Magic or Rapid (or old Merlin) …. That is the question!?


I’m shopping for an awesome light solo boat. I’m very experienced in tandem flat and moving water. Was also a passable solo class II-III WW paddler. I’ve been sea kayaking exclusively for the past 10 years. So … I want to take a light, hot solo canoe on a class one river expedition for 2 weeks and will eventually paddle the lovely lakes of Northern California and Oregon. I am looking at a Rapidfire, a 2022 Magic, and a Merlin II. Tracking is fab, but so is responsiveness:-). I will paddle with single or double blade, depending on conditions and my mood. Opinions? Charlie- are you out there? Thanks!

Are you going to sit or kneel?

Rapidfire is hottest and most maneuverable. It’s also the smallest and will have noticeably less room than the others. Mine is an ultralight; I’m not familiar with the durability of their normal lay-up but mine is not for rock bumping.

Merlin II is almost on par with Rapidfire for maneuverability; it’s still a lake boat but you can force the bow to turn when necessary. For me the Merlin II kneeling is a touch faster and noticeably more efficient than a Magic sitting but the opposite might be true for you.

Magic is a sitting lake boat. It’s a versatile boat with sweet handling given the small amount of rocker but it will also get pushed around in moderate to strong current due to the lack of rocker. You’d probably be fine in class 1 given your background (you can kneel in it for rapids if you like). None of the boats you’re considering are “playful” in fast current. I’m a single blade paddler but lots of folks like to double-blade their Magics.

Any of the Bell lay-ups are fine for your use. The black/gold lay-up is especially desirable…very strong and durable. Of the three boats mentioned I’d take my Merlin II on your downriver trip because for me it’s the most comfortable for long days because I can kneel plus it’s efficient and has enough maneuverability.

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I pretty much agree with TomL’s assessment of those three boats. For an extended river trip the Merlin II would also be my choice. It wouldn’t be quite as fast on a lake as the Magic or the Rapidfire, but it won’t give up that much.

Thanks for the feedback! I really looking forward to trying all three. I’d be strongly headed to the Rapid, but am attracted the Merlin as well if my knees can handle it! It has been awhile since I’ve only been kayaking in recent years!