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Submitted: 09-02-2009 by Dave

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.

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