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October 2012 MAINE COASTAL NEWS Page 7. Profi le: Vinnie Cavanaugh, 1912-1999 By Ruth Lowell

[based on interviews with Ed Drew, as well as info from Chip Flanagan, Bob

Turcotte, Chip Miller, Jeffrey Stevensen, Jamie Lowell, and Lorelei Lowell]

Recent years have seen a renewed interest in Portland boatbuilder Vinnie Cavanaugh. Rebuilds of Cavanaugh boats by Six River Marine (North Yarmouth) and Tom Wright (Freeport), as well as the Cava- naugh replica currently under construction by Hadden Boat Company (Georgetown), have piqued curiosity about this distin- guished Maine boat builder. Cavanaugh lived somewhat of a solitary life and might have passed into obscurity were it not for his bewitching boats which still ply the Maine waters, and the warm memories he left with his contemporaries and younger builders. Friend and co-worker Ed Drew states,

“Vinnie was a top-notch builder and many of his boats are still in service, despite being up to 50+ years old. He was an excellent craftsman. He took a long time to build them, but as far as I know, just about every boat that he ever built is still going.” As far as I could discover, Vincent P. Cavanaugh was born in 1912. According to his obituary (March 20, 1999, Portland Press Herald), he was born in Amherst, Mass., son of William and Gertrude Patterson Ca- vanaugh. At a young age, he came to live with relatives in Maine. Drew believes that Gertrude Cavanaugh was originally from Eastport, and returned there after the early death of her husband. Vinnie Cavanaugh had told Drew that he lived for a time at the old folks home in Eastport, which was run by his grandmother. According to Drew, for many years Cavanaugh returned to Eastport every summer for the 4th

of July celebration.

Cavanaugh’s mother also passed away young; Cavanaugh had very little memory of her. At some point in his youth, Cavanaugh came to live with his mother’s brother in the Portland area. His obituary states, “By the time he was 14 he had built a model three-masted ship that was so precise in detail it was displayed in the front window of the State Theater.” Cavanaugh graduated from Portland High School in 1932 and opened a boat shop on the waterfront. After World War II started, Cavanaugh joined the Navy. According to his obituary, for one of his assignments he served as chief petty offi cer aboard a ship which searched for explosives in the Missisippi River. Drew states that Cavanaugh was also stationed in the New York area for a while, and during that time he kept company with a ballerina from New York City. Drew re- counts a story where Vinnie had a present – earrings or a brooch perhaps – which he was getting ready to give the woman. A friend on his ship told him, “Wait a minute, you can’t give it to her like that!”

“What do you mean?” asked Vinnie. “Come on, I’ll show you,” his friend said. So the guy takes Vinnie to into Tiffa- ny’s and tells the clerk, “I’d like to buy one of your gift boxes.” Of course the box had the Tiffany’s name on it. The clerk tells him, “Oh, you can have it!” So they took the box and put the ballerina’s gift into the Tiffany’s box.

Despite these efforts, the relationship did not last. Cavanaugh never married or had children, although during most of the time that Drew knew him, Cavanaugh lived with long-time girlfriend Gloria. Lorelei Lowell, widow of Carroll, described Cavanaugh as quite handsome, with twinkly eyes and courtly manners. “He was tall and thin, and

he would bend low to kiss your hand and give you a wink,” Lorelei said. After WWII, Cavanaugh returned to Portland. Drew said that for awhile, Cava- naugh lived in East Deering. “After the war, Vinnie worked at Rudy’s Market, where Veranda Street and Washington Avenue are. He built a 25 foot boat up there, living in Rudy’s house, which was just behind the shop.” When the boat stock was dropped off, Vinnie found that the keel stock wasn’t surfaced. He fi tted and bolted everything up, fi guring that he would surface it with a hand jointer plane - a lot of work.

Rudy was a butcher and a rugged fellow.

He asked Vinnie, “Well, can’t you run the keel over that electric jointer?” Cavanaugh told him, “Christ no, it’s too heavy to run over the jointer.” So Rudy said, “Well, how about running the jointer over the keel? It probably only weighs 70-80 pounds, don’t it?’” “Rudy picks the jointer right up, they took the fence off it, turned her upside down, and Rudy used it like a great big electric plane!” said Drew. “Vinnie said that was probably the fi rst electric hand plane ever

used, but you had to be a stout fella to use it!”

In 1946, Cavanaugh opened his shop at Continued on Page 8.

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