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Mad River Canoe - Been Nice to Know You

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From a trusted source, 2022 will be the last year for Mad River Canoes.

MRC was down to two single layer poly Adventure models (75 lbs and 84lbs), two “Triple Tough” Journey models (83lbs and 88lbs) and the T-formex Explorer (77lbs)

The handwriting was on the wall when MRC was bought by Pelican, and the supposition is that Pelican wants to focus their efforts and poly supply making rec & fishing kayaks and SOTs.

Sad to see a once great company lose their way, so many wonderful Mad River canoe designs from days of yore.

You can have our Explorer, Independence, Malecite, Freedom Solo and Monarch when pried from my cold dead fingers. After you fight my sons for them.
 
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Pete, I feel ya, but MRC made some great boats back in the Vermont era, and their composite work was, for the time, materials and techniques, top notch.

Looking at the archive of Mad River canoes, which I recommend saving or printing out before it too freaking vanishes, there are some near legendary canoes on that list.

https://www.madrivercanoe.com/us/sites/default/files/Mad River Boat History.pdf

If you could pick just one, or just one more, MRC from that list, what would it be? How could you narrow it down to just one?

My top three wish list:

A kevlar Guide or Courier

A kevlar/airex Grand Laker, or the rare mini version, with less than a handful made, a square stern Champlain.

A 42lb kevlar Explorer to rebuild as a big boy tripper.

What’s yer picks? Kevlar Courier or Malecite? Monarch, or a big fast composite tandem? Sub-40lb Slipper?
 
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Well, I still own a Kevlar Explorer and a Kevlar Traveler, both Vermont built, as well as a Royalex Outrage, a Royalex ME, and a composite Twister. I passed years ago on a very nice Kevlar Courier which I wouldn't mind at all having, along with a Royalex Guide. But one MRC boat that I only briefly got to paddle at Raystown I recall very fondly, a solo composite Tempest which impressed be as being one of the three fastest solo canoes I have paddled that was not an all-out specialty-built marathon racer. The other two fast boats were Joe Moore's Placid Rapidfire and John Diller's Savage River Blackwater.
 
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Sad to see, especially at a time when canoeing seems to be making a comeback of sorts.

I'm pretty new to the Mad River party, but I sure wouldn't mind a TW Special. A few years ago I passed on one in very rough shape.

Dumb question: what year did MR move production out of Vermont?
 
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Sad to see but predictable after Pelican. Wife had a Slipper and later a Pearl. We mostly paddled solo but we had a Kev Explorer for a while…what a classic fully capable canoe! Oh yeah, a Flashback passed through the garage during a brief whitewater stint.
All things change…sometimes not for the better.
 
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“what year did MR move production out of Vermont?”

MRC was in Vermont for 30 years, 1971 to 2001. Mad River was bought out by Confluence Watersports in 1998, relocated to North Carolina in 2001, and move again to South Carolina in 2005.

Confluence, including Mad River, Wilderness Systems, Perception and Dagger was bought by a private equity firm (J.H. Whitney) in 2014, and sold to Pelican in 2019.
 
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I live about 40 minutes north of the original MRC factory where all four of the MR boats I’ve owned were made. Still have two. A ‘91 Kevlar Indy, first year made, and a ‘02 Kevlar Explorer, one of the last to float out of the factory,made in Oct ‘01 for the ‘02 model year.
I had the opportunity to test paddle and buy a Kevlar Guide with wood trim and original MR spray decks, but found it slow and awkward to handle (seat too far forward?), so I held out for the Indy instead, as I would likely only get one past the wife. I believe it’s lurking in my area. If it comes up again, I’ll likely be compelled to grab it, as I’m now looking for a better river compliment to the Indy.
I know several people who used to work there. Including my coworker who made a kind of inflatable bassinet for her baby daughter out of Voyager float bag materials. How cool is that?!
Cheers, to the sunset of the shallow V 🍻
 

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I have a 1996 Kevlar Explorer, my first and only canoe. Mad River used to make so many models, I would drool over their catalog. When they moved out of Vermont, I wondered if that was a bad sign, or a good business decision to stay profitable. When they came out with that rotomolded model with the high back seats and cup holders, I thought, WHAT ARE THEY THINKING! It looked the beginning of the end. Sad to see them go, but maybe somebody will buy their molds and resurrect some classic models.
 
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Before I picked up my NS, I was eyeing a couple of MRC’s over mine. One was from a very nice Old woman, I think I’m her 80’s, had the light toned Kevlar Malecite in flawless condition. Her asking price was one I didn’t even want to negotiate. Then an Explorer for sale somewhere in MN, also in excellent condition. I ended up with neither and I can’t remember why. Maybe someone swooped in first.

If I could go back, or find another, I’d grab that Malecite. It just seems like the boat I should be paddling…. Also… paddling also
 
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Sad news indeed.

Well, I'll be keeping the Northwoods for some time yet. And I pretty much have always figured that any drive, regardless of distance, is "local" for the right canoe (or some other things) so a drive to Savannah or Knoxville for the right boat wouldn't bother me much. I see the occasional Mad River canoe within a days drive and if the right one comes along I'll risk Nancy's dirty look to add it to the Grand Fleet......

Three of the last four canoes came from 600, 650 and 370 miles away. In each case I made a trip that combined family visits, sightseeing or backpacking and Nancy rolling her eyes to get them home. But since I now have to pull the canoe trailer out of the basement to run a sheet of plywood over the table saw she may have a bit of a point there..... but just a bit of a point.


Lance
 
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Has a buyout by some big corp or investment group ever yielded a better product? Or renewed investment and rebuilding of a brand? Seems like all they do is kill good stuff, wring out any capital they can, and sell off the waste. Someone has to really love the business and what they do to make it grow.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Confluence, including Mad River, Wilderness Systems, Perception and Dagger was bought by a private equity firm (J.H. Whitney) in 2014, and sold to Pelican in 2019.

Are Wilderness Systems, Perception and Dagger still around? Once, last century, virtually every whitewater kayak was a Perception, especially the Dancer. Then Dagger came on the scene with open canoes, whitewater kayaks and even sea kayaks. Wilderness Systems was a huge player in the sea kayak market.

Doubly coincidentally, the first canoe I ever bought, in 1980, was a Pelican. I had to put it together. When I put a 2 hp motor on the stern and sat in the stern seat the canoe sank. Piece of junk. I returned it and bought a MRC Royalex Explorer. Did everything it that canoe—tandem, solo, kids, whitewater, ocean, poling, outboard motoring, west coast, east coast. My fifth canoe was a MRC ME, in which I paddled up to class 4 whitewater all over the eastern U.S.

I recall hearing in the '80's from an industry source who knew all the players personally, how Jim Henry would proclaim (perhaps when slightly lubricated) that he would bury Old Town. Well, OT isn't yet buried but they are only a skeleton of what they once were—now pumping out only a relatively few cheap, heavy, plastic open canoes, along with heavy plastic kayaks.

. . . Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way . . .
 
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Are Wilderness Systems, Perception and Dagger still around? Once, last century, virtually every whitewater kayak was a Perception, especially the Dancer. Then Dagger came on the scene with open canoes, whitewater kayaks and even sea kayaks. Wilderness Systems was a huge player in the sea kayak market
Yes they are. Wilderness is one of the top dogs for recreational kayaks on the higher end. Still making the tsunami, tempest, and focus in their sea kayak rec touring line. I’m a big fan of the tempest and thing it’s one of the better poly boats. Perception is a good middle ground entry level brand. And dagger is still repping the white water scene pretty strong. I have a lot of friends who have a few of their boats and run the moose, yough, green, gauley and then some. All good brands but some people just can’t beat the prices of a kayak/canoe from Costco
 
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“I recall hearing in the '80's from an industry source who knew all the players personally, how Jim Henry would proclaim (perhaps when slightly lubricated) that he would bury Old Town. Well, OT isn't yet buried but they are only a skeleton of what they once were—now pumping out only a relatively few cheap, heavy, plastic open canoes, along with heavy plastic kayaks.”

I can’t blame owners for taking a buyout when the getting out is good, perhaps excepting private equity firms with no canoe skin in the game.

I hope Jim (Kay?) Henry got a decent price from Confluence. I believe some of the canoe manufacturers gone-by received damn little; thinking of Sawyer, or more recent small niche builders who have folded, sold or are wanting to sell with no White Knight buyer appearing.

What does Old Town Canoe, eh, I mean Old Town Canoe & Kayak, still make canoe wise? Naught but a few heavy poly hulls.

https://oldtowncanoe.johnsonoutdoor...3.2095646802.1649357133-1272925554.1649357133

The end of OT canoes may not be nigh, but there is nothing in that line I would care to own.

“some people just can’t beat the prices of a kayak/canoe from Costco”

Playing the foil once again, if a $200 big-box rec SOT or sit-in, with paddle included, gets folks started, and they become advocates for access and clean water, well, I guess I can live with that.

A bunch of geriatric old farts, barely able to get in and out of a canoe, however vocal, do not a future make.
 
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It's good that we didn't lose Bell. Cheers to his lawyer for negotiating a weak/short noncompete.

I think Old Town is making a killing in those heavy SOT pedal drive fishing barges. Some of them are three grand, for a single layer poly hull! I don't blame them for making hay in the sunshine, I just wish they'd pull a mold out of storage and make some decent canoes for old times sake brand prestige. Maybe they don't have enough time/labor for any composite boats, but how hard would a T-Formex Penobscot 17 be? Fire up the old royalex pizza oven and see if it still works.
 
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It’s my impression that, as Mike noted so eloquently, love of canoes seems bounded to the older generation. I’m not 50 yet, but not “one of the kids” anymore; the divide is wide as far as I’m concerned. That said, as far as I know all the great designers are also long in the tooth. As are many of the builders. Do y’all get any sense that there is a next generation in the wings ready to keep things moving?
 
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