Got My Merlin II......!!!!!!

Well you all have endured my numerous posts about solo canoes.

I found a killer deal on a Merlin II so I could not pass it up.

I picked it up today. White gold with wood gunwales in great shape.

Paddled it when I got home. Was about a 15 knot wind small waves.

I did not find the stability to be too tender as many have commented. A little loose but good secondary and quite comfortable.

At first I did not feel as if it was much faster than my Osprey but I soon changed my mind.

I paddled it up river, against with current and with the wind.

I soon found that it did a better job of surfing wind waves than the Osprey. Was able to get on and stay on small waves and use them to my advantage rather than concentrating on keeping the boat straight and losing the wave.

In the small waves and light wind I found it to track better and be more neutral in the wind that the Osprey which is very loose.

It felt like it had better glide and required less correction in my strokes. I was able to make better speed as a result.

It ferryed well, and sliced through eddie lines easily in the light current.

I also found that I was able to get quite a bit farther up river than I can get with my Osprey which I can only get so far up river when there is a current from the dam release. Of course maybe the current was slower today, but from all the times that I have paddled the Osprey I was never able to get close to that far up river.

The water level was a bit higher today so there were not very many standing waves. I found one small one that was surfable. The Merlin did not do as well at this as the Osprey but that is not a surprise.

It did better at traveling in the current rather than playing in it like the Osprey.

On the way back i was heading into small waves. They were small but the bow seemed to ride over them a bit more smoothly than the Osprey.

The layup on the Merlin was stiff but not as much as as on the Osprey. Mine has the expedition kevlar layup and it is STIFF. No flex at all when on the water and gives it a really nice crisp feel. The Merlin is stiff but not to the extent of the Osprey. I think you can tell this by pushing on the hull too. It flexes more in some places than others thus showing that they manufacturer put more reinforcement in critical areas and less in others. This is consistent with what Charlie said about the layup. The Osprey is still everywhere.

Also felt very smooth when sideways to the wind. Granted the waves were very small but they did not affect that boat. Maybe because it has softer chines than the Osprey.

The bow definitely has less flare though so probably will not take big waves as well as the Osprey I would guess.

Maneuverability in this boat is interesting. It is not overly maneuverable until you put it on edge and then the stern really skids on it quite nicely. It is also pretty easy to side slip and do scully draws and pries, moving laterally across the water easily.

I found that when you put the boat on edge it comes alive and allows you to maneuver it even better than the Yellowstone solo royalex in my opinion.

Really nice boat! I really like it. I think this is a keeper for me!


Merlin II
I have found it to be a happy compromise between an efficient hull for lake paddling and one that preserves enough maneuverability for river use.

After several hundred miles on this boat I am still learning how the hull works. It does like to be leaned to turn. I find that when paddling kneeling if the bow is weighted a little it will carve an onside circle quite well.

I chose to drop the seat about 3/4 inch by buying Bell’s longer seat hanger and cutting it down. The seat is still high enough for me to get my feet under when kneeling, but the seat is now in a better position for seated paddling.

seat height
Hmmm… I bought a set of bell’s longer seat hangers for another boat. I was going to return them.

I may consider giving that a try just to see how it works. I have read reviews from others that said that the seat needed to be lowered for seated paddling.

I find the current height nice for both kneeling and sitting. I feel pretty good sitting in this boat, but may consider lowering the seat just for comparison.

Hopefully this would not compromise the easy edging ability of the boat (lowering the seat adding more stability which also can make edging a litte more work) or the nice turning ability. Not sure how seat height may affect this. Probaly does not since paddlers weight is still centered in same location.

Maybe I will try it.


Congrats on the new boat!
It’s been fun reading all the info stirred up in your search.


Most excellent, dude!

I look forward to you further evaluations of your Merlin II.


– Last Updated: May-25-09 5:40 PM EST –

Hate to bust a new bubble, but Osprey and Merlin are both 15 feet long and within a half in of each other in waterline width. Since neither J Winters of D Yost are going to commit a design sin, I'd expect forward speed to be ~equal, except that the Osprey may have more scratches. A moderately scratched hull has half again the skin friction of a new hull.

Your handling comments seem spot on; I've always enjoyed the way DY hulls handle, but Winters' hulls handle fine too, I'm just more used to DY's.

It would be hard for me to argue with Charlie…but I am going to state what I think the difference may be attributable to other than just perception.

For whatever reason (waterline and rocker figures being similar if not the same on both boats) I find the Merlin to track better than the Osprey.

That being said, I think this allows more energy to be trasmitted to going forward rather than to yawing and less energy lost to corrective strokes. Also allowed me to paddle at a higher cadence.

I particularly find the Merlin to track better in the small waves I was in which allowed me to make use of the waves and increase my speed (this can make a big difference in speed).

Paddling up river against the current seemed much easier. Perhaps because of a finer bow…???

I did paddle with my GPS and was going to test the two boats back to back to get quantifiable data (which is how I always tested the speed of my sea kayaks comparitively) but the difference seemed so noticeable that I did not bother.

My only quantifiable “proof” was how much farther I was able to get up the river than with the Osprey. I generally get to a point where I just can’t overcome the current and go any further. Not becuase I am tired but because the current is a bit faster as you go up river constrained between the islands.

So while waterline and rocker seem similar I would argue that the tracking makes a difference in practical rather than theoretical application.

Last…my Osprey has kevlar skid plates on it that have a very course sandpaper type surface. I would think that would add quite a bit of frictional resistance. Maybe that could contribute.

I really don’t believe that my perception is merely confirmation bias. On the contrary. At first I felt as if the Merlin was no faster until I got it out in the “waves” and current.

Oh yeah…one more thing. It is also possible that the greater amount of tumblehome may permit a more vertical paddle stroke which may allow me to paddle the boat more efficiently.

Again…I in no way shape or form would ever challenge Charlie in terms of knowledge…I am just taking a guess at what may cause what I truly believe to be a faster boat in practical application…of course I only have one experience paddling the boat to base my judgement.

In any event though I am happy with the boat and prefer it to the Osprey which is all that really matters in the end. I am not dead set on speed. Even if the Merlin were no faster but just “felt” faster that would be fine for me. I do definitely agree from my experience with kayaks that some boats have more “perceived” speed than others despite being of roughly equal speed.


At my age and present condition
I’m not sure I can paddle any boat up to its theoretical maximum speed and hold it there for long.

And I’m sure Charlie has forgotten more about paddling than I will ever know.

But I adhere to the philosophy that if I feel like I am going faster, I am.

I haven’t paddled the Osprey as much as I would like. I found it a very friendly, easy-paddling boat.

I have found with the Merlin II that I can pin the offside bow with a bow wave that allows me to paddle a nearly-straight course with hard, short forward strokes and virtually no correction. In so doing, I suspect that I am capable of holding the Merlin II closer to its theoretical maximum speed than I am the Osprey. But I haven’t timed myself, and I really don’t want to know anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with bubbles.

I agree w/you
With all due respect to Charlie’s experience I’ve also found the Merlin II to be more efficient and faster than the Osprey. I’ve spent quite a few hours paddling upstream against moderate current so I always sought efficiency to take me further upstream (I paddle sections where the current virtually stops the boat and you have to fight for every foot). About 10 years ago when I was in really decent shape from constant paddling I measured Merlin II at 2.6-2.7 mph and Osprey around 2.3 - both against a moderate current. I found Osprey speed similar to Blackhawk Ariel and Swift Shearwater but Merlin II a clear notch above. In my personal experience the Merlin does not turn as well as the others…if you point the bow into a fast water spout the bow gets pushed around (you can manhandle it back where you want it) whereas the Osprey and Shearwater would remain much more responsive. I also find the Merlin II the least fun/capable to freestyle compared to Osprey/Shearwater/Ariel…you can do it but it feels less natural.

I’ve also found that solo canoes all seem to have a somewhat unique character when you get them up near their hull speed (or max speed)…the Merlin II has a “soft” wall (like a rev limiter in a car)…it continues to gain speed if you give it more muscle whereas the Blackhawk Ariel hits a hard wall and will not go much faster even with lots of muscle, and the Swifts are in-between. I’m quite sure that a Merlin II will handily outdistance an Osprey on a long paddle with moderate to high paddling effort.

I also found that the Merlin II handled the extra weight of my dog better than the Osprey.

Another aspect to consider…although having the same waterline length and width at the waterline it may not necessarily mean the same wetted surface area. I would think that the waterline width is at the widest point. I would also think bottom shape may make a difference.

I also think that there you can’t tell everything about a boat’s performance by just measurements, or even by just the hydro data published for sea kayaks. There is a different element that comes into play with the interface between body, boat and blade. Also think that the dynamic of moving water, waves, wind etc. add to the variables.

As far as freestyle moves…I am no expert but I found the Merlin to be perhaps more graceful in this manner.

While the Osprey may be overall more maneuverable, the Merlin seems quite graceful when edged. Seems that with a hard edge the stern will skid nicely, and the maybe rounder bottom and softer chines seem to allow it to side slip more easily. I don’t know…just my opinion. Overall not as loose as the Osprey and certainly not as playful on standing waves, but may still be just as good at graceful


Again, my opinion is one of a kayaker turned canoeist so take it for what it is worth.


Oh, skid plates
Skid plates are the end of hydro performance.

But won’t a boater paddle harder and
more confidently, knowing that skid plates are protecting his boat from destruction?

well . . .
If you could always hit on the skidplates it might help. Unfortunately you don’t. And as for Swift’s skid plates, they are the kevlar felt and are trimmed narrow, so they try to strike a decent compromise between having/not having them. They protect the stems nicely, but you can’t put kevlar felt on the ends of a boat without screwing up the entry and exit lines. It’s probably more of a concern with a non-whitewater boat. I’m of the opinion that the factory is better off letting the buyer decide whether or not to put skid plates on.

Guess I have been getting you two guys mixed up. Now that I see you both post side by side…did not realize there was a G2D and C2G…!!! I know one of you lives near me!

On the skid plates…they are pretty dam impressive. If I were to use this whitewater I would really like them. They are pretty darn stout. But I woudl agree that you don’t always impact at the stems, but it helps.

They are pretty super rough in their texture. If any skid plate could add drag this would be it…or at least what I have on my boat. It is textured like that stuff they put on steps so you don’t slip, etc but coarser.

It at the stems so it is not completely in the water but is somewhat as it makes a gurgling noise on flat water.


gurgles and piffles
are sounds that indicate you are losing efficiency…

I wonder why skid plates on a flatwater boat…

Doesn’t everyone float their boat before loading and before unloading?