Mad River Explorer Wood Trim Stain?

I’ve recently purchased a beautiful used 2000 Mad River Explorer in white with wood trim. Allegedly only paddled once, and the near complete lack of marks on the hull supports the claim. Before putting her in the water I want to thoroughly oil the gunwales and they are dryyyyyyy. As I lightly sand the gunwales to smooth them out, I’m getting the impression I’m removing color: I believe Mad RIver used to offer a “dark stain” gunwale guard, and I think that’s what my boat got from the factory.

I’m perfectly fine letting Ash just be Ash except I don’t feel like sanding everything down completely to even out the color, I’d rather spend that time…paddling.

I have a partial can of natural gunwale guard that I’m hoping to stretch far enough to get this thing protected.

Has anyone had any luck matching or touching up the “stain” color Mad River might have used here?

And while I’ve got you here, what’s your favorite oil for wooden gunwales? I’d stick with OEM except that Mad River doesn’t list gunwale guard anywhere on their website anymore.


You might call Dave Curtis at Hemlock Canoe and see if he knows what Mad River used. Dave puts stain (walnut I think) in the Watco oil that he uses on his boats.

Watco is a good all around choice. I prefer oil. Some people like varnish. If the boat is stored outside varnish is most durable. For indoor storage I prefer the look and feel of an oil finish.

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On their light colored hulls (white, sand) Mad River usually used walnut stain on the gunwales. You could try some Helmsman walnut stain.

For what it is worth, my experience has been the Gunwale Guard as sold by Mad River was hands down the worst oil finish I have ever used. I had a can and wound up throwing half of it away.

Watco Teak oil is widely available and does a pretty decent job. I do agree that varnish protects the ash from taking up water (leading to rot) than an oil finish does if the canoe is stored outdoors.