Bell Merlin II = sweet sit & switch solo

I was fortunate to purchase a 2000 black gold Bell Merlin II with aluminum gunwales, green gel coat, kayak foot pegs glassed in, laced for bags - which also came with it - a couple days ago.

My first impression wasn’t too pleasing on a duckweed covered city lake and the seat too low for my preference.

Today, I raised the seat 1" and paddled it on a familiar larger lake without the duckweed, but with a light breeze and am very pleased with the sit & switch performance of this canoe, as outfitted. Both the speed and maneuverability were very impressive.

It’s amazing what just a 1" change in seat height can make in the handling and subsequent pleasure of paddling a boat. With the seat 1" lower, I couldn’t heel the boat nearly as well while sitting or fit my feet under the seat for kneeling.

It seemed to handle the wind well from any direction, but was especially fun with a following wind.

I’m also pleased how quickly and smoothly it turns when heeled while kneeling. Seems very solid when heeled.

I may have concluded my quest for the holy grail of sit & switch solo canoes. The Merlin II appears to fit my style and usage better than any of the others I’ve owned, including the Sawyer Summersong and Wenonah Advantage. Curiously, It’s speed, handling and comfort seemed to most closely resemble my Mad River Monarch (with the rudder up).

My fleet may get some culling. The Merlin II may replace the Curtis Vagabond, which is a sweet cruiser for smaller paddlers and is a little better fit for kneeling than the Merlin II, but a few pounds heavier and pretty similar in speed and handling. We’ll see. I’ll probably end up keeping them all, even though my storage situation is not conducive to adding a boat without selling one.

I’ll try another familiar venue tomorrow.

Life is good.

I’m 5’6" and 160 lbs.

and in love
Newest DY iteration amongst Merlinesque lines is the Keewaydin 15.

Have paddled in Flax Fusion layup/

Pretty good boat

– Last Updated: Sep-03-13 1:24 PM EST –

My Merlin II is a White Gold version, so might differ a bit in hull contour and handling.

I think the Merlin II was a pretty successful versatile, high-quality composite solo. Big enough for tripping but not too big for day trips, good for paddling either sitting or kneeling, enough rocker for reasonable maneuverability yet pretty efficient in a straight line or against the wind.

I agree that raising or lowering the seat an inch makes a big difference in how this boat behaves. I raised the seat in mine just enough to be able to kneel in it.

Not everyone finds the Merlin II to be as stable and forgiving as you, I find. With its 25.5" waterline beam, some larger people find it pretty twitchy. I have watched a few people fall out of mine.

For some reason, I have had a hard time falling in love with the Merlin II, despite all its positive attributes. It seems that in current I always wish I was in a boat with either symmetrical rocker or a bit more beam like either a Wildfire or perhaps a Swift Osprey. On flat water I would be wishing for a bit more speed, something like an Advantage, a Magic, a Summersong or a Rapidfire. But all those boats seem to be set up and designed for a sitting paddler.

I haven't paddled the Keewaydin. I suspect I would like it although I'm not sure I would like it more than the Osprey.

David, I seem to recall you saying somewhere that you had paddled a Kestrel? I would think that if you like the Merlin II you would really like the Kestrel.

So, you’re suggesting I steal your boat?

Suggesting you give me another : )

Kestrel is a little stickier
Despite the numbers the stems are pretty sticky. Quite noticeable at the upper ends of performance limits.

Yost solo trippers
As recently reported somewhere near here, Merlin II is the next to last hull in Yost’s solo tripper series.

They were/are all designed to respond to both kneeling and sitting technique, track and turn well and tote a bunch of tripping gear.

Magic and ShockWave are better Touring Technique bottoms, Flash and WildFire better kneeling boats, but the solo strippers are supposed to do both, and Merlin II is one of the best at that.

Congrats on the new boat!
Best of luck with it. I’ve never seen one in person but I always enjoyed photographs of the Merlin II. Great looking canoes!

I started out in a white gold Merlin II and did not enjoy it at all. It was twitchy and trim sensitive. The Kestrel however is very responsive and not trim sensitive at all. I am 160 and 5’-6" kneeling is best stance with the Kestrel but does well with sit switch for straight ahead paddling.

I thought Kestrel was hard tracking when
I tried it about six years ago compared to the wenonah Whisper that I had with me that day.

I might have a different impression now. I don’t think that one had foot braces installed, which would degrade it’s sit & switch performance significantly.

I do like my Curtis Vagabond, but I need raise it’s seat, as well as try a different type of seat.

Yanoer is the Curtis Vagabond the original design which is now the Kestrel? If so, was the original design tweaked to make the Kestrel?

I added a footbrace to the Kestrel for sit and switch paddling and it makes all the difference in the world not only for comfort but for control. It’s nice to be able to change stance on a long day of paddling. However when the water gets rough, kneeling is best in this boat,

Yes the Kestrel is based
on the Vagabond. But it was tweaked to be different. K is harder tracking than V but both respond heeled for turning unless you load them up with gear. Then the stickiness is noticeable.

Merlin II speed is surprising.
I seem to be able to do laps around my local city park lake in about the same time (within a few seconds) as in my QCC 400X or Epic Touring Cruiser 16.

I may not be able to keep that pace up as long in the Merlin II as in the kayaks, but I’m still quite pleased.

Stability when heeled is probably the smoothest of any canoe I’ve paddled. I seem to be able to hold a solid heel for tight turns better in this boat than my others.

Geez, now I need to get the other solo canoes out compare again to be sure that the apparent better speed and control of the Merlin II aren’t just due to me being better conditioned and skilled as we near the end of the paddling season.

Dang! It weighs 41.6 lbs!
the green gel coat, foot pegs & lacing add a lot to the basic black gold Merlin II weight.

Can you detect the molding defect?

– Last Updated: Oct-02-13 10:53 PM EST –

You are a lightweight guy like I am, and when I paddle the Merlin II empty or with a light load, the effects of the asymmetrical defect on the keel line, just a little forward of the stern, are unmistakable. I find it much less noticeable when loaded with 60 pounds of camping gear, and when I carry that much gear,(total load = 225 pounds), the boat is still carrying less weight than it would for most solo paddlers running empty, and surely that's why more people don't pick up on this. Every Merlin II that came off the transverse-jointed mold has this defect. Anyway, I keep thinking that I want to "fair-out" that asymmetry as best as I can, but since I have no experience with composite repairs, the thought of diving into that project is a little daunting. Maybe someday.

Hey, do you remember that day when you saw how well a Merlin II charges into a strong headwind when paddled tandem? Pretty crazy huh? It was really fun though, way more fun than I expected, and it was a lifesaver for my "tandem paddling partner" on that day. Just think how fast we'd have been going if we hadn't been towing another canoe!

So, my Merlin II isn’t the only one
with that weird hump on the keel line just forward of the stern? I haven’t noticed any adverse effect of that hump, but I may not be knowledgeable enough to identify it.

I was concerned about it when I inspected the boat before purchase, but that concern melted away after the first outing.

The mold seam line along the entire boat length is squirmy, but the keel line itself appears to be straight.

That was impressive the way you and Rena tandem paddled your Merlin II against the wind and how quickly you gained on Pat and I. I sure wish I’d had foot braces in the Yellowstone Solo that day. If I come up that way to paddle the Wisconsin with you guys again, I’ll likely bring the Merlin II.

I still think the Merlin II is a great boat and was surprised that it doesn’t seem too big for me. All the posts I’ve read would suggest that it’s too big for me as an unloaded day tripper.

Mold design, cures
Back in the day we built twp iece molds against each other, starting the second side when the first was half laid in. We got some warping, pre-release etc. As the bolt holes wore with use, mating the two mold halves perfectly became increasingly difficult.

Over time, we started using index points to locate the flanges to each other. Swift has several shapes but I’ve always been partial to Placid’s Guinness Widgets cut in half. They help, and acquiring the widgets became an important process in mold making.

If that hump starts preying on the mind, tape off an appropriate area on the low side and scuff sand it. Apply enough catalyzed CCP armourflex clear or whatever color, gelcoat to be proud. Acetone clean, then sand to shape, then finish through 2000 grit before buffing. All better.

Swifts carbon 15’DY tripper, Kee 15, weighs 26 lbs; champagne bottom and footpegs bringing it to 29, so amelioration continues.

My White Gold Merlin II seems to be sans hump.

Bell molds
Just bought an '02 Kevlar Magic this weekend for a song. Lines look perfect. Fiberglass Rob Roy has a near-perfect bottom after 10 years, 6,000 miles, but I think it was a one-piece mold because the deck has the tumblehome? Liked a friend’s Merlin II OK – paddled it 20 or so outings. Didn’t notice the hump, but I didn’t salivate over the bottom like I have my personal canoes. Haven’t paddled Swift or Placid…