Merlin II - Black Gold

Just wondering how tough the black gold layup is. Is it just light or super rugged as well? Thanks

Yes, durable
Yes, Bell’s BlackGold is durable (and relatively light). The only knocks on this layup (I own one) is that it shows scratches easily (doesn’t bother me).

The Merlin II is a fantastic model! I own one in WhiteGold. I encourage you to consider this layup as well, since it is not that much heavier in a small hull like the Merlin II (33 vs. 39 lbs., I believe, with gel). WhiteGold is nearly as durable/stiff as BlackGold and is much cheaper $600 retail). Bell may have stopped advertising this layup (not on web site), but will make it for you special order, I am told. Better yet, look for a 2006 in-stock model that was produced by the original Bell (before sale to OMC).

Bell’s KevLight, while incredibly light, is too fragile/soft for my taste, but many others paddle this layup with great success. I may be harder on my boats than average.

My logic for my two Bells was: WhiteGold for solos and BlackGold for tandems (BG-WG weight difference is significant in tandems).


– Last Updated: May-23-07 12:24 PM EST –

I have a BG Merlin II, and have used it regularly since 2001. It does scratch easily. It looks like someone keyed a black car. It doesn't bother me, but other paddlers act like I am insane (I won't mention any names, Ozark rend paddlers). The hull is very strong. This spring, I was unloading the boat from my car. I untied the front and back tie downs and decided to pull closer to my garage. I ran over the front tie down rope, which pulled down on the front of the boat. By the angle of the boat, I thought it tipped forward, but it didn't! The straps were holding it tight to the Yakima racks. Carbon is very stiff, but I now know it will flex. It dented the roof under the rack on one side and left a rope burn clear through the paint on the fender. It took a lot of tension to rub through the paint! I am still amazed that the hull was not destroyed. I can find no damage at all to the boat.

#1!..(so far).

Mid-Canada’s “Golden Brawn” might be interesting to compare with, however to produce a canoe comparing to Bell is a question for Mid-Canada since taking the reigns from Bluewater.

Insane ???
I don’t feel too bad when I see you in your Merlin II Pat.

On the other hand; when I saw that Flashfire going over those solid rock ledges, in low water, on the Spring River in Arkansas, I almost cried.

Oh baby; that one left a gouge!

Oh man; that one made me close my eyes & plug my ears!

The horror! The horror!


BG Merlin II
I’ve got one too…it’s the boat I use all the time; mine’s a 1999 and it’s got about a million miles on it. You can just beat on it and it will take it…stiff, tough and strong. No problem hitting rocks and the gelcoat is nice and thick…I think you’d need some serious whitewater to hurt the boat. I agree that the WG is probably just as strong and tough and it’s a great value and still light. Haven’t weighed mine but like every Bell it’s over advertised weight by 3-4 pounds so I’d guess mine is 39 or 40; not bad for a super strong boat.

Stop it You Guys!
You are making me think that perhaps I should have come home from Canoecopia with the Black Gold model that was on sale instead of the Kev-Light. They only had two merlin IIs at the show, and I chose the lighter (and cheaper) one.

Seriously, no buyer’s remorse here. It is interesting to hear how tough some are saying the BG layup is.

Bell weight
I have heard how Bell’s weights are supposedly underestimated, but my WG Merlin II (w/ gel, aluminum gunwales, and wood thwarts) checked in at exactly 39 lbs. as advertised. I have not weighed my BG NorthStar.

Bell’s Black Gold
All in all, Bell’s Black Gold is the best hand laminate layup ever. A carbon blanket, a carbon bottom and a carbon diamond. That followed by a kev blanket, a kev bottom and diamond, then another kev blanket.

If you want a light lboat, you get to choose between fragile and expensive. Bell’s B/G is the better, expensive, option.

As my grandpa Charlie used to tell me; “Always get the very best. It’ll piss you off less than anything else.”

I weighed my WG
and it weighs 45 lbs!!! something must have gone wrong at the plant that day :frowning: Anyway, I bought it used pretty reasonable price too.

I will check mine again with a different scale (mine seems to be the outlier). Either way, not good (factory variability or too heavy).

Mine was a factory blem with a few scratches and thin spots of gel, but that alone cannot account for that much of a difference. Maybe mine is missing some resin. Oh well, it paddles well and is stiff.

Blanket Statement
"like every Bell it’s over advertised weight by 3-4 pounds"

My KevLight Merlin II (with aluminum guwales) is supposed to weigh 31 pounds, and on my scale it is about 30 pounds.

not worried
I am using it as a good design I can learn with that cost me less than a royalex canoe. Yes, it’s heavy but it’s taken tons of abuse on local reefs and really shows no sign of what I’ve done to the poor thing. Once I am done with preliminary learning curve have my eyes on another boat already…yes…it will be MUCH lighter :wink:

Thanks for the info
I had access to a blowout special on a couple of kev lights but it seems that would not be the layup for me. At the same time I saw a used black gold - Can’t wait to get my hands on it. Thanks

How about Kevkrystal?
How does that lay up compare with Black Gold?

What’s the difference between the two?

KK verse B/G

– Last Updated: Jun-01-07 8:51 AM EST –

Kev Krystal is a Kevlar laminate, usually foam coed and, lately, with a light FG layer on the skin. It is light and fragile.

Black /Gold has a 6oz layer of carbon on the outside and a carbon bottom and center diamond, followed by a layer of kevlar, a kevlar bottom and diamond, and another kev blanket.
B/G is an engineered laminate - compression resistant carbon outer; tension resistant inner.

A perfect laminate, except prfection is expensive.

Thanks for that comparison.
It looks like Black Gold is the Bell lay up to have for reasonably light weight and great durability.

Black Gold vs. Royalex Durability
I salivate every time I pick up a black/gold graphite canoe in a shop. But I worry about the damage I would do to such an expensive hull in shallow, rocky streams. I know Bell’s graphite composite is strong and light, but how durable is it in such situations over the long haul compared to Royalex. Can the black/gold layup be justified in rock banging conditions?

pretty well, but depends
on use. I paddle mostly shallow northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin rivers that have a lot of gravel bars and rocks. My B/G Merlin has held up remarkably. I have accidently knocked a quarter-size piece of gelcoat off the stern stem when I misjudged a tight peelout from a narrow limestone bluffed eddy. It was repaired without much incident other than a little of my time that would have been rather spent paddling. The scratches on the bottom now make the hull appear gray. With continued extended use, I imagine that in a number of years the gelcoat on the bottom could, and most likely, eventually wear out. I would also expect that if I used a Royalex boat under the same conditions, that it too would wear out. The difference is the Royalex boat is less expensive to replace. There are certain things I will not run in the the B/G, such as unfamiliar class II & III that I would run in a Royalex boat. That being said, I love the light weight, and most importantly, the effortless paddling the B/G affords. I do still cringe at a steep rocky put-in when the B/G hull does the rock scrape song!

Gel coat can be repaired. A Merlin bottom should take about 1.5 quarts. Make it white ot tan so scratches don’t show.

When the bottom gets real thin, choke the boat upright in your garage floor and mark a 3" waterline with a piece of 2X4 and a magic marker.

Turn the hull upside down on saw horses, tape that line and mask below it with newspaper or plastic.

Sand above, the hulls bottom w/ 60 grit; clean with acetone.

Catalyze 1/2 quart gel, pain on, keep going with two more 1/2 quarts. Smooth as you can get it. While still wet, pull the tape and mask for a smooth line - if you let it kick the line will tear and be jagged.

Then the hard part: Sand smooth woth 80/120/220 dry, then 320/600/1000/1200 grit wet sandpaper.