I picked up a kevlar Independence second hand. When I took it out for the first time I realized pretty quickly that the factory position for the seat was all wrong for me. I paddle Canadian style in larger, slow moving rivers or ponds and lakes. But with this canoe I had a great deal of difficulty with tracking and turning the canoe. The seat was also quite uncomfortable as a kneeling brace and when I sat on it upright, the canoe felt very tender.
My solution was to remove the seat, fit a thwart using the holes for the leading edge of the old seat, then rig a leather sling seat a few inches forward of the rear thwart. To keep it from pulling the gunwales inwards I fitted hardwood rails between the thwarts on either side and hung the sling seat from those rails.
I don't think the boat gained any significant weight but it's a whole different canoe now. Paddled heeled over to starboard, it tracks very well and steers very easily now and even without added ballast in the bow the canoe points up into the breeze very nicely and handles very well on all points of wind. It seems very predictable and I feel very comfortable in it. With more breeze I can move the seat forward on the rails to compensate some...but at winds of over 15 mph I think I'll need some ballast in the bow. I was out in gusts up to 25mph and I did struggle some with the bow getting blown about - but hey - I'm 6' 215lbs and my weight is less than a foot forward of the rear thwart. It doesn't sound right....but it FEELS right and the boat paddles beautifully that way - at least for me.This is an update to the review I posted on 9-2-09.
This past June I took the Indy on a 10-day solo trip in the Boundary Waters. I spent several days on Lac La Croix, which is known for its big waves. The biggest waves I encountered were about 8" high and the Indy bobbed through them like a cork.
In these and all other conditions the boat handled beautifully with a load. I paddled it kneeling, with a 10-20 degree heel, and it tracked and turned smoothly and predictably. The boat shone brightest on some twisty rivers where a straight-tracking boat would have trouble negotiating the tight turns.
I moved the seat back about 8 inches and the bow thwart forward about a foot, so I had plenty of space to move my main pack for trimming. However, that was usually unnecessary, since the Indy seems to be fairly insensitive to winds up to about 15 mph.
I also have a Wenonah Prism and will have a hard time choosing which boat to take on my next solo trip. The Indy is more versatile and allows me to paddle on the same side for as long as I want.
I have to say, among the half-dozen or more solo canoes I've owned, the Independence is the most versatile. If I could have only one solo, this would be it.I bought my first very-own canoe in 2000 after years of renting and borrowing. The final candidates were a Wenonah SoloPlus and a Mad River Independence. I didn't have the skill to paddle the Indy and I thought I'd be going tandem once in a while so I bought the SoloPlus. It served me well and taught me how to do extreme leans and work hard to navigate narrow, twisty streams, which are my preferred habitat. But I always wished I'd bought the Indy.
A few days ago I bought a 1995 fiberglass Independence. Paddling on a lake with a mild breeze it seemed bow-heavy and overly responsive; I figure it wants more of a load for open-water use (I'm 165 pounds - pretty light for this boat). Then I took it on a two-hour trip on a small, windy river (not exactly twisty but close) and it was simply outstanding - smoother than my Bell Wildfire, even, and that's saying something.
Paddled flat, the Indy tracks reasonably well. Heeled to within a couple inches of the gunwale and using a Canadian stroke, the tracking is near-perfect because she's so responsive to slight corrections. And at that amount of heel she'll even do freestyle moves, though a bit slowly. A previous review described her moves as "slow and predictable." That would be right, as long as we understand "slow" to mean "not quite snappy."
This boat isn't designed for use on big water, so its handling in wind and waves isn't relevant. The only down side is the contoured seat, which is not canted forward. I'm primarily a kneeler, and it's very uncomfortable when I shift my weight or turn sideways. I'll be putting a Bell cane seat in it because I like the wider front rail.
If I'd bought the Indy back in 2000 I'd have nine years with her under my belt. I'm looking forward to at least that amount of time down the road, or rather, river.I've owned my Independence since 1991, and have put a *lot* of miles on her. I love this boat, pure and simple. This is a great solo tripping hull. With the MR spray cover installed and two weeks worth of gear she's been to Temagami, Killarney, La Verendrye, the French River, the Allagash, the Adirondacks, and Lake Superior. Tracks well, turns great if you're willing to lean the boat and carve the turn, handles waves abeam with the spray cover; the sharp ends makes waves from the rear quarters a bit squirrelly, and she wallows a bit in following seas (so pay attention to keep from broaching).
The boat is fast: I've run her in downriver and flatwater races, and when tripping with others can keep up with many (if not most) tandems. The low profile is good in wind. And she's a pretty hull to boot.I cherish this boat. Purchased in 1990, the fiberglass hulled boat with ash trim, has been in constant use throughout the year(s). I ran this boat in the 16.5 mi Kenduskeag race in Maine for 11 years fitted with a pair of air bags. The water is a mix of class 1,2,3 and quickwater. The shallow hull is not designed for big waves but an experienced paddler can finesse the boat through head high waves. Wind is not a problem for this low profile hull. I would shy away from using it on big windy lakes with high waves because of the shallow depth of the hull. I've never flipped over when it counted, but have been swamped. Manuverability is excellent for it's intended purposes. Ferried some fast water directly above a 2 foot drop after loosing commitment to a line. It will do what you ask. Stability is excellent in both quiet and fast water. I pole this boat while standing to complete some upriver return trips and in a kneeling position can ascend some mild rapids. It's relatively light wieght of 46lbs(?) makes this boat very desirable for frequent use. With an ice hook it can enter and exit across ice shelves when the rivers begin to close down for the winter. The hull design allows a shallow draft which translates into summer time paddling on rivers that others abandon for being too bony. Weighing about 220, I need about 5 or six inches of water to float.
For what it's worth, this hull gets a lot of compliments for it's looks.
Like golf clubs, guns or cars there a multitude of designs intended for every subtle nuance of use. There are hull designs for whitewater, big lakes, small lakes, big rivers, small rivers, overnight trips, day trips, tandem, solo, solo/tandem. It's all personality dependent. Make yourself crazy or take comfort in the broad selection. The 'Indy' does it all, to a point, and does it well and looks good doing it. It is relatively fast and more than adequately responsive. The kevlar hull, at 36lbs, would be a better choice as weight is a large factor in how often a boat is used. The contoured cane seat is very comfortable but really needs to be adjustable for trim. A sliding pedestal saddle would be nice. I added a home brewed foot brace which I pop in for trips where time and distance are important.
The placement of the inner to outer gunnel attaching screw and rear seat mount bolts are too close and will eventually weaken the inner gunnel. Suggest plugging the screw hole moving it a few inches rearward and adding another screw a few inches forward of the rear mounting bolt.
A drawback for me, is that Mad River has not at all been responsive to my phone or email questions. This is a concern as I own three of their hulls. I wanted to put a pedestal sliding saddle in my Mad River Traveller, ended up speaking to a friendly guy at Wenonah who took the dimensions and had one in the mail within days.
Great boat..... size, weight, speed, stability, construction, appearance and responsiveness makes this boat a winner.