help with merlinn II layup and gunwales

Paddled a Merlin II today and fell in love. It was Kev-Crystal with aluminum gunwales. Dealer claimed weight of 29 lbs. It felt light but I didn’t have scales to check. Bell catalogue says it is 34lbs and Black-Gold is only two lbs heavier at 36lbs. I am gonna get one of these boats and would appreciate your thoughts on layup {kev-crystal vs black gold} and wood vs aluminum gunwales. Useage will be rivers and lakes but no real rock bashing water. I am age 58 and finding that boats get heavier with age but could handle up to 40 lbs. Thanks for help.

Mine is black gold with ash rails and I love it. It’s way stiffer and stronger than a kevlar crystal boat…kevlar crystal can be way too soft and floppy for my tastes. The wood rails are still pretty light because they aren’t that thick, and they are strong because they are ash. They don’t need much maintenance and they look great. If you don’t care much about the looks you’d be happy with the Bell aluminum rails…even stronger and maybe a bit lighter…and they do a great job of making metal rails that are gentle on your hands. Bells typically run a few pounds over their advertised weight so my Merlin is probably right at 39-40 pounds…but it’s strong and has taken all kinds of hard hits on rocks over the years with no problems. And it’s still easy to get on and of the car.

I’ve got a Wildfire WhiteGold with ash rails and a Northstar KevCrystal with aluminum rails. Both have lots of miles under the keels. The WhiteGold/ash construction looks like it should be more resistant to a catastrophic collision than the KevCrystal, but I can’t tell a difference from looking at the boats. The KevCrystal is holding up extremely well, and it’s been mildly abused on annual week-long wilderness trips and weekly day paddles. Portages are a breeze, of course. The aluminum rails are very paddler-friendly, although I prefer the esthetics of the ash. Ash may also exhibit a bit more elastic recovery, according to a Bell rep I talked to at a paddle rally last year. My bet is that you’ll be happy with either.

Black Gold/Kev Crystal
Black /Gold is billed as being the strongest composite layup available… From seeing what Cliff has done to his Black/Gold Wildfires, I’d say it’s pretty tough. The Kev Boats are nowhere near as strong. They are built to be light and to not be banged on rocks.

As to rails… tha’s personal preference… I’m an ash fan myself…


I have the black gold with wood rails (cherry) and love this boat. Weighs in at 39 lbs. and I can pick it up with one arm and do a shoulder carry. I would suggest that you get the black gold for the overall longevity and durabilty. It only takes one unseen sharp-edged rock to do a number on the kev crystal. Had a customer the other day that had that very thing happen-hole in the kev crystal due to an unseen rock. As for the gunwales, I like the aesthetic of wood and it’s also quieter for paddle scrapes. I also find the Bell aluminum profile to be a little sharp on the inside edge, some paddlers end up using pieces of pipe insulation at the points where their knees might be touching the gunwales in a seated position. If you kneel all the time, then it probably is not an issue. Maintenance on the wood is minimal; 10 minutes to light snad and put on a coat of Watco oil.

lightning tech
Dealer days the 29 lb. Merlin II is new lightning tech layup. He weighed boat and it came in slightly under 30 lbs. Anybody know anything about lightning tech layup? Thanks for all the helpful replies.

Gotta Merlin II ,White gold,wood trim.
I Love It! and I think weight vs. strenth vs cost, its my favorite bell layup I agree with paddlinm#$#$@% aah,I mean Waterweenie… ;^)

The kev-crystal esecially with

alum.trim is thin feeling, feels like it would

punture easily and the gunnels flex. I test drove it before I got the WG merlin II. Maby with wood it would feel stronger. Havn’t had the pleasure to paddle the carbon layup. Good luck with whatever ya get!


For the Whole Enchilada…
it’s tough to beat this:

Great looks- Stiff as all getout- durability- probably just as nice in the Merlin