I bought my Independence kevlar solo canoe (and bent shaft wooden paddle) in approximately 1992 and have taken great care of it ever since. The canoe is beautiful, weighs only 35 pounds and is great for trout fishing, bow hunting, canoe camping and getting a great upper body workout. It is sad that Mad River canoe no longer makes such a fine product. I am comfortable using it on big open water with winds up to about 15 mph and on gentle rivers. It can be paddled in very shallow water. One can move fast with little effort on the lakes even on the windy days. It performs best adding about 15-25 pounds in front and rear when going solo with little or no gear. My wife has vertigo but does just fine sitting up front in a crazy chair while i kneel and lean against the rear thwart to help distribute the weight. I would like to be reunited with my Independence in the next life, though i hope my heirs will enjoy it for a good long while.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.