1974 Mad River explorer

I recently purchased a mad river canoe . The owner believes it was purchased in 1974. Other than the gunwales its in great shape. There is no serial # on the exterior of the hull. I was talking with a local shop and they said that very early boats just had a number in Sharpie . This boat does have a number in sharpie on the inside of the bow under the deck. Anyone else know anymore about this?

I did not think that Mad River Canoe introduced the Explorer until 1975 but I could be wrong. All canoes manufactured in the US or imported into the US after November 1, 1972 have to have a hull identification number (HIN). The builder “certifies” the hull with the US Coast Guard when the hull is built although it may be sold later. There have been various different formats for the HIN but they are all 12 characters, the first three of which are always letters. Some of the rest of the characters may also be letters. .

Most often the HIN is on an aluminum plate attached to the exterior of the hull but sometimes it was marked on the hull with a Sharpie under a deck plate. Ifthe “number” you saw has 12 characters and begins with “MAD” then it is probably the HIN.

At that time two different formats were used. In the “straight year” format the last 4 characters in the HIN are all numbers. These indicate the month (9th and 10th characters) and year (11th and 12th characters). So in this format if your boat was really made in 1974 the last two characters should be “74”.

In the “model year” format the 9th character of the HIN is always the letter “M”. The 10th and 11th numbers indicate the year of certification and this was sometimes the year prior to when the boat was actually sold (the “model year”). In this format the last character of the HIN is a letter indicating the month of certification beginning with “A” = August. “B” = September, etc.

In later years Mad River used the model code “EX” for the Explorer which would be the 4th and 5th characters of the HIN but they might have changed their practices over the years. Manufacturers were free to use the 5 characters after the manufacturer’s identification code (MIC) which started the HIN in any way they chose. Some used a model code identifier and some just assigned serial numbers regardless of model.

Memory being what it is the former owner could have been off a year or two ,The boat is 15’ 11" made of royalex green exterior grey interior, had squared gunwales (and some generally "rustic wood work finishes). How were the aluminum plates affixed? No sign of any plate and the number inside the bow is only three digits “596” so clearly that doesn’t fit into the ID . Not the end of the world if I cant nail down more info. The boats in good shape and it was a great deal but its always fun to know a little something about it. Thanks for the detailed answer.

Aluminum tags bearing the HIN are most commonly pop riveted to the starboard side of the rear of the hull on the external surface. It might have been removed by a prior owner. MRC did trim some Royalex hulls with wood gunwales and before 1984 the outwales were squared, not radiused as later. On Royalex hulls the inwales and outwales “sandwiched” the hull so that the top of the molded hull was flush with the top of the gunwales and visible between the inwales and outwales. On composite canoes MRC used kerfed outwales that covered the hull with a thin lip of wood.

I believe the MRC Royalex Explorer was also introduced in 1975.