If you look closely, especially in the garages, barns and back workshops of Maine people, you will discover people making things with their hands, talented, creative people with the gift of true craftsmanship.

Pete Boucher from Hampden is one of those people. He makes boats, drift boats for serious fishermen who want a stable craft for fishing moving water.

A fisherman himself and a longtime summer volunteer at the Big Eddy campground on the West Branch of the Penobscot River, Boucher decided about 10 years ago that, darn it all, he wanted a drift boat. Deciding that they were too expensive for his pocketbook, he resolved to build his own.

Although not an experienced carpenter, Boucher is a retired machinist who worked at the GE plant in Bangor. He bought the print for drift boat construction from well-known drift boat maker Roger Fletcher for $40. That same winter, putting in 7 hour days in his shop, he built drift boat number one.

Over the years, Boucher, who was born in Verdun, France, has constructed and sold five magnificent drift boats. When I first saw one of these boats it spoke to me of meticulous workmanship and lovely lines, from the highly polished oak gunwales to the stylish rake of its bow and stern.

Back in June, on the shores of the Big Eddy, four of the owners of the five boats Boucher has built gathered with their crafts for a photo opportunity. They are Scott Antworth, Orrington; Scott McArthur, Holden; Elbridge and Judy Cleaves, Weston; and Bob Boucher ( Pete’s brother), Hudson. Stewart Fairbanks from Conn. owns the fifth drift boat.

What does Boucher get for these drift boats? He says that it depends on materials and labor. “I just love building these boats,” Boucher said. “So far I have sold them for just the cost of the materials I have in them.”

The Hampden man exudes enthusiasm when talking about his boats. “I overbuild everything I do, and each boat is a little different with some refinements along the way.”

For many years, Boucher and his wife, Lila, were summer volunteers at the Big Eddy campground. Camp manager Don Lamson said that he could not say enough about the contributions they both made at improving the campground.

“Pete did some needed carpentry work every year and Lila was kind of our social director. She was also my fishing alarm. When fish started rising on the Eddy, she would let me know,” recalls Lamson.

Last winter, a major heart attack put Boucher in the hospital.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” he reflects.

He and his wife, Lila, a Vermont native, decided to slow down some and stay nearer to home. Lamson says that the campground isn’t quite the same without the summer long Boucher presence, but the gathering of the Boucher drift boats on the river during the evening rise is a reminder of Pete’s dedication, not only to boat making, but to the campground itself.

Boucher says that despite his setback he feels great and has not lost his love of building drift boats.

“Will you continue to build boats?” I asked.

“You bet,” he says. “I can’t wait to get started on boat number six!”

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors.” His e-mail address is [email protected] He has two books, “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”


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