging into Cobscook Bay from the northeast are strong enough to force-feed a substantial reversing falls. Cobscook is the local Abenaki tribe’s word for “Boiling Tides.” The current swirls around Campobello Island and meets the natural tidal bore flowing up the Bay of Fundy through the Lubec Narrows. Under the bridge at Lubec, they meet like a muddy scrum in an Aussie-rules football match. This forty-to-fifty-foot tidal range violently empties seventy-billion-cubic feet of water through these narrow passages twice a day at speeds up to eight knots, occasionally causing spinning whirlpools a boat length wide and three to four feet deep. This aquatic adventure would be a premium ticket ride for any family theme park. If you chose to slip under the bridge towards Eastport, low tide demands a serpentine passage with treacherous cross-currents, proceeding at high slack tide with a fool-proof engine (is there such a thing?) would likely be your best bet.

The second entry to a channel to Eastport is an option that requires a slightly longer course along the length of Campobello Island all the way past the first Head Harbor entrance and round the far side of Head Island before making your turn to port and then leaving Casco Bay Island well to starboard. If you need to wait for tide, daylight, or weather, Head Harbor offers a secure anchorage in a mud/clay bottom west of the wharf.

Protocol requires your vessel to display a Q-flag when proceeding in Canadian waters. Head Harbor at the eastern tip of Campobello is a tight finger of respite from the current if needed, ask advice from a local about rafting alongside a weir or a tethered fishing boat. You must remain under Q during your journey east and call Canadian Customs at Wilsons Beach (506-752-2091) to either invite custom officers to come aboard and enter your vessel into Canada or explain your intentions to proceed to Eastport. It is advised to quarantine yourself aboard your ship until you either choose to clear into Canada here (past procedures were often efficiently handled by phone) or proceed on to Eastport.

Click the chart to open Navionics.

Not to be used for Navigation.

Docking, Anchorages, or Moorings

Eastport is a U. S. port of entry, and anything farther east is Canadian. The municipal dock is adjacent to the unmistakable and formidable L-shaped breakwater next to the Coast Guard docks and headquarters. Transient docking is available on a first-come/first-served basis. The floating docks are sturdy, but water and shore power require longer than normal lengths to access. These inner dockage opportunities are also unavailable if a larger commercial vessel is in residence. Be extremely careful when entering this tight and bustling inner harbor; sightlines are sketchy. The U.S. customs offices are located in the post office building just up the street from the docks (207-853-4313). The harbormaster is Richard Clark (207-853-4614). His assistant is Mark Emery. Anchoring outside of the breakwater is not a sensible plan given the incredibly strong currents in this area. Other anchorage options are discussed below.

Photo of Eastport’s inner harbor by Doug Bruce

Getting Ashore

Photo: Iconic statue of a fisherman at Eastport waterfront by Bob Rubadeau

A walk-about downtown includes 29 buildings on the National Historic Register. You can step back a hundred or more years in celebration of red-brick architecture framed against the striking backdrop of wild ocean water leaving its roiling wake as it slips by pine-topped rock islands blocking the way.

Bob DelPapa runs the WaCo Diner on the waterfront and rents mooring and dock space when available. Call in advance, and he will find you a berth either on his dock or mooring or on someone else’s tackle. Bob’s phone is (207-266-9802).

Bob Peacock is the Harbor Pilot and is a valued resource for any cruising boat’s needs. Bob can you advise on just about anything in the surrounding area. His home phone is (207-853-6122).

There is a reasonably well-stocked IGA supermarket that is a 10-minute walk from the town dock. Convenience stores, liquor stores, bakeries, and shops are all within a welcomed stretch of the legs. There are pleasant walks and paths leading along the shore with opportunities to get ambitious and visit the many state parks and designated hiking trails only a short cab ride away. Or visit Campobello and their world-renowned nature walks by water taxi (if you’re fully vaccinated and are approved at the border).

In 2022 a few shoreside eateries and storefronts may be closed, on limited hours, or no longer in business. A phone list and up-to-date local business contact information are available on the Chamber of Commerce’s website.

While the fisherman’s statue dominates the waterfront, also look for the more refined mermaid statue.

NEARBY ANCHORAGES and Other Services

Federal Harbor in Cobscook Bay is nestled inside rocky headlands upon entering South Bay. Enter this well-protected harbor between Hog and Long Islands. This is a small anchorage, but a fellow CCA member levied high praise: “A magical place. After leaving the ‘metropolis’ of Eastport, one enters, on a flood current approaching 3 knots, a remote area without boats, houses, docks, or any sign of civilization except fish farms. Even the lobster pots disappear. The anchorage is surrounded by high, wooded islands. We were the only life within miles. We anchored in 11′ at low, 35′ at high, good holding but a lot of kelp on the anchor in the morning. A peaceful night.” Earnest Godshalk (7/25/21).

Other accessible and delightful Canadian harbors of interest in the vicinity are Head Harbour on the NE end of Campobello, Northwest Harbor on Deer Island, DigdeGuash Harbor behind Long Island, Bocabec Harbor at the mouth of the river of the same name, Harbor De Lute on the northwest side of Campobello, and the signature prize of St. Andrews behind Navy Island at the entrance to the St Croix River. Each of these anchorages requires a degree of comfort with the massive tides, heavy ground tackle, and the patience to ferret out the numerous stakes and weirs that are often only visible at half-tide or less. Patience is more than a simple virtue in these waters.

A CCA member was recently in need of a diver to free up a tangled prop in nearby Federal Harbor and was directed to Scotty McNichol who was recommended by both the harbormaster and the harbor pilot. Scotty’s phone is (207-214-9560).

The lobster boats in this area are built extra wide to cope with rugged seas and currents during their “wintery” season running from November to mid-July. See examples below:

OUR REVIEWS

What CCA Members are saying:

We visited Eastport in August 2021. We found Harbor Pilot, Bob Peacock, to be a very helpful and entertaining guy. He’s a good source of information about all things in Eastport on land and sea. He’s also a great storyteller. We got waylaid every time we walked past his boat.

Nick Orem

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