Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: May 24, 2021

Unique ‘dive-in theater,’ long in Bar Harbor, moves to Eastport

diver on boat Courtesy / Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater “Diver Ed” is getting ready to move his “dive-in theater” from Bar Harbor to Eastport next month. He’s seen here getting ready to perform a dive job in Bar Harbor earlier this month.

A unique attraction that’s been hugely popular on Bar Harbor’s waterfront for 20 years is taking the show to Eastport to see what the market has to offer there.

Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater is a marine education boat cruise developed in 2000 by Ed Monat — a commercial diver, fisherman, marine ecologist and former harbormaster with over 35,000 hours underwater. In addition, he’s the founder of the Bar Harbor-based League of Underwater Superheroes, a dive club that also performs underwater cleanups.

During the summer, Monat takes customers aboard his 54-foot, 70-passenger purpose-built vessel, named the Starfish Enterprise. He dives underwater with a video camera, exploring marine life such as starfish, sea cucumbers, crabs and scallops, while passengers watch live on an onboard movie screen. He also collects creatures and brings them up for a hands-on show-and-tell before they go back to the water.

But he’s been eyeing Eastport for years.

“Many of you already know that Eastport is my favorite place to dive in the United States!” he said, announcing the move in a Facebook post. “My diving buddies will understand why I am so EXCITED.”

Monat has an animated personality, to say the least, well known to the Bar Harbor community. On passenger trips, he’s known to sport seaweed wigs, pose with sea creatures and let the kids push him off the boat.

Originally from Manomet Beach, Mass., he started diving commercially there when he was 16.

He moved to Bar Harbor in 1984 to attend College of the Atlantic, where he studied marine ecology. After graduation, he stayed in Bar Harbor and worked various jobs, including commercial diving, scuba instruction, urchin and scallop diving and lobster and groundfishing. He served as a deputy harbormaster and later a harbormaster for Bar Harbor. 

He became interested in sharing his love of the underwater while still at college, where he built a marine lab and a traveling touch tank. For a while, he and another local diver ran passenger trips from the neighboring town of Southwest Harbor. 

In 2000, Monat bought a fishing boat called the Seal, converted it into a 49-passenger vessel, outfitted it with a video projector and began running daily trips in Frenchman’s Bay. He initially operated from downtown Bar Harbor but moved after several years to a dock at College of the Atlantic. 

The Seal broke free from its mooring in a storm on Thanksgiving Day in 2008 and cracked up on some rocks. So Monat built the larger Starfish Enterprise, a wide and stable vessel designed and built specifically for the theater, to carry 70 passengers and run three trips per day. 

“Once we got going with the big boat, we were pretty much full every trip,” he told Mainebiz.

person with clam
Courtesy / Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater
Ed Monat is a showman who enjoys sharing the mysteries of marine wildlife with his guests. He’s seen here with a hen clam.

His excitement about the move to Eastport is about the abundance and diversity of marine wildlife there. Trips will start June 21, he said.

“Eastport is incredibly beautiful and every diver in the Northeast goes to Eastport,” he said. “It’s absolutely stunning.”

Over the years, Monat and his dive buddies have traveled to Eastport as much as possible to enjoy the depths. He’s also run the occasional trip there.

“Still to this day they were the best dive-in theater trips we ever did,” he said. “We’ve been dying to do this again. You land on the bottom, and you’re right in the thick of marine life.”

Monat said a passenger cruise company called Eastport Windjammers has been working with him to facilitate the move.

“They’re providing the facility and handling ticketing,” he said. “So basically I get to go swim around and have a good time.”

While Bar Harbor has the advantage of a much larger customer base thanks to its status as a gateway to Acadia National Park, Eastport has its own advantages.

“It’s not like I do it because I thought I’d ever get rich doing it,” he said. “I do it because I like to do it and entertain people and play with sea creatures. Even though there’s not the amount of tourists there, it’s still a much better environment.”

For example, operating in Frenchman’s Bay requires him to find protected coves that get the boat out of the ocean swell.

“We’re trying to sneak into these tight little places so people don’t get seasick while we’re on anchor,” he said. 

But the waters around Eastport are largely protected by surrounding islands.

boat underway
Courtesy / Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater
The Starfish Enterprise carries up to 70 passengers.

“They don’t have ocean swells,” he said. “We’re going to a place where we can throw the anchor over anywhere and do a trip. That’s the way I want it to be. And it’s not always about making pot-loads of money. I’d rather just be happy.”

The culture of his business is a bit different from others in a tourist town, he said.

“Bar Harbor is a tourist town and people run businesses here to tap into the tourists,” he said. “I ran a business here because I’m a diver here and I just wanted to show people all the cool stuff. I didn’t do it to try to tap into the tourist industry.”

Monat will keep his home in Bar Harbor and return home “every Sunday to wash my underpants.”

He continued, “We’re not abandoning our friends and family and our people here in Bar Harbor,” he said. “We’re just going to be running our tour boat up there.”

He’s not too bothered about marketing the move. It’s on his Facebook page and his website. 

“Eventually we’ll l have brochures done,” he said. “We’re not doing a lot. We’re not business people. We don’t do much marketing. It’s mostly word of mouth. It’s not like I have a business plan.  I have no idea. For all I know, we might only get one passenger for the whole season. As long as I get to play with the fishes.”

Overall, he likes Eastport as a locale that’s more laidback than Bar Harbor. Not that there won’t be challenges.

“There are a lot more sharks to deal with up there, and the tides are ginormous, twice as big as they are in Bar Harbor,” he said. “So there are going to be challenges for sure. But it’s going to be fun and exciting. If a shark tries to eat me, it will make a good video.”

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF