16' Mad River Freedom

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I was offered this used Mad River canoe at a price I just couldn't pass up, I haven't received it yet but I'm told it's in VG condition. I've read the reviews and it seems to be a river canoe suitable for lake travel by a competent paddler(s).
Does anyone have any experience with this canoe? Any thoughts on poling it by a novice poler?
I will be solo 99% of the time, I prefer a tandem vs. dedicated solo (15' or 16') so I should be comfortable paddling the canoe reversed sitting in the bow seat.
I was looking for a royalex canoe so I could spend more time on our local easy white water rivers here in the area, plus I have had my eye on the Machias River in downeast Maine for a source to sea trip for a while, this canoe should fit the bill.
The first thing though will be replacing those gunnels and decks with ash, maybe move the bow seat back a little for solo use. ;)


 

Glenn MacGrady

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I've never seen this canoe but it would seem like a good choice for your intended purposes. Mad River says the seats are positioned closer than in the Explorer. The purpose for that would probably be for tandem whitewater trim, where experienced paddlers prefer to be in the "Gemini position" to lighten the ends for increased wave buoyancy and ease of spinning. So perhaps the bow seat will already be in a satisfactory solo position.

Of course, the best tandem canoe to run solo in Connecticut or Maine would be a 16' Chestnut Prospector. It's really a classic . . . if one can find one.
 
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Thanks Glenn, here's a 16' Chestnut Prospector (according to the ad on eBay) not too far away in NY, $900, wonder if he/she would trade? It's an old one without seats, hard to pass up.
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That isn't a Chestnut deck, ask if they were modified at some point. Perhaps it was repaired/restored and the deck shape changed?

Kinda looks fiberglassed too...
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Haha. I actually thought I was just tweaking you because I thought you already had a 16' Prospector in your fleet but were perhaps reluctant to run it in rapids. Schuy Thomson has been running wood/canvas canoes down the Housatonic for decades. Of course, he's been a racing champion.

In any event, that MRC Freedom 16 looks like it has good specs for a solo-able river tandem. Be interested to hear your impressions, as that's an unfamiliar boat.
 
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Thank-you again for accepting my recent registration. I've been reading the stories and anecdotes here for some time and have enjoyed many immensely. Since I own a MRC Freedom, I thought I had something worthwhile to share, and so finally registered.
I purchased my Freedom new in 96. The specs from the 96 MRC catalog indicate:

weight 75 lbs
length: 16'
gunnel width: 34.5"
4" waterline width: 33.5"
Depth at center: 15"
Bow height: 24"
stern height: 22"
rocker: 4"

Later catalogs (98) mention only 2.5" of rocker. I don't know if MRC changed the mold or the print. While I've never tried to actually measure mine, I do think it has more rocker than a royalex Explorer (2") and the 17' Revelation (3").

The other thing about the Freedom build is that both bow and stern seats are positioned closer to the center than an explorer, by a few inches (I haven't measured) This was supposed to allow better maneuverability. It seems to work.

The few times I've had the boat in Class 2 ww with a capable tandem partner, it has handled very well for a big, tandem canoe. It doesn't catch eddies like a real ww boat (at least with my moderate capabilities) but it does turn very well.

I have canted the seats in mine forward, to make kneeling paddling easier. So, when paddling solo, rather than "going backward" from the bow seat, I installed a kneeling thwart between the stern seat and the yoke.

I have paddled it solo on several small streams and it works fine for me. Not as agile or easily accelerated as a dedicated solo, but doable. I think the v-hulls of MRCs allow a somewhat heeled over position, if not quite to the rails, at least enough to get your paddle vertical in the water.

I don't pole, so I can't really comment on that. But I have at times stood to scout in the Freedom. I put each foot up against the chines, one foot more forward than the other, and push outward. It has always seemed relatively stable to me, at least for the short time needed for scouting. The V-hull does tend to go from side to side some, but once you get used to that, it's pretty stable.

Given the 4" rocker, and a royalex blunt bow, the Freedom is slow on flat water. It is definitely not a good boat for lake tripping, if you want to get somewhere quickly. It is much more at home on moving rivers.

I hope this "review" of a Freedom helps. I hope you like yours when you get it.
 
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Thanks, good information. The rivers I plan on paddling are not very difficult and very scenic so I'm looking forward to getting some days in before it gets too cold. I like that the seats are moved in from the ends, it will be interesting to see what tilt works best for my application.
One of the reasons the canoe became available is the PO needed a canoe that goes straight, so I guess that rocker has some effect on lake paddling. That's ok, I have enough lake canoes, I really need a canoe that I feel comfortable bouncing off rocks and playing with the grandkids.
 
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So here's the 16' Freedom my daughter told me was in "good" condition...haha, in this case the apple not only fell far from the tree, it landed in a different time zone!
It's an old school canoe used in Maine and it's had plenty of use. A couple of small creases one skid plate needs some glue, and the red paint is worn off the center line of the V bottom, it's got plenty of scratches and dings.
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It looks really bad here, and my grandsons art work didn't help, but I think with some new trim and a good clean up it has some time left on the river. I will sell this one for sure and keep my MR Explorer for river trips.

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So after pulling off the bent wavy gunnels and removing the little guys artwork, I think the boat has some promise. I have some 16' ash that will make for some nice gunnels.

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Gosh, gonna start calling you The Canoe Whisperer. That certainly looked bad before you hauled off the gunwales!
 
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Robin,

If the before pix are what "good" looks like, I'd hate to see "fair".

But you're right, the bare hull doesn't look too bad. I've had mine looking like that once, not for new gunnels, but for all my wood railed canoes, I remove them, add slots to the inwales where desired for flotation or other tie-ins, re-oil, and replace. I'll bet that your fabricating new gunnels is more work than my effort.

Given the bent shape of the original rails, you may not be able to get good measurements for the spread at the handles, seats, yokes, etc. I'd be happy to measure mine and provide those dimensions, if you're interested.

just a thought.

dan
 
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I took the measurements of the seat placement and thwarts, and figure I can go off them for width. I have a nice piece of 1" x 10" x 16' ash for the gunnels. If you could post a picture of your "slots" I would appreciate that. Do they effect the overall strength of the gunnel system?

Since I plan on selling this canoe, I was thinking of about the seat positions. What about placing the seats at a more traditional spot in the 16' Freedom, or giving the buyer the options before installing them? I was thinking moving them both a bit closer towards the ends to make the canoe a little more attractive to novice ww paddlers and maybe a little more versatility.
 
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1st pic below is one slot in the inwale of my Freedom. Original gunnels on this canoe are 7/8" wide x 3/4" thick ash, with all outside edges rounded. Screws are threaded from inwale, through hull, to outwale (not through outer surface of outwale of course), on approx 6 1/2" centers, simply sandwiching the ABS between the wood. (Composite hulled MRCs are slightly different.)

Using a molding head on a table saw, I cut slots mid-way between the mounting screw locations, where I want them for tie-ins specific to the boat. Slots are 1" wide, by 3/16" deep, so a piece of 1" flat webbing easily slides through.

I got the idea from my 1st MRC, a Duck Hunter, which is an Explorer hull in olive drab with the slots already factory cut (I think the same size?) to allow you to place reeds, etc, to make the canoe into a floating blind. I don't duck hunt, so I never tried that, but quickly found those slots handy for tie-ins. (Refer to 1993 archived catalog on Confluence web-site.)

2nd pic below is the front 1/2 of my MRC Guide, showing slots and flotation bag tied in. (I partially deflate the bags when not in use.)

I suppose cutting the slots does weaken the inwale some, but since I've never wrapped or pinned any of my wood railed boats, I haven't had any issues. As noted above, MRC did that on stock Duck Hunters, so I assume it's not too much of a problem.

(The boats are currently hanging upside down in the garage, so the pix may be a little strange to view.)

As I mentioned in my 1st response last September, the Freedom is supposed to be a river boat, with more rocker than the Explorer, and seats more toward the center, both to help turning. Your question about seat placement depends on who may buy the boat and what they will use it for. If someone is specifically looking for a Freedom, because of what it is supposed to be, then my guess is they would want the seats in the stock location.

But given the number of posts on that other site, about people asking for advice on what canoe to buy, while seemingly having no idea about canoeing or what they will do with the canoe (except they want one canoe that is perfect for everything), who knows. (sorry, rant off.)

hope that helps,

dan
 

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Thanks for the excellent information Dan, I ripped the rails last night and just clamped them on, sort of gets me out of the negative feelings I was having about the condition of the canoe. I like it's look a whole lot better even with all those clamps.(I assume the top of the rail is 7/8 wide and the sides 3/4 top to bottom)

Now I know Mad River oils it's gunnels, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to varnish. I have a can of oil, but that's for my MR Explorers trim and I have lots of 1/2 cans of varnish. The seats and thwarts are varnished anyway. Or is that just wrong. Thoughts?

Also, I have a router but have never really used it much. I'm a little nervous about ruining a 16' piece of ash rail. If I rounded the rails with a belt sanded (I'm good with that) would that be ok, or are the rails like the Explorer with more of a rounder finish?
Since it's somewhat of a beater canoe, I'm really not too worried about these details I guess.

Looks like no decks on your Freedom Dan, just a carry thwart?

Thanks Again for taking the time to help me with the measurements

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Nice posts by paddlindan. The numbers on the Freedom show that it is really a river tripping boat compared to the all-purpose Explorer. Kind of like the difference between an OT Penobscot and an Appalachian. I am always looking for 4 inches of rocker especially for those times in a loaded boat when there are strong side currents and hydraulics.

Nice job by Robin on his, but I still say perfect gunwales are over-rated.
 
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Yes, the 7/8" was measured from hull horizontally outward, both inwale and outwale. The 3/4" is measured vertically top to bottom (with canoe as normally floating in water)

I have the stock decks from MRC, as indicated in the pix below. I believe MRC used butternut for the decks, they are 5/8" thick, about 12" long, cut to sit on top of the rails, and simply screwed into the inwales, 3 screws/side.

MRC also installed a small ash block under the inwale, under the deck, probably to help space the hull for assembly. One pix shows that block.

I forgot to mention, the last 4 screws on each side on each end are from the outwale in, and are visible from the outside. It would be tough to drill and start those screws from the inwale when the hull is so narrow.

The rounded over outside edges of the rails on my Freedom are essentially like all my other wood railed boats. They do make for easy handling and softer knuckle scrapes. I do think it's a good idea to take down the square corners in some way. I was looking at an older, used MRC Lamoille recently and noted its rails were basically square cross-section. I didn't like that.

But I would agree, it would be tough to get an even roundover on 16+' of rail with a router, especially hand-held. I'm not a boat builder or even that accomplished a wood-worker; I assume others can provide better input there.

I've always wondered why MRC (and others) oil the rails and varnish the thwarts and seats. Seems inconsistent to me. I've always used Watco, and whenever I've refinished or replaced seats or thwarts, went to oil. I've heard that oil penetrates the wood better and is longer lasting, while varnish is more a surface finish. While that makes sense, I can't say for sure.

One more thing to mention, in case you haven't heard and don't sell it before next winter. Wood railed royalex boats, left outside over a cold winter, may develop vertical cracks in the royalex near the ends. This is apparently because of the difference in the thermal expansion between the wood and the royalex. The royalex wants to shrink more in the cold than the wood, but can't because of the gunnel screws, so it cracks. The apparent solution is to back out the last 4-6 gunnel screws on each side on each end of the boat, before it gets too cold, to allow the materials to shrink individually.

I've never had that problem myself (Maryland doesn't get that cold and my boats stay hung inside the garage) but I believe this has happened to others and I have seen pictures of the unfortunate results.

I provide all of this just as reference. I hope it helps your rebuild.

(I was almost up in your neck of the woods last weekend. My daughter is accepted at UConn, so we were in Storrs. Nice campus!)

dan
 

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But I would agree, it would be tough to get an even roundover on 16+' of rail with a router, especially hand-held. I'm not a boat builder or even that accomplished a wood-worker; I assume others can provide better input there.

I think it's pretty easy. If doing the shaping on the boat there should be enough width to properly support the router and if doing it on the bench, without a router table, just clamp the gunwales together back to back or clamp it to a long 2x4 or something else to give yourself a wider, and more supportive, surface.

Any roundover bit (1/4" or 3/8" would do nicely) will have a bearing to control the depth. It's almost impossible to mess up since that bearing won't allow you to cut too deep. If there's a small spot where the round over isn't perfect you can just hit it again with the router (easily repeatable because of the bearing) or touch up that spot by hand.

One sticky situation could be trying to use the router with the rails attached to the hull when there's a sharp rise in the shear near the stems. The flat router plate might bridge and cause the bit to be too high and not give a full cut. This hasn't been an issue on the boats I've done and even if it does happen it's a case of not taking off enough wood, which can easily be remedied by hand.

If the rails are installed on the boat make sure the bearing of the roundover bit doesn't fall into the screw holes or you'll end up with a little divot at each one.

Alan
 
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MRC Freedom

I like a lot of the MRC designs, especially the older Jim Henry stuff, and the Vermont craftsmanship was usually top notch. There is a lot of canoe history there in some older MR designs, and I would snatch any number of well-kept Vermont era MR canoes in a heartbeat.

But the latter habit of corporate MRC, in both North Carolina and South Carolina, of changing the names of hull designs just served to confuse the crap outa me.

Was the Freedom always badged as a “Freedom”?

“Guide” to “Freedom Solo” I can remember, but were the Freedom 16 and Freedom 17 previously badged as something else?

I respect the old Independence and Liberty, but the latter corporate name changes made as much sense as Freedom Fries.
 
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paddlindan is right - it would be very hard to get a good roundover with a handheld router, simply because the work surface is narrow. But it can be done, and with some hand touch-up could produce a nice job.

Whatever you do, I suggest giving the inner mating surfaces several coats of polyurethane or Minwax wood hardener - something to prevent future dry rot.

I removed and refinished the gunwales on my MR Eclipse and Independence. On both of them, the in- and outwales were 3/4" wide and about 7/8" high. The ones on the Independence were relieved so they'd mate above the hull with no fiberglass showing. Given that Royalex is 1/4" thick, it makes sense to not do that. But if you did, it would give a nice, clean appearance. Best bet would be to set the router under a router table or workbench, with the workpiece on top, and of course before it's taken a permanent curve. Of course, that's easy for me to say, being hundreds of miles away.
 
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I was offered this used Mad River canoe at a price I just couldn't pass up, I haven't received it yet but I'm told it's in VG condition

Robin, you guys who live in “Canoe Country”, whether that is New England, Maine or Michigan, have a wonderland of used canoes available.

I have been checking every Craigslist in a reasonable drive, from western PA down into the Carolinas for a couple of boat types that interest me. For a year now. To no avail.

Lucky dude.
 
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