Frenchman Bay

View from a mountain summit of islands and boats on the ocean.
Frenchman Bay

FOA Will Newton

Frenchman Bay is a part of the Gulf of Maine, and it’s all part of the Atlantic Ocean! The Bay is sandwiched between the Schoodic Peninsula to the east and Mount Desert Island on the west. At the southern end of Frenchman Bay is an island called Egg Rock that is home to a lighthouse. This island is a protected area where many birds nest and lay their eggs, hence the name!

This body of salt water is about 7 miles long and 14 miles wide. At its deepest point, Frenchman Bay dips down to about 300 feet – so the geologic features you see rise out of the water mirror the features below the surface.

Within Frenchman Bay there are about 39 islands, including a few that are visible in the video. The visible islands are called Sheep Porcupine, Burnt Porcupine, and Long Porcupine. Why are the islands called “porcupines?” The answer is due to their shape, which mimics that of this unique quilled mammal.

The name, Frenchman Bay, has an interesting story behind it. For about 150 years, the French and English fought one another in order to gain control over these resource-rich lands. The French would hide their boats behind these islands in order to sneak up on the English, earning this body of water its name. In 1759, English forces defeated the French at Quebec, leaving the English as the dominant colonizing power.

Many of the islands have a long history of people using them to grow hay, sheep graze, log for timber, and build small fishing camps. Sheep Porcupine Island, for example, is a nod to the sheep grazing that took place on the island back in the 1800s. It’s part of Acadia National Park.

Boating activities on Frenchman Bay range from commercial to recreational. Many take out a sailboat to catch the wind in their sails and coast around the surrounding islands. Others like to cut through the waves in kayaks or canoes. Maine is one of the biggest exporters of lobster across the country – you might see a small motor boat noodling around the Bay, checking on their lobster traps.

Last updated: July 21, 2021