The 2004 Depoe Bay Wooden Boat Festival

Article by Terry Lesh
Photos by John Kohnen and Terry Lesh

Depoe Bay, Oregon is a miniature marine paradise just a few minutes north of Newport, Oregon, on the Oregon Coast. Beginning in the 1990s, Jack and Maggie brown, the local merchants and the Killer Whales Rowing Club have organized this intimate show at the seawall there. Messabouters (Western Oregon Messabouts @ and other boat fans come from Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho and british Columbia to enjoy the camaraderie, share boats and stories, and of course the seafood.

Depoe Bay is said to be the “World’s Smallest Harbor.” Also called “The Hole in the Wall,” it is one of nature's most unusual and beautiful seaside places. The Pacific Ocean butts up against the steep landfall but there is a little hole in the rocks giving access to the tiny harbor. It’s a tricky place to get in and out of by boat, requiring specific local knowledge. Having commercial fished out there, I can attest to that!

Some of the boats in the harbor, entrance is under the arched bridge. {Lesh}

Another harbor view. {Lesh}

Some charter fishing boats. {Lesh}

Demonstrations during the show included:

  • Steam bending demonstrations by Richard Cleveland (Sky Lakes Canoe & Paddle Co.)
  • Canoe seat and paddle construction (Sky Lakes)
  • Wood strip pulling boat construction (Susan Van Leuven)
  • Wherry rowing shell construction (Bob Jensen)
  • Eskimo Kayak rolling (Harvey Golden)

Activities included a challenge rowing race in a dory, model boat demonstrations, kids wooden model building, crab races, a ducky prize derby, Coast Guard videos, and various other talks, videos and marine related goings on including a crab feed, and a nice wine and hors d'oeuvres reception for the participants Saturday evening at Gracie's Sea Hag Inn just behind the display area.

The sound of Bagpipes just after dawn echoing throughout the hazy harbor sends a chill down our spines as Jamie Orr from Victoria, BC, blows the pipes along the seawall. Jamie and his dad, Les, come down every year. Jamie built a very nice Bolger Chebacco (Wayward Lass) that he usually brings and knocks around the harbor in. This year he brought the cedar strip Rushton’s Sairy Gamp canoe he built for his daughter. Jamie is the organizer of this summer’s trip to Sucia Island, Washington. Check out his Web page,, for more information.

Jamie Orr on the Pipes.{Lesh}

Jamie trying to wake up the author in his Burro. {Lesh}

Some of the Boats Displayed
Click on the thumbnails to see a larger image
(Photos by John Kohnen unless otherwise noted)

Jim Ballou of Milwaukie: It's a Dilly, restored 1960 Dillabaugh skiff

Bryan Beachy of Scio: Lizzie, sailing peapod from fig. 84 in American Small Sailing Craft

Larry Beggs of Newport: Restored 1959 17' Thompson

Jack Brown of Depoe Bay: Mighty Mouse Lives II, 19' Cape Ann dory built by Bill Childs

Jack Buehn of Otis: Restored 19' Century runabout

Jim Cooper of Albany: Brianna, Nutshell Pram with remote control electric motor {Lesh}

Jack Ehrlich & Jerry Kruger of Portland: Restored 1958 14' Reinell

Roger Fletcher of Dallas: 10' drift pram designed and built with his grandson

Brian Gage of Oregon City: Freedom, 18' Chamberlain/Gardner gunning dory

Greg Gilham of Salem: The Tidewater, restored 20' power dory

Harvey Golden of Portland: Skin on frame Arctic kayaks

Harvey Golden preparing to do his Eskimo rolling demonstration

Bruce Heys of Corvallis: 16' Ian Oughtred Fulmar daysailer

Ray Heater & Cy Happy of Sandy: Tom Kaarhus style McKenzie River drift boat

This style of drift boat is also called a Rapid Robert

They were popular on the Siletz & Nestucca Rivers in the '30s & '40s

Mark Keeler: 1961 18' Thompson, being restored

Killer Whales Rowing Club of Depoe Bay: Brenda Sue, 14' Atkin skiff powered by a riding lawnmower engine, built and donated by Jim Cooper

John Kohnen of Eugene: Pickle, 15' Footloose Skiff built by Louie Brochetti

Jerry Kruger of Portland: Ziggy, Penguin one-design sailboat

Bob Larkin of Corvallis: 8' Acorn Tender

Scott Malvitch of Newport: Banks dory built the old-fashioned way

Mike McKay of Albany: Whisper, electric Six-Hour Canoe

Mike McKay of Albany: Ken Swan designed skiff

Dick Mitsch of Lebanon: Orca, stretched Yankee Tender and Scruffy, 13' dory

Dick Mitsch based Scruffy on two bows of a Yankee Tender

Paul Mosier of Lincoln City: Babe, 11' Shellback sailing dinghy


Jamie Orr of Victoria, BC: Strip-planked Rushton Sairy Gamp canoe

Jamie Orr tries out the Sairy Gamp

Pat Patteson of Colton: 20' PK-20 outboard cruiser of his own design

Beanie Robison of Depoe Bay: Restored 19' George Calkins designed Bartender

Pogo Robison and Donn Santo of Depoe Bay: Restored 1938 16' Poulsbo boat

The Poulsbo boat

Pogo Robison of Depoe Bay: Restored 1956 14' Century runabout

Don Rutledge of Molalla: Ken Swan designed 16' Nez Perce skiff

Gary Sellers of Newport: 1962 17' Heurth Willamette River fishing boat

Sky Lakes Canoe & Paddle of Klamath Falls: Wood and canvas canoes, 1917 Old Town canoe

Miss QT, 11' runabout, a "shrunk" Glen-L Squirt

Miss QT

Susan van Leuven of Battle Ground, Golden Lady, strip-planked pulling boat

Orca, a 26' Bartender of unknown ownership

Author and his Toto. (Kohnen)

The Author and his Windance (Moondance).{Kohnen} [I could have sold the Burro about 50 times]

John Kohnen aboard his Pickle. {Lesh}

More boats, from foreground to background: Pat Patteson’s Elegant Punt, Ray Heater’s Rapid Robert, Golden Lady, Dick Mitsch’s Yankee Tender.{Lesh}

Almost all of the boats in the show have been built or restored by the participants. We have great times at the Festival sharing our ideas, experiences, techniques, mistakes and discoveries. Meaningful and rewarding friendships are formed, fostered and expanded through our newsgroup. The Depoe Bay show is always the last weekend in April.

For photos from Depoe Bay festivals in the past visit John Kohnen's Depoe Bay Wooden Boat Festival page.


Authors Note: John and I did good to get what we got here. Whew! Sorry for any omissions, mistakes and screw ups. It is what it is.

Terry Lesh