Here we go again. Taking a little road trip to Oregon this weekend to pick up a genuine piece of driftboat history – a 1960’s era Keith Steele McKenzie boat.

This will be my third driftboat project and I am super excited to have one that was built and used in Oregon by a legendary builder.

My first boat was an early 1990s Tatman kit that I built while living in TN and sold a few years after building it. My second one was all fiberglass of my own design and build. That one was stolen a few years back.

Now I’m living out west and it just won’t do to not have a drift boat. I have spent several months deliberating on whether to build a super nice wooden one, pick up a cheap used glass one, or look for a Woody Hindman or Keith Steele. As luck would have it, this Steele boat showed up on Craigslist and a friend, knowing I really wanted one snagged it before someone else could. An older guy in Oregon had the boat built for him by Keith Steele sometime in the 1960s after Steele gained notoriety for building the first Grand Canyon dories. He had a stroke a few years ago and realized it was time to let the old girl go.

The boat looks all original and complete and the owner says it is solid and perfectly usable as-is but my friend and I are going to go through and restore her. But maybe we’ll do a float or two in her first.

So what do y’all think… should I finish the whole boat with a bright finish or paint the outside? If paint, what color? My first one was hunter green with a tan rub strip and bright inside. I liked that look. Also thinking of maybe a turquoise color. It currently looks to be painted white.

I'd also really like to go by Steve Steele's shop while I am nearby. Anybody know how to contact him?

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I see what you mean. Is that wood plywood or solid lumber? I wonder if he put a strip of plywood in there? What does it look like on the inside?


It seems to be the solid mahogany chine log...

Have any of you guys that have restored Keith Steele boats (or any for that matter) seen this before? This doesn't make sense to me. Am I seeing what I think I am seeing?

I had an old Willard Lucas boat that had mahogany chine logs, I don't believe it was to uncommon, I have seen it on a few classics boats but i am also sure it came with an added cost to the customer.


I wonder if the inner chine log has a rabbet cut in it? The the plywood could be inset in the inner chine log????? Jayson, anyone, any ideas?


Seems a little weird to me that the plywood would be sitting on the top of the chine log, I would almost bet that the groove you are seeing in the side of the plywood is nothing more that the plywood being scored from a previous chine cap repair or complete bottom replacement. I would keep working at it and investigate a little further. Another thought is the rubber being trimmed after the installation of the chine cap?



The chine logs on my 1966 Keith Steele boat are mahogany (picture attached).

I bet that Jayson is right and the strip of plywood is from an old dry rot repair.



I feel kinda dumb now but I think y'all are probably right about that. That is what makes the most sense.

Well, I can definitely confirm that y'all were right about it being a strip of plywood from a repair. And the starboard side is exactly the same. It looks like a good repair.

Now onto another question:When the time comes in the distant future to apply a finish to this thing I will apply oil to the inside. I know about boat soup but wonder if there is an oil that does not turn dark. Has anyone used Penofin Marine Oil? That company claims that it does not darken but what do you say? There are a lot of negative reviews for it turning mildewy too. Living in Boise I am not sure that would be an issue but...

Daly's Seafin Teak Oil seems to work out well. Take a look at Steve Putnam's boat. I took a series of photos of his boat where you see the interior. I believe that AJ, Mike Baker and others have also had good luck with it.

Rick N

Rick, how long ago was that oil applied? Have you seen it lately?

Anyone else have any thoughts on oil that won't darken over time?

That was applied on during late summer 2014. He may have reapplied some since then. If I remember right steve put on four or five coats. If you wipe it on with a rag and then sand it in with 400 or 320 grit wet or dry sandpaper you can achieve a satin to glossy finish dependent upon how much oil and sanding you do. I finish my gunwales and chine caps with Daly's. You can look at my pictures to see how it looks.


I've use Pentofin and it does turn the wood dark...


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