Mad River Liberty

-- Last Updated: Sep-02-09 2:01 PM EST --

Anyone know much about the Mad River Liberty? Hope so... as I've been offered one in some sort of kevlar construction with wooden gunwales....

Have prepared more... but cannot post :(

according to one who knows (not me)
It was born of the Independence mold, with the center section removed. It’s supposed to be a good all 'round solo for a 150ish # paddler. If you’re not too big for it, you should be pleased.

A good boat if you fit it
They all had wood gunwales. It’s an Indy with the middle cut out to make it smaller.

More on the MRC Liberty…

– Last Updated: Sep-02-09 4:25 PM EST –

OK.. have finally solved my posting problems...

As I recently noted on the other thread:

I've nothing on the weight (but possibly less than 30lb)...but the basics seem to be: 14'8" long, 28" wide at the gunnels and 11.25" deep at the centreline with a symetrical hull. I understand that it was a smaller version of the Independence (so maybe minimal tumblehome) and was designed for paddlers up to 150lb - like me :)

Charlie Wilson's comments on the slipper that preceded the Liberty are not encouraging (says "they weren't particularly fast, straight tracking or maneuverable" and that they perhaps needed "a little more bow rocker and more tumblehome")... and the same goes for his comments on the Independence that was apparently the larger sibling - lack of rocker in the bow appears to have kinda scuppered the thing from the start.

My fear is that the Liberty is another of those "old designs long eclipsed by later work" but {a} a wildfire or similar would cost me 3 times as much; {b} I get the impression that some old designs like the Dragonfly have yet to be significantly bettered... and {c} I'm in a curious position where it could be this liberty in kevlar composite or a royalex freedom solo!

I believe I fit the spec in the crudest sense in that I'm 6' (albeit with oddly short legs) yet can't top 130lb even in wet clothes. I'd want to paddle it kneeling, working on a full range of strokes (hopefully executed fairly well) with a spraydeck to shed the wind and keep me dry through large wavetrains on UK rivers and coastal waters.

your profile says you’re in the UK
If you way 150# you’ve got a chance to pick up a nice Liberty for 1/3 the price of what a Wildfire would cost you … I think it’s a no-brainer. Get the Liberty and judge the boat for yourself. If you don’t like it, sell it. But I’ll bet you’ll keep it and be very happy with it.

(Independence, Malecite, and Lamoille owner)

Liberty is nothing like Slipper
Liberty is a much better boat than the Slipper.

Some, and as you will note CEW has said, think the Liberty is actually a better boat than the Independence.

If it’s a good price/condition, I wouldn’t hesitate.

MRC Liberty
I always liked Liberty, and thought it turned better than Indy due to shorter length and a little more rocker. It’s a little wide, which will help keep that long torso dry.

Indy is enjoying a resurgence currently, so Liberty should ride the wave. If it’s in good shape and priced, go for it.


– Last Updated: Sep-03-09 2:50 AM EST –

Thanks so much Charlie.

Having read virtually every comment you've made on half a dozen forums over a period of years (and having read the responses) I find that verdict hugely reassuring.

I shall take the matter further in the morning (our time): still estimating on the price.

Never seen the Liberty
But the Indy is a very sweet boat for my 180 lbs.

She doesn’t have any tumblehome so you do need to reach a bit to keeep the paddle vertical. But you can heel her right to the rails with confidence and she responds quite predictably to inside and outside heels. Tracks pretty well when you hold her flat too.

Liberty - finer implications of design.

– Last Updated: Sep-03-09 7:31 AM EST –

I've now slept on the idea of getting a kevlar Liberty... and my expectations (compared to mass-market modern solos that are easy to get hold of in the UK... and without having seen the Liberty) are now:

1. Faster than a Yellowstone Solo or Wenonah Argosy: hopefully slightly greater waterline length (LOA is greater)... and similar / slightly less waterline width (I believe the maximum beam is 27.5" / 28", don't have a waterline figure).

2. Better basic handling / manouverability (especially going backwards) than modern, similarly rockered asymetrical hulls as on the Yellowstone Solo: more of a purists / advanced paddler / freestyle craft.

3. A totally different experience from modern solos with extreme tumblehome when rocked to the gunwales: stem should presumably lift higher than on the Argosy, but with a cost in terms of secondary stability.

4. Better handling in the wind than most mainstream solos due to lower profile, but greater need for a deck to avoid shipping water in wave trains.

If I've got all that right... then assuming we're talking a bit less than a composite Yellowstone Solo or Argosy... and a fraction of the cost of a specially imported kestrel / spitfire / rapidfire... this would seem to be the way to go.

Per MRC:

weight (Kevlar/Airex hybrid): 34lbs

optimal paddler weight: 100-150lbs

efficient load capacity: 250lbs

hull: symmetrical, shallow V, slight rocker

dimensions: LOA 14’8", gunwale width 28", 4 inch waterline width 28.75", center depth 11.25", bow height 18.5", stern height 15.5"

Not exactly as per 1-3
1. Liberty may or may not be faster then YellowStone or Argosy and will certainly be slower than the Swift Osprey.

2. Having minimal rocker bow and stern, Liberty’s handling is quite proscribed compared to the three hulls mentioned in # 1, and will definitely be more challenging in reverse except, maybe, for Argosy, which seems to carry less stern rocker than published.

3. The combination of minimal center depth and constant flare will probably not lift the stems as high as Argosy and will definitely left them less than the shouldered YS and Osprey. Tumblehome allows a significantly greater angle of heel. When coupled with significant volume carried high as in the shouldered Yost YS and Winters Osprey, one can generally throw a cat under either stem and keep it dry when heeled to the rail.

Second thoughts on the Liberty…

– Last Updated: Sep-03-09 4:01 PM EST –

Looks like the new kevlar Liberty with wooden gunwales would be $2,100: a lot to spend on a craft that sounds far from ideal.

On the other hand... that's only $200 more than a royalex Argosy or Yellowstone Solo... and is between $1,000 and $1,500 cheaper than the composite versions of those same boats... and less than half the cost of a Kestrel or Spitfire, let alone a Wildfire.

Swift Osprey is available in Austria (half a continent away): $4,800 for the same weight as the Liberty.... but $3,000 (plus a trip to the alps to collect) in "Gold Fusion".

Sadly, the exchange rate is not helping me right now!

Thank God
I live in North America. I couldn’t afford to canoe in Europe.

You might consider coming to the US and buying a Liberty for $4-500 and paddling it back across the Atlantic :smiley:

US vs. UK market…
The genuine-paddler end of the UK market appears to be virtually non-existent.

Believe it or not… most outlets over here present royalex as an elite construction for the discerning paddler who want “performance”. Plastic tubs reign supreme… and finding an outlet that STOCKS a composite takes some doing.

As far as I can tell… aside from the one ancient liberty and one ancient independence (both in the same store in west wales, both unsold after many years on the shelves)… the only other kevlar / fancy composite solo currently available in the UK is an old town Pack in Yorkshire - though I understand that a Wenonah advantage is on its way to the Wenonah importers… but possibly so that the importer can paddle it himself!

Wenonah and Bell share an importer… who doesn’t stock a single Voyager or Magic, and who would have to bring a kevlar argosy or yellowstone solo as a special order. Mad River are moving to a new importer… but the former importer didn’t really “do” composite… and I understand that the price list from the new importer doesn’t even mention the Freedom Solo, suggesting it’s been dropped… and I’ve yet to find a Novacraft reseller who is even aware that the Supernova is available in more than one constuction :frowning:

The biggest forum over here has barely a mention of Hemlock canoes, or of Placid Boatworks, or of the Swift Osprey - or of “freestyle” paddling for that matter.

Reading around… you’d think the white water canoe scene was big, but actual stocks of craft like the Ocoee or prelude are rare. Maybe there is a decent sized community out there… but I’ve not found it!

To cap it all… racing open canoes is apparently much more of a continental european thing than a UK thing.

Thanks for posting that
I’ve read a lot of references to canoeing in the UK but didn’t know what models were available.

What town are you from in Norfolk? I spent 4 great years living in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. I wasn’t a paddler back then though.

At that pricing, I’d suggest getting the Liberty. No-one ends up with just one solo anyway, and an ideal bottom seems to be a pretty wild expenditure. Ugh!

No doubt
Makes one wonder about market possibilities.

Some ‘Canadian canoe’ expositions with some skilled paddlers might make an impact on demand. Lots of beautiful lakes and rivers in the UK, no reason UK paddlers need be deprived a wonderful way to travel them.

UK market…
Thanks for the responses and advice.

Re-reading all the posts after a night’s sleep… I’m swinging back to the Liberty: should hold it’s value reasonably and you never know what might come along in a few years time if I’m patient and keep my eyes open.

I’m also thinking that my reservations are mostly for the “fun” factor when trying to execute a full range of strokes (as per freestyle canoeing) as I explore coves and caves along the coast or on smaller rivers - and that for tripping in a stiff breeze she’d actually fly along quite nicely.

In addition… the Liberty would presumably make a decent compromise tandem with my daughter (now approaching 5) given that the two of us combined, even when she reaches 10-11 years old, are unlikely to top 200lbs.

Most other options within that same ball-park budget would be royalex. Best deal on new would be a marked-down MRC Freedom Solo at $1,400… or maybe an ex-demo Argosy or Yellowstone Solo for $1,500 or so at the end of the season (Oct).

Given what I’ve gleaned to date… I’m assuming the Liberty would be the pick if all these other options were base-models in royalex…

As to the broader UK context… Charlie’s already a longstanding member… but you can get a good feel for the serious enthusiast end of the open canoe scene via

Typical thread on solos here:

Best recent open canoe blogg I’ve seen concerned a coastal paddle: see

Note: that group is NOT representative! If you browse the bloggs section of the site you’ll find stacks more though, most commonly on narrow, weedfilled and shallow flatwater rivers - the sort of (by north american standards) overgrown ditches that were all I really knew when I started out as a yougster some 30 years ago!

Last but not least, in response to the question above: we’re about 10 miles south of Norwich, in the Tas Valley - within 45 minutes of the (rather overcrowded) Norfolk Broads… and of the muddy north norfolk and essex esturies.

can you test paddle?
I don’t mean to confuse you…I do think you’d enjoy the Liberty (I don’t think I’ve ever paddled one).

The Mad River Freedom Solo is a good boat…quite efficient, extremely maneuverable, and nice and deep (dry). When you talk about coastal paddling and taking a passenger then it worries me a bit that you might get such a shallow boat (Liberty).

Weight is also a consideration…I’m not sure if you’re comfortable handling the weight of a Royalex boat…the Freedom’s weight isn’t too bad but you might go lift it a few times to see if it feels like a hassle to you.

And just in case I haven’t confused you enough, if I could have only one solo canoe I’d lean towards a Swift Osprey so if you can afford that $3000 boat…