Three divers who got caught in the Old Sow whirlpool off Deer Island Point were very lucky that the local ferry was passing nearby and that the fog had just lifted so that they could be spotted in their distress.
The Deer Island/Eastport ferry, the Fundy Trail, was headed back to Deer Island on Saturday, August 31, about 10:45 a.m. (AT) when the divers were seen between Deer Island Point and Indian Island. "We just happened to see them. We thought they were seals at first," says crew member Larry Bradford. Skipper Reid Cline continues, "I said that's not a seal, that's a diver. No, it's two divers. No, it's three." The divers obviously were in trouble. Bradford says they lowered the ferry's ramp so it had about four feet of water over the top of it. They then slowly approached the divers "and scooped them up and brought them aboard." The ferry then took them to the beach at Deer Island Point. Noting that the divers were "worn out," Bradford says, "They wanted to be on shore bad." He adds that he joked with them, asking "if they had their passports when we went in."
Bradford notes, "Had it been foggy, we never would have seen them. The fog had just lifted that trip." And without the ramp, the ferry would have had to tow them to the beach.
Two marine mammal observers for Ocean Renewable Power Company, Tess Ftorek and Steve Erwin, also had seen the divers get swept into the outgoing tide and get in trouble in the Old Sow. They saw them waving their arms and called the U.S. Coast Guard, which sent one of its boats from the Eastport station. The Coast Guard checked in with the ferry crew on its trip back to Eastport.
The tide was a couple hours ebb, Cline says, and the divers had gone in at Cancat Beach, which is on the Western Passage side of Deer Island Point. Divers often drift down with the ebb tide and take out at the beach at the end of the point. Divers are safe if they stay inside of the tide ring, but once in the tide "they are fooling around where they shouldn't be," Cline points out, adding that one can't swim against the strong current. Bradford notes that he's picked up four divers during his time on the water, including one off Eastport.
Ftorek, who is a registered Maine guide, observes that if you go diving in an area in which you are not familiar you should ask local fishermen and others about where and when to go diving safely.
Cline comments, "I'm not a hero. Larry's not a hero. Anyone would have done the same thing. They were just lucky we were there and lucky that the fog had lifted or we never would have seen them."