Over the past 15 years, Capt. Pete Douvarjo has seen all kinds of interesting things on the water while taking charter clients fishing on the Atlantic.
So when the owner of Eggemoggin Guide Service saw a large fin off his starboard bow during his return from a shark-fishing excursion on Tuesday afternoon, he thought he knew exactly what was going on, and pointed that fin out to his clients.
“”We’re about two miles past [Mount Desert Rock] … and I said, ‘Well, look at that. This is a treat for you guys. This is a basking shark,’ not having any idea that it could be anything else,” Douvarjo said. “I explained how they have this gigantic mouth and they have this little pointy nose, and when their mouth opens up it’s just this gigantic cavern … they swim along slowly at the surface, and whatever goes in there, they’re feeding on it.”
The closer the shark came, the more apparent it became that Douvarjo had underestimated the approaching animal..
“All of a sudden, a lightbulb went off in my head,” Douvarjo said. “It didn’t have that bulbous nose. It had this triangular head.”
It was, Douvarjo said, a great white shark.
Douvarjo’s clients, Kate Beach and Dustin Hoener, live in Missouri, though Beach has spent a week in Maine each year for the past 15, staying at a family home in Somesville.
Beach said Douvarjo’s demeanor changed as the shark got closer.
“[At first] he had this certain, education-type tone,” Beach said. “There was no panic or anything that would tell you that something scary was going on.”
Then Hoener saw teeth, and Douvarjo changed his mind … and his tone.
“All of a sudden, I’m scared to death,” Douvarjo admitted. “I don’t get scared of much out there, but this submarine, the size of my boat [was approaching], and when I realized what it was, I thought, ‘Oh my god, what do we do?’”
Beach said the captain’s reaction added to the adventure.
“When you see your guide, who’s been fishing for 40 years, freaking out and radioing the whale-watching [boats], it was thrilling,” she said.
The shark swam directly at the boat, and when it was 10 feet away, slipped below the surface and swam underneath the 21-foot Parker, providing Douvarjo and his clients a good view.
“You put [the shark] up next to the boat and it might not have been 21 [feet long], but it was as big as the boat,” Douvarjo said. “The girth — I don’t even know how to explain it — I bet three guys couldn’t have linked their arms around it. It was just monstrous.”
Douvarjo said that at least three other great white shark sightings have been reported in Mane waters over the past couple of years, though he’d never seen a great white himself. Beach said the captain explained why it might have been off MDI.
“Seals are their favorite snack and thing to eat, so it kind of made sense that we saw what we saw,” Beach said.
Unfortunately, the incident took place so quickly, there’s no photographic evidence of their encounter.
“The reason we didn’t get a picture was the shark was right up on us before we realized it probably wasn’t a basking shark,” Beach said. “This shark looked to be 18 to 22 feet. It was huge. I thought it was almost a whale.”
Having seen “tons of basking sharks” over the years, Douvarjo was pretty sure he knew what he’d seen, but after returning home that night, he looked at photos of both basking sharks and great whites. The photos of great whites depicted the animal they’d seen, he said.
“I’ve seen all manner of wildlife out there, and I’ve never seen anything like that. It was pretty cool,” he said.
And though he expects that some people might say he misidentified the shark, he’s not budging.
“That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it,” he said with a laugh.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke