Mad River Independence; Worth Repairing?

Bottom line Question: Is this Mad River Independence worth repairing?

I purchased two Mad River canoes for $50 each recently. I am working on refurbishing one with my son as a gift to him. His canoe really just needs the gunwales and cross braces replaced which isn’t a big deal, it will be perfect for our kids to paddle solo and together. I am sourcing the wood from a local mill, and should be able to make this happen fairly easily.

The second canoe in the deal is a fiberglass Mad River Independence solo that is a little beat up and will need gunwales replaced as well. The fiberglass is cracked, although not through the hull over about 25% of the canoes bottom. There are a few spots that will need to have larger patches added to repair the cracking as I suspect that the crack goes through the fiber mesh in the hull, so for the larger cracks I would most likely be cutting portions of the hull and repairing the fiberglass. I have read and watched quite a bit online so far and feel fairly comfortable with the fiberglass crack repairs. My question is concerned with the extensive cracking in what looks to be just the gel coat of the fiberglass. The recommendations online call for grooving the crack with a Dremel tool essentially opening up the crack so that the new fiberglass can be added to close up the crack.

The potential problem is the amount of cracking, and if it is worth going through this process. Does anyone have experience with this type of repair or can you point me in the direction of someone who might be willing to share/guide me. I have time, just looking to work on this throughout the winter and spring to give myself something to do. If I can pull this off I will end up with not a lot of cash into a usable canoe, which is perfect.

If this is to far gone that isn’t a big deal to me, I purchased the canoes for the other one that I am refinishing with my son.

I have other photos but can’t load more than one as I am a new user, maybe I will be able to add them in replies later


I would want to see it in person before committing myself, but off hand I would say, sure it is worth repairing the hull if you have the means to rerail the hull. The Indy is a pretty nice boat that had a considerable number of fans.

The Independence was made in an all fiberglass version and a hybrid Kevlar/Airex version. It should be easy to tell which you have from the interior. The hybrid version will have a foot ball-shaped thicker area on the hull bottom where the Airex foam core is.

Assuming you have the fiberglass version, repairing even extensive cracks is not that difficult. Individuals have cut canoes completely in half to shorten them and then bonded the halves back together.

So you know for sure that the cracks extend through the gel coat into the fabric? If you are not sure, you can push on the hull and see if it feels spongy. Examine the interior opposite the cracks on the exterior for signs of damage. If you are still not sure, you may have to chip away some of the gel coat to find out what lies beneath.

Assuming the hull is cracked into the structural fabric, you are going to have to apply patches, and I would plan to do so on both the outside and the inside. Applying patches on the inside will allow you to reinforce the damaged area without adding too much thickness to the exterior patches that will create drag. But to apply patches and get a good bond, you are going to have to sand off all of the gel coat over the entire area you plan to bond patches to on the outside, and any paint on the inside, until you see the fibers of the 'glass weave. So a lot of that cracked gel coat is probably going to have to do anyway.

If you expose cracks extending into the fabric and see fragments and shards of delaminated fiberglass, you will need to debride these away. If the cracks appear relative clean, you can just gutter them out by beveling the edges at 45 degrees and fill them in with thickened epoxy.

In brief, after you have determined the full extent of the cracks by the above process, I would plan to apply a two layer patch of S fiberglass to the exterior with the larger patch overlapping the intact, undamaged hull by at least 2 inches beyond the crack in all directions. A second concentric patch can be about 1" smaller in maximal dimensions. The patches should be cut and applied so that the fibers of the 'glass on the two layers are oriented at acute angles to the cracks and not aligned with each other. I would use 6 ounce/square yard S fiberglass for these patches.

On the interior I would use the same process applying two concentric layers of patches. The same S fiberglass can be used for these, or even better, 5 ounce/square yard aramid cloth, such as Kevlar. The repair should be done with conventional epoxy.

After completing the repair you are going to have to paint over the patches to protect the epoxy. You could try wet sanding and buffing the entire exterior hull with a polishing compound or glaze to try to restore the gel coat, and then try to color match the paint over the patches as closely as possible. Or you could just clean up and plan to paint the entire hull. I have had good results using a one part polyurethane paint such as Pettit Easypoxy. Easypoxy contains silicone which gives a nice gel coat-like sheen. Of course, the paint on the bottom will get scratched.

Inside photo

Great advice, definitely reinforces my plan is a good one. I have some time off during thanksgiving and will start the exploring. I have the feeling there are a couple areas for patching the fiber, but most of it isn’t that deep.
Thanks pblanc!

The interior photo suggests that this is a fiberglass hull. There is a darker football shaped area on the bottom, but it does not appear to be raised proud of the surrounding hull as it would be if it were an Airex foam core. MRC often painted the bottom of their composite hulls with grey paint. The usually left the sides of a Kevlar hull unpainted but the sides of a fiberglass hull would be painted.

I agree heartily with pblanc. That canoe appears totally repairable. A couple of thoughts from my reserection of a glass Mad River Malecite: sand carefully the structural bit is thin. E-glass is not quite as strong but much more available.

So I finished gunwales on my sons canoe and started working on the independence finally. I sanded a little and it does not appear to be cracked through the gel coat into the fabric. See pictures. Although some of the bottom of the canoe seems a little spongy. What equipment would be ok for sanding my dremel tool seems to be working ok as long as I don’t turn it all the way up.

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So I uncovered and located the cracks along one side of the hull. Seems like most of the portion between the side and bottom for most of the length needs to be replaced. See photo. I’m a little Leary about cutting out this whole section although maybe I should providing I can create a form first.
The other approach I was thinking was cut out the bad in sections in one foot increments and patch the first layer in increments. Then once all the sections have one layer then add the additional layers.
Does anyone have experience with this sort of a repair, most everything I can find is only small sections or spot repairs.
Thanks for the advice, hopefully this gets noticed.

So this is the fiberglass boat we are talking about, correct? Because judging from the photo the one you rerailed appears to be Royalex.

I can’t really judge the extent of damage to the fabric structural layers from your photo. But as a general rule I would not cut out any damaged areas of fabric apart from stuff that was loose or material that appeared to be so degraded that it would not bond to epoxy and fabric. Even through and through cracks can usually be held in approximation with tape on one side while the other side is patched. Most of the time, if you sand down to reasonably clean looking fibers, you can patch the existing material, and that is a lot easier than cutting sections out and trying to replace them.

There is really no limit, other than time and expense, to the size of patches that you can use. You could reblanket the entire hull exterior if necessary, but I doubt that is the case here. Based on what I can tell from your photos, I would probably lay some long patches of fiberglass down the damaged area on the chine, using at least two layers of 6 ounce/square yard fiberglass cut concentrically with one patch at least an inch bigger in all dimensions, and with the fibers of the patches cut on a bias. The smaller patch should overlap the undamaged portion of the hull by a couple of inches.

S fiberglass is preferred to the common E glass and can be purchased from Sweet Composites. I would also apply a couple of patches to the interior of the hull along the same damaged area.

The first boat looks fine. The second boat looks like it has a lot of sun damage from UV rays. I have had a lot of used canoes over the years. A early kevlar boat made by Sawyer literally started to break in half while I was paddling it. Be careful with that blue boat.

In the end I found more in need of repair than it was worth so I scrapped the project. The bow repair was what did the project it. Oh well. Next time I’ll buy a boat to paddle rather than to fix. At least the royalex one for my kids worked out.

Good decision woodburn.