Thousand Islands (Melbourne, FL)

Its rare that my wife Shellie has a Saturday morning off. She is usually working and that makes weekends difficult. This Saturday was a welcome day off and we decided to go paddling. She had heard my stories from last weekend about manatees swimming up to my feet as I wade fished in shallow water and it was too much to resist. I cautioned her that it was an 1 1/2 drive from our home in Orlando and we would need to leave at 5 AM to have a decent day but she was still up to it.

We arrived at 6:30 AM and paddled into a head wind. A little bird watching and fishing was soon followed by a manatee sighting. The one in the pic was fairly big and seemed like he was curious about my camo canoe. It would come up close enough to scratch his head and wouldn’t leave me alone until we paddled off at a fairly quick rate. We went out to the spot where I had manatees come up to my feet the week before and sure enough one came and visited Shellie. Soon after that a second huge one passed by seemingly following the path of the first one. A successful trip! We only stayed till around 11 AM when a the afternoon storms decided to arrive early and in force. Still a great day on the water.

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A Unique Mad River Monarch

Quick Summary: I bought a Mad River Monarch. Its CAMO! For me the perfect color choice. It was a long distance purchase from the original owner of Mad River Canoes in Vermont. Great experience. I am very happy with the boat and opportunity to meet Jim. Long version is below.

Last week I did one of my usual craigslist searches. I am always looking for deals but recently I have been in the market for a few more nice paddling craft because my wife and two kid are joining me. I use to search larger areas for specialty items like Kruger Canoes. There are usually no more than one or two for sale in the country at any one time and are usually Sawyer Loons or Mad River Monarchs. I usually do a national serch just to see whats out there. But last week I did something different. I also searched for Mad River Monarch. I was suprised to find a unique boat listed with out any Kruger reference. And that is where the story starts…..

(Most of you reading this already know that the Monarch is an earlier version of the Kruger Sea Wind. There are not a lot of differences. Its more similar to the lower volume Sea Wind and obviously build by Mad River instead of Verlen Kruger. Read Verlen Kruger’s biography to get the full story).

Listed with pictures was a Mad River Monarch unlike any I had seen before. The pictures were very intriuging. What was show was the camo boat above. Old school camo at that. In my opinion, very cool. The ad on craigslist also said this was Jim Henry‘s personal Monarch. I didn’t understand what that meant at the time but the boat was so cool and that price was under $1000. I was also not detered by the fact that it was in Vermont, 1340 miles away…..

I sent an email saying that I was interested and a serious buyer. I recieved a call back from a nice lady named Nancy. She didin’t know a lot about the boat so she said talk to her husband Jim. I asked, “Jim Henry”. She said yes and I was still confused. I knew there was something I was missing. Jim came on the phone and explained he was the original owner of Mad River Canoe company and still did design work for them to this day. The boat he was selling was one of the Monarch’s he build for his personal use. Recently he was using it mostly as for fly fishing for stripers but as he has gotten older he is moving to a wider beam boat that in the shop now and continues to refine. It was time to move the Monarch out. Upon finding out that this was the peronal boat of the owner of Mad River Canoe I made a quick inquiry about the condition. It was in good shape for a 20+ year old boat and based upon who the seller was I had no concerns about a long distance transaction. I made arrangements to send payment immediately and pick the boat up as soon as I could get there.

It took about two weeks for everything to happen. I had to find a flight that fit with my work schedule. I would fly out on Thursday afternoon. Get to Burlington Vermont around 1 AM. Pick up a one way rental car early Friday morning. Visit with Jim and load the boat on the rental car. And finally make the long drive home. If things went well I would be back Saturday night. If I had issues I had Sunday to fall back on.

I used Sky Miles from Delta to fly and connected in Detriot. Because of Facebook I learned my friend Jan from was also there. Having some time to kill between flights I ran over to his gate to say hello. We both had a chuckle that we met up so far away from home.

Friday morning I drove over to Jim Henry’s place. Vermont is beautiful. I had to cross a mountain range to get from Burlington to the Mad River valley near Waitsfield. Absolutely beautiful part of the country. Almost all of the houses and farms have character to them. Covered bridges. Dirt roads into the neighborhoods. I didn’t see any fast food chains. I was enjoying all of it.

The boat was as described. Older but in good working order. some minor gelcoat issues. This was the only camo Monarch produced. Jim built it for himself out of left over material used in one of his canoe models he produced with that pattern. There is one small section on the port bow that isn’t camo because they were a bit short. It wouldn’t go over well as a retail boat but just more character to it as far as I am concerned. The original Verlen Kruger rudder had been replaced with one from Wilderness Systems that was more substantial. I took it to mean that Jim had a different use case for the boat and as a designer went a different direction on the rudder. The boat had modifications to hold a fly rod on the deck. Perfect for me! It also had a foam block mounted in the center for resting a camera when Jim was photographing threatened and endagered species as part of his other business Mad River Decoys which are used in bird colony restoration and other projects.

Jim’s place was neat. I met him at his barn/workshop. It was a personal museum to Mad River Canoes. Canoes hanging from the ceiling and the walls. Absolutely incredible place that would be appreciated by anyone who paddles or is into boat building. We spent some time talking about fly fishing and duck hunting out of the Kruger design. Sailing in small boats. All subject we mutually enjoy. We also chatted about how Jim hooked up with Verlen and built boats for him. He shared some stories about Verlen’s trips. The design of the boats. Steve Landick’s set up for rolling. There was lots to talk about but unfortunately I only had about an hour and I had to be back on the road. Truth be told we probably could have talked for hours and I may have ended up helping Jim around the shop if he gave me the chance! Great guy.

With the boat strapped to the rental car I stopped on the mountain top outside Waitsfield for this picture. From there I drove non-stop to the Virginia – North Carolina boarder. Almost 800 miles away. I took a quick nap in the rest stop and was back on the road a 5 AM and drove another 650 miles to Orlando by 3:30 PM Saturday. A successful trip.