Merlin II KevCrystal with Lightning Tech

I’m thinking about purchasing a Merlin II, but am not that sure of the particular lay-up available to me: Lightning Tech Kev Crystal composite. I understand this is the same as what the Bell site now calls Kevlight. In any event I was wondering if anyone could comment on a Merlin II, with wood trim, made of this material. This is the only boat available at this Bell dealership (in California) so I don’t have other options if I want the Merlin II. I’m just a bit concerned about it’s durability and stiffness. Having only owned Royalex boats in the past, I’m completely new to composites. I will be using it on Sierra Lakes/reservoirs where with fluctuating water levels rocks may occasionally jump up and bite. I also may take it on a local class I-II river on occasion. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Probably not…
the layup for your use. The Kevcrystal is Bell’s “ultralight” layup and is definitely the most fragile; not extremely rock friendly. The lightning tech is just a new method of additional weight savings whereby they utilize a resin impregnation method into the cloth rather than applying a gel coat. Overall durabality between the gelcoat and the Lightning tech is about the same; advantage is some weight savings. The black gold or white gold layups are a better choice for rocks; both can be had with the lightning tech option at no additional cost. I have a black gold Merlin II; it sounds like for your use it would be a good boat. Can’t your dealer order you one?

Good luck

Hey Canoe11
This impregnated Clothe thing. Is it like the “skin coat” Racing boats that Wenonah is famous for?


Abrasion/Kevlight repair/stiffness
Thanks for the great info. A few follow-up questions: 1) I think I’m skilled enough to avoid any major impact type damage, but I’m specifically worried about abrasion. Decomposed granite, the type of rock I might occsionally graze, is kind of like sandpaper. I thought I read or heard somewhere that the Kevlight doesn’t hold up as well in this area, but not having owned a composite before, I don’t know if the difference is worth worrying about. Is it your opinion that if I take good care of the boat abrasion is a none issue? Also, the Bell site mentions that repairs can be made to Kevlight, but they cannot be sanded and treated to look like the original surface. Any experience or comment regarding such repair?

2) Any comment on the stiffness of the hull for Kevlight?

kev crystal Merlin II
My take is that Bells have inconsistent quality control and some kevlar crystal boats are like jelly. I’d never buy any Bell without seeing it and paddling it. I paddle with a woman that bought a kev crystal Morningstar and returned it because it was so floppy…maybe Merlin II’s are stiffer.

Mine is black/gold and nice and stiff. I don’t like a boat that feels weak, so if I were you I’d try the boat and if it feels strong and stiff to you go ahead and grab it but if you have any reservations then do not buy it…or you’ll just torture yourself mroe as time goes by. Once you’re sitting in the boat try adjusting your position by lifting yourself up by pushing on the rails with your hands…can you accept the way it feels?

There is clearly a durability give-up but it may not be enough to worry about in a practical sense…if you manage to damage the boat it can be repaired and then your biggest problem is that your boat might be not as pretty as some others.

You might also think about how important the light weight is. Even black/gold and white/gold Merlins are quite light…do you want the extra lightness of kev crystal or would you prefer adding 5 pounds to get a stiffer/stronger boat?

PS - I think there’s a used black/gold boat in the ads!

Merlin II
I bought a Black Gold Merlin II in early 2001 and have been very happy with it. Scratches do show up, but they are cosmetic only. Wood gunnels take some maintenence. I use Watco oil a couple of times a year and they still look very good. There is a comment above that the Merlin is best for someone under 180 pounds. What nonsense! I weigh 190 and it is fine. Don’t worry about this boat’s ability to carry a load. I have done several river trips with camping gear in the Ozarks and Florida and it easily handles me and a lot of gear. Any of the Ozark Rendezvous paddlers care to comment? I consider my Merlin my “big” boat. When I want to have fun, I use my Flashfire and it easily handles my size, too.