Merlin Bell Solo Kevlar

This canoe is for sale and I would like to consider purchasing it. The seller warns that it is for more advanced paddlers. I am fairly athletic and trainable but have little solo paddling experience. Could this be a good fit or should I work up to a boat like this?

Go For It

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 5:59 PM EST –

When writing what I did below, I assumed this was about the Merlin II since the original Merlin seems to be pretty rare. If it is the original Merlin, I think it's even more of a hard-tracking boat, but I've never paddled one.

If the other things people say about that this boat is good for appeal to you, then by all means go for it. If you have zero solo-canoeing experience, the Merlin II will feel squirrely or uncooperative when you climb in and out, and you may "feel" pretty delicately balanced when under way. That's no big deal, and if you DO have solo experience but in a fatter boat, it will be even less of a big deal. It won't take long before you will even be comfortable standing up in this boat (carefully), if you aren't on the high end of its weight-capacity range.

As far as the paddling skill necessary, getting from Point A to Point B should be easier in a Merlin II than many solo canoes because it is somewhat hard-tracking. It turns reasonably well, but if your paddling skills aren't too good, it won't challenge you very much when it comes to going a straight line. Making the most of its (somewhat limited) turning ability will take more skill than getting from here to there, and in that respect, I would say it's a pretty forgiving boat for learning to paddle solo.

General purpose boat

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 6:44 PM EST –

Bells' Merlin and Merlin II, Like Hemlock's peregrine, Mad River's Slipper and Independence, Swifts Osprey and Shearwater and Wenonah's Vagabond and Wilderness these are general duty solo boats; they do most everything well.

They have minimal, hopefully differential, rocker and run 28.5- 31 in wide and ~15 feet long with L/W ratios in the mid 6s.

Those who develop mores skills along with a plan to get somewhere fast generally buy bent paddles and gravitate towards Bell's Magic and Wenonah's Prism and Voyageur, hulls dedicated to sit and switch paddling. Touring boats tend to start at 16 feet in length and are often Swede form with a L/W ration of ~7.

Those who develop a different skill set and a love of bubbly water find themselves on their knees in a boat with more rocker: Bell's YellowStone Solo, Hemlock's SRT, Merrimack's Babosic, Placid's Flash and WildFires and Wenona's Argosy; all designed to optimize performance on moving water with kneeling technique and straight paddles. They tend to run 14- 14.5 feet long and have a L/W ration of ~6

The general purpose solos respond pretty well to both techniques; a fine place to start solo paddling.

great boat
Merlin II is a wonderful all around boat.

If you are fit enough to kneel you’ll grow into it quickly…if you won’t kneel the boat will feel noticeably less stable.

I have Merlin II and some of the

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 7:24 PM EST –

others including Peregrine and Swift Heron. Most of my focus is multiday tripping so pack fitting is a consideration. The Merlin II holds more than I want.

I tend to like straighter rockered boats that are still wide(flared) enough in the bow not to take on waters in big waves.I can make longer boats shorter but not shorter boats longer. Been tripping 16 years in them and the learning curve is not that bad. When I got my first boat my tripping experience solo was 0 days. I am still here.

Stick with it and you will have fun.

If you sit, you may want a lower seat positon or some gear to weight the boat down and stabilize it especially at first.

Merlin as first solo
I picked up a used Merlin II early last season and it is my first solo. I love it. Whether alone, with my 4 year old up in the bow with her arms in the h20 or with my 90 lb. yella lab dog as co pilot. With the Merlin being on the water just Feels good.

It’s very good to begin with,
if it feels unsettling to you at first – until you get used to the small amount of side-to-side rocking, find someone who can help you drop the seat an inch.

I think it’s a very good boat to learn about soloing, and one you will be satisfied with for quite a while. Be sure to take a couple of lessons in how to solo.

Good choice
When my wife switched from a kayak to solo canoes, the boat she settled on was a Merlin II. She doesn’t spend a lot of time out on the water, but she felt comfortable in the boat right away.

I have a Bell Merlin II
It is a wonderful canoe and would be a great choice if in good condition and the price is right. Certainly, there are harder-tracking and faster canoes for flat water paddling. As has been said, the Merlin II was designed by Dave Yost to be more of an all arounder for use on flat water and easy rivers.

It is true that boats like the Bell Magic, Wenonah Voyager, Placid Rapidfire, or even the Hemlock Peregrine have better speed, but the Merlin II has quite good cruising speed. I have paddled the Merlin II side by side with a Wenonah Prism, and traded the two boats back and forth, and I didn’t feel the Merlin gave up anything in efficiency to the Wenonah.

The Merlin is usually set up with the seat high enough for kneeling. To kneel you need the seat high enough to get the heels of your feet under. As such, if you are a beginner, the Merlin II might indeed seem a bit tender (“tippy”). If you don’t plan to kneel, you can buy a pair of spacers from Bell Canoe to suspend the seat a bit below the gunnels. Bringing the seat down even an inch will have a big effect on the feeling of initial stability.