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Name: birren

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I was fortunate to find an Ariel a few years ago. I looked at it and immediately had to turn away. Anything that smooth-looking would seduce me as soon as I took the first paddle-stroke. I didn't need another boat, but its siren song drew me back in less than a week. It replaced my Mad River Independence for use on small rivers. It's both steady and lively, leans easily and firms up solid.

When paddled flat, the long, narrow stern section makes it track with little correction.

What really sold me on it was when I leaned it, it suddenly became remarkably responsive - and when I leveled it back down it tracked again, on its own. This is unlike any other solo boat I've paddled. Also, the stern was designed to break loose and skid sideways when leaned to the offside, which it does promptly and without feeling insecure.

I'd give it a 10 but for the weight (a good 50#) and its limited speed.

This is an update to the review I posted on 9-2-09. This past…

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.