Mad River Independence?

I got a nice red one last spring. My first single place canoe. I used it a lot during the season and have come to love it very much. I don’t know much at all about Mad River boats of this vintage ('93) and am curious about designer, history, construction, etc. Mine is Kevlar with a thicker grey football shaped area on the bottom. Fixed contoured cane seat and no tanks. Weighs 36+/- lbs. Any insight as to strengths/weaknesses, performance compared to more modern designs will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance, Tom

I really love this boat, as well. It seems like most people fall in love with it once they own one.


Great boat. Ah’s gots de fibberglass version.


MRC Indy
Independence is a semi V bottomed hull with minimal rocker and a flared hull.

It is too wide for most paddlers to stack their hands across the rail. This adds a sweeping component to each forward stroke.

The V and rocker keep the hull tracking regardless, issues arise when you want to turn the thing. It doesn’t respond well to inside heeled skidded turns because the stern doesn’t clear the water, and it presents the offside stern V as a wall to the water.

It prefers outside heeled turns, taking advantage of having the bow carving and the V flattened to the water. Outside heels turn the hull faster but are less stable than inside heeled skids.

In short, a fast, entry-intermediate level tripper because it tracks well. Most paddlers eventually outgrow the hull.

Charlie, I assume you mean one hand directly over the other?


Thanks, charlie

– Last Updated: Dec-12-07 9:47 AM EST –

I hoped you would chime in! Too wide? I think I measured 29 at the rails. Anyway, I'm tall with long-ish arms and have had no trouble keeping my paddle vertical. You're right about that heeled inside turn, though. The boat just doesn't want to. With a 66" Kettlewell Special, I'm able to dig right under there with a C stroke to keep to a line, as I'm primarily a kneeler. If I live long enough to outgrow this pretty boat, you would recommend a Rapidfire, perhaps?

Indy forever
I have a fleet of solos and use the Indy most often as a utilitarian boat. The lines of the boat always get compliments from other paddlers.

My fiberglass boat was purchased new the first few months it showed up in retail in 90/91.

Stable, handles well, can be poled and Indy does whitewater. Use it for races, hunting, fishing, floating photography blind. The boat is quite invisible to the wind and loves to ferry and play in fast water. Hauls up onto ice shelves real well, managable size and weight. Those early MR hulls were built like a bank vault and can take lots of abuse.

Though not made now the hull is still relavant and looks mighty handsome.

Yes, wish the gunnels came inboard a bit more but it is hardly an issue.

The key to any boat is proper balance, you do need to play with the seat position for your weight. A slight movement of the seat can make a huge difference in handling. I tried a wenonah sliding saddle for a week and replaced the cane seat. Modified the seat hangers with two angled pieces of mahogany fit into the gunnel and act as a wedge to cant the seat. The hull really needs support amidships.

I also inlet the ends of the thwarts to fit into the gunnels rather than ride below them. Stiffens the hull a bit more.

Guess a guy could outgrow his wife, dog and Browning shotgun so anything is possible in that regard.

Ah’ might also add

– Last Updated: Dec-12-07 12:15 PM EST –

Secondary stability be amazin' on dis here boat. Ah' paddle it heeled Canadian style wit de gunnels ta de water - rock solid. Good load-capacity fer it's size. Had it up in de Adirondacks dis past October fer 5 days loaded ta de gills wit crap.

But Charlie is right about de turning, but it's not too bad.

Beautiful canoo, gets many compliments. Only de second canoo (other than me beloved OT Tripper - Ol' Mukmukwum) in me fleet wit a name - Freyja - a name dat fits her lines. Ah's never gon'na sell dat one.


not necessarily
29 is wide for me.

Have a fleet of solos in the 26-27 inch width range that allow for stacked hands (one directly over the other, plumb vertical).

And a RapidFire…but thats one out of eight or nine.

Nice Picture! (nm)

That IS a nice pic of you doing something that I’m not planning to try anytime soon. At least not with witnesses. Do you think that the Kevlar version would stand up to class II-III? Maybe after I replace outwales I’ll work on seat mods. Ya gotta get a graying beard and goofy hat so as to look more like the rest of us, though.

Tough enough
Loaded question about standing up to class 2/3 water. Hitting rocks is to be avoided, rubbi’n is racing and sure, the hull will take that.

Photo taken during the 16.5 mile Kenduskeag race up in Bangor, ME. Quite intimidating to have the Indy sitting alongside of a deep hulled wwc-1 or a whitwater X. Sure makes an Indy feel out of place.

That darn hull can go thru unspeakable waves albeit a bit wet of a ride at times. If anyone knows the K gorge there are two ways to enter, dead on and tight around and between 2 rocks tucked into a cove in the gorge wall on the right. I do like that sharp right turn and the Indy says no problem. Of course I have to practically step out side the hull to draw hard right, hard left, hard left, hard right all in 2 heartbeats and ,yes, time does stand still. Ask me and I say the Indy turns on a dime but you really have to want to turn.

Even walked away with a couple of trophies when all the fast paddlers come down with the flu or paddle tandem. Indy does it all!

My family likes to ‘dress’ me for that race so I don’t embarass them. Otherwise here’s the floppy hat and beard along with stylish black hip boots.

Not so pretty after all
Now I know I can trust you.

I stand corrected
Just got out a tape and found 30 inches max beam at outwales. maybe she is a bit beamy, as I do occasionally snag the vinyl lettering with a fingernail when not paying attention. All is forgiven, though, when it’s time to pack up a load. I need this boat to do it all, since I can’t manage a fleet of specialized hulls. I was kind of hoping to hear from Openboatguy. He knows stuff that few do. Much gratitude to all responders, Tom out

Response to Tom’s offline email to me…
Hey Tom,

I'm alive...but my lap top had a run in with my 5 year old and a yogurt smoothie. Back in action after having to have the thing professioanlly cleaned.

Anyway, I quote the old MRC catalog...

"The Independence, following in design concept to the Malecite, is our performance solo touring canoe for the larger paddler (150lbs. and over). The V-shaped hull gives the Independence extraordinary secondary stability, and is thoroughly predictable even when leaned all the way to the rail. It features a 5 degree canted patented countoured cane center seat for paddler comfort. The sleek entry and exit lines are combined with flare for seawothiness and a hint of tumblehome is added near the center for easy paddling. The Independence is a dependable canoe handling a variety of water conditions, whether empty or heavily laden, a delight for a personal day use as well as a long distance tripping."

I have to say I'm extremely bias about this canoe. Not only because I worked for MRC for many years and have huge regard for Jim Henry (designer and founder), but I have spent HUNDREDS of hours in this canoe. I have won triathlons with downriver canoe legs, gone on numerous multiday trips with it, and lily dipped on a plethera of streams, lakes, beaver ponds, and large open water. The catalog description is bang on in its' description of the canoe.

The specs from the 1993 catalog (from which the above quote came) read as follows:

Hull configuration:
-slight rocker
-shallow V
-6" freeboard capacity:
Average weight:
FG - 42lbs
Hybrid (kevlar/airex core) 35lbs
Lenght: 15' 8"
Gunwale width: 28.5"
4" waterline width: 29"
depth at center: 11.75"
Bow height: 19"
Stern height: 17"

This canoe has taken me many places and has always given me some of the greatest joys and pleasures I've had in a canoe. Bottomline, there are so many great canoe hulls out there and if one feels right, then no one can tell you its not a good hull. It would be nice if we could all collect a different canoe for everyday and every condition, but that's just not a reality for most of us. If all I could do is own one canoe, the Independence certainly would be one of my choices.

Happy paddlin'


There are no tanks in your Indy because the Airex core provides the neutral bouancy.

The canoe was discontinued by Confluence after Wilderness Systems and MRC merged (that’s when Confluence was formed). We all know that Confluence took the direction of plastic and cheaper hulls (although they still make some of the classic MRC hulls in Royalex). In their infinate canoe wisdom they also discontinued the Destiny, Horizon, Winooski, Lamoile, Mississquoi, and haven’t been able to build or sell the Malecite or composite Explorer to save their life.

The design philosophy of the Indy was that of most of Jim’s designs…a confident craft, built strong and versitle so it could take you anywhere you want to go and know that it would handle all conditions.

Do you have similar info on the Slipper?
I have a Carbonlite 2000 lay up Slipper with tilt adjustable semi-pedestal tractor seat and the only blurb info that I have on it are inaccurate (the dimensions are inaccurate, I think it says that it has a 21" bow depth).


P.S. I’m glad that your computer is back in action.

Very nice and great info
I almost needed a Kleenex towards the end!

When I first started paddling the Independence, it was very difficult to get used to. However, I kept going out and practicing. I would pick a tree on the other side of the lake and try to go straight to it. I finally was able to do this in almost all conditions-we bonded. It really is a very personal experience in that boat, like getting to know a friend. I like to paddle my Yellowstone also but it does not seem alive like the Independence. He should be damn proud he created this boat!

the Slipper…
Taken from the '93 MRC catalog:

“The Slipper is an elegant solo canoe that combines a delightful blend of performance, maneuverability and stability. The Slipper tracks well, introducing solo paddling to the novice with a feeling of ease and security. It excels in difficult, choppy, transitional types of water conditions, while carrying paddler and gear with ease. Its classic Mad River shallow V bottom softens subtly towards the center of the canoe enhancing its versatility. There is substantial flare to the sides fore and aft of center for superb seawothiness. Finished with a contoured cane seat, the Slipper comfortably accommodates both kneeling and " hit and switch” style paddling techniques."


Designers: Bob Brown and Cliff Jacobson

Hull configuration:

-Slight rocker


-Shallow V

6" freeboard capacity:



FG, Kevlar/PVC

Average weight:

FG - 46lbs

Hybrid - 34lbs

Length: 14’7"

Gunwale width: 27"

4" waterline width: 27.5"

Depth at center: 11.5"

Bow height: 17"

Stern height: 16"

So…Carbonlite. Back in the mid ‘90’s, MRC hooked up with Tom Deryer (sp?), owner/founder/designer of Eddyline Kayaks (Tom rocks…super smart). As many of us know, he pioneered Carbonlite (thermoformed kayaks). MRC teamed up with Eddyline and did some major R&D to try and build canoes out of Carbonlite. The goal was to try to offer an alternative to Royalex. Thus, MRC needed to find a mold that they already had that wasn’t in production and could be sacrificed to the R&D God’s. Hence, the Slipper mold got sacrificed and sent out to Redmond, WA. Eddyline sent us back a truck load of Carbonlite Slippers and we then finished them out. The tractor seat set up you have was designed so that the paddlers weight would assist in putting pressure on the belly to keep the hull from flexing. It was all a great idea and effort, but in the end, a canoe proved to voluminous for Carbonlite. Most of the hulls cracked like a motherfu*@3er. They especially don’t like frigid temps. That said, some of the hulls survived and were sellable (at a discount). If your slipper ever happens to crack, go to the hardware store and buy “Plastic Weld”. You’ll find it next to the 2 part epoxy glues.

The reason MRC discontinued the Slipper (long before Carbonlite) was because it was not a Jim Henry design and once Jim came out with the Independence and Liberty, the Slipperr was doomed.

If you Google Cliff Jacobson, I’m sure you’ll come up with a way to contact him. He’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the hull from the designers perspective.

Happy paddlin’ (although it’s ski time up here),


Have to Agree w/Charlie
Regarding the lines of the Indy.

To me, you guys appear to be very good canoeists BECAUSE I wouldn’t do what you do with the Indy.

Personally, I’d rather use the Mad River Guide or some other similar high-rocker/high-stability canoe for the class II/III stuff.

I just didn’t like the personality of the Indy re: turning. Otherwise a cool canoe. If you like it, for God’s sake use it. ENJOY.