My name is Ray Frechette. I have been involved in
woodworking, furniture building, and building trades for
better than 20 years in various capacities and have been
largely a self directed learner of woodworking.
I say self directed as opposed to self taught as I have
learned immeasurably from reading the works of boatbuilders
and woodworkers who have committed their experiences to pen
and paper and preserved their knowledge in books. To them
and to current builders who have shared knowledge with me I
remain indebted, and perhaps will repay by helping others
starting in the craft some day.
I developed a love of woodworking and carpentry from my
grandfather. He also inculcated a love of the water and
boating as he owned a camp on a nearby lake and had me
overnight many many summer nights and weekends.
When I was 16 I saw plans for a small gaff rigged sailboat
built of plywood in Popular Science magazine and wanted to
build one in the worst way with my grandfather at that time
but he declined as he felt he did not have sufficient
skills to build a boat. He really did have the skills, but
did not want to take a stab at it. So, I had to spend some
time learning the skills necessary myself, and then I had
to busy myself earning a living for myself and my family.
About 6 years ago, I had the skills, time and money to
construct the craft as a father son project with my son. In
honor of my grandfather, and in appreciation of all he did
for me in my youth, I named it Le Vieux Pepere,
which is French for "The Old Grandfather" Naming it in
French pays homage to my franco-Canadian roots.
At the time of completion I had no expectation to ever
build for hire, but life has a way of surprising you. I was
a full time landlord with 35 rental units and had my hands
full with that. And then the City I live in decided that
they could not live without purchasing 2/3 of my property
under threat of eminent domain in order to give the land to
So when life serves you
lemons, Make lemonade. The sale of the property allowed me
to rearrange my life and become semi retired. I chose to
pursue changing a hobby to an income producing one. There's
an old nautical saying, "You can't alter the direction of
the wind, but you can alter your course and trim your sails
to go where you need to go."
So, with my time and abilities, and your money, together
we can build an heirloom craft that can be cherished and
passed down through the ages...
Often enough I get
questions as to why and how I came up with the name
Great Falls Boat Works. I was not blessed to grow up
on the Coast of Maine with a rich boatbuiilding heritage to
draw on. I grew up in Lewiston. As a child it was a gritty
mill town of predominantly franco Canadian descent. Textile
and Shoes still held sway in my childhood, and the river
powered the engine of industry in the town.
In fact, Maine was originally settled on the outer islands
by fisherman. The islands of Monhegan and Matinicus as well
as Metinic provided the fishermen a place to sleep and dry
the fish on racks yet also provided some protection from
Settlement then proceeded to the Coast of Maine. As roads
were few and of questionable repair, the Ocean coast and
the navigable rivers were the highways of commerce. The
major navigable rivers gained importance as the population
grew, and the need for timber necessitated going inland.
The Penobscot river was very important in this respect and
Bangor, Maine (Home of the Paul Bunyan statue) became known
as the "Lumber Capital of the World". A bit down stream is
the town of Winterport, so named as it was the northernmost
port on the river that would tend to stay ice free and
navigable in the winter.
The Androscoggin River is where I live. It is however quite
unnavigable given its numerous cataracts and changes in
elevation that makes navigation by large ships impossible.
The Native Americans who lived here before settlement did
use the river for transportation quite extensively In fact,
before the dam was built, the West Pitch of the Great Falls
was deemed navigable by the Indians when sufficient water
flow was present. Also, the Indians sused ti catch Salmon
with nets at the falls when the atlantic Salmon made their
migration up stream to spawn.
Lewiston and Auburn Hence became settled much later than
other towns. It was in fact the very aspect of the
elevation changes that made the area attractive for
Industry. Great Falls, the waterfalls at the very Heart of
Lewiston, and Auburn is what attracted industry to the
region. A granite arch cobbstone dam was built over the
falls, and an elaborate canal system through the town was
hand dug by Irish Immigrant labor that came to escape the
potato famine. the water power from this dam and canals is
what powered the numerous mighty textile mills that turned
lewiston from a tiny hamlet to the Industrial Heart of
Maine in a very few short decades.
Indeed it was this very growth orf industry in the late
1800's that drew the Canadians down to Lewiston from the
farms of Canada for work. My Great, Great grandfather was
among them along with his family including my young great
grandfather. So in a very real way, I live here because of
geology, and the presence of the falls.
So Great Falls Boat Works is an apt name, and in fact
sounds better than LandLocked Boat Works would.