Merlin II Musings

I purchased a new Merlin II last weekend and as many at this site helped me with this decision (via their posts)I thought I’d say a few things about my purchase as it relates to posted comments.

  1. The Bell Dealer (Tom of Mr. Canoe’s Paddlesports) outside of Santa Rosa, CA was fantastic. Before the purchase he answered several questions by e-mail that I posed stemming from information gained at this site. Then he met me at a small lake in Santa Rosa and let me paddle the Merlin II that I purchased as well as a Black Gold Wildfire. He spent over two hours at the lake while I did my test driving. I’d guess that Tom put in a half day of his time for the sale of the boat. I’m very happy with my purchase and I can’t say enough about the customer service provided by Tom. California taxes and all the boat cost me just under $2,000 which is about what it would cost from any Bell Dealer with or without the great service.

  2. Many on this site advise to test drive the boats before buying and I couldn’t agree more, but I’d also add that you don’t give up too early on a boat. I say this because when I initially got in the Merlin it felt unstable to say the least. I was quite disheartened having done so much research and having traveled 3 hours to try it out. I asked myself “Could it be that this isn’t the boat that I’ve been coveting for over a year?” Say it isn’t so! The first 15 minutes were shaky, but having indured the trial and tribulations of learning to kayak, I told myself that I just needed to relax and press on. In another 15 minutes I felt solid as a rock and was having a great time. Later that day, after I purchased the boat, I returned and paddled around the lake with my 5 year old daughter in the back. So much for those early jitters. If I hadn’t hung in there, I would have deprived myself of years of pleasure paddling a high performance boat. I should add that I’ve paddled canoes on class II waters for years, so I wasn’t just your average rookie in a canoe.

You have picked up two fine canoes
And your reaction to stability is a common one for this type of canoe. Shoft sholdered round or almost round bottomed canoes are not for everyone. Some can’t get comfortable unless the boat has that “Raft like stability” that many of the big old Prospector style canoes have. I’m sure it helped that you are used to a sea kayak since the feel of a Wildfire or Merlin II is similar with only a higher center of gravity. The secondary stibility of either canoe is actually better than just about any sea kayak.

How nice is that! Two new Bells.

The Merlin II is a sweet boat. I hope you have a lot of enjoyable paddles in it. My wife really enjoys hers, and I’ve really liked it the few times I’ve been in it.

It sounds like you also found an excellent dealer. Service like that isn’t easy to come by. Hopefully other folks will read your comments and give his shop some business.

Nice to see a post complimenting the dealer. Sounds like you found a first class dealer who went out of his way to put you in a boat that felt right to you. Also nice to see a post where chiseling down the price below the MSRP wasn’t an issue, dealers need to make a profit as do the manufacturers. Also nice to see a post where the advise gained from the “experts” here at was helpful in your decision making process. Good “vibs” all the way around: great dealer, top-shelf builder, helpful posters at PN. Thanks for the upbeat post! ;^) Randall

It is nice to hear something positive about a dealer and a boat, instead of the usual belly aching about how cheap they got something. Just imagine trying to get wally world or some other big box store to let you try that!

I hope you enjoy your Merlin2. I really like my Merlin(the original Merlin )

Have fun in that baby.

Good point about spending enough time to get comfortable.

come on. we need photos of the new merlin. bells are just plain fun to look at, much less paddle.

Merlin II

– Last Updated: Jan-27-05 12:51 PM EST –

What layup did you get; Blackgold, Whitegold, KevCrystal? I noticed that one person (NT) who responded to your thread may have thought that you got 2 Bells for under 2 thousand. It sounded to me like you were stating that you paid "just under 2 thousand" for a Merlin II? The only Bell Merlin II that should even be approaching 2 thousand (1,895.00) has to be the KevCrystal. Right?


noticed that
i’ll take two new bells anyday for $2K. i’m guessing he got the merlin and had just paddled or considered the fire boat. don’t know the lay-up, but you’re probably right with kev. still, photos would be great. :slight_smile:

According to his other thread

it’s kevcrystal

Good for you!
I’ve had a kevcrystal (the one WITH gel coat) Merlin II for 3+ years, and it’s wearing well. The only “problem” with it is that there seems to be a bit more flex in some areas below the gunnels (in from the stems), so care must be taken to not be overly eager when you strap it to the roof rack, thereby running the risk of compressing too much and incurring a crack where the sides meet the stiffer foam core. (I’ve heard/read that some have had that happen.) It’s a sweet boat; you’re going to like it. If the jittery feeling gets to you, try lowering the seat just a little.

There seems to be a real lack of Bell Canoe dealers. About the only place locally, for me, that carries them is a big sporting goods chain, which is not at all the same as having a good dealer with demo capability, etc. I’ve been doing business with Carl and John’s Paddlin in Madison, WI. Its a long way for me to drive but they really are interested in finding the right canoe for you. I will be making the treck there again this weekend to trade-in my current canoe for something else. Now, if I can just get my shoulder to heal up so I can paddle in the Spring.

Plenty of Bell Dealers
In response to comments regarding a lack of Bell dealers: Bell does seem to have many dealers in both the Mid-Atlantic region and Michigan, at least according to Bell’s website. I don’t know which of these dealers routinely carries Bell canoes in stock, let alone those who provide test paddles. But the dealers are there – looks like there are lots of ‘em in just about all states and most regions of the country.

dealer list

– Last Updated: Jan-27-05 4:10 PM EST –

If you look at the Michigan dealer list, Galyan's of course has many listings. But, they are a big box type store and if you want to buy from a kid that's never paddled before, don't mind not test paddling, and are lucky to find what you want from their limited supply (perhaps one of each model) they would be okay to purchase from. By one of each model I mean thier most popular models.

Galyan's won't allow for a test paddle but they will take the boat back if it is in new condition with a 20% restock fee.

Another one or two stores from the list is out of business. One is an eight hour + drive from my house (located in the UP). Actually, I have spoken with the UP store and the owner really impressed me. But, driving to Madison, WI is actually easier for me.

The other stores didn't reply to my email request or phone call. So, I suspect that they don't have stock. And, I find that is a problem with many manufactures. They provide a dealer listing but the dealers may not even have one of their product available. So, the list is a little deceptive....

No… I know better
it’s possible to get two new white gold Bell’s brand new for just around 3000+ but not 2000. And as you know Claifornia prices are just a little inflated compared to the mid East.

One boat
Yes, I only purchased the one Merlin II. It is a KevCrystal/Lightning Tech with wood trim. I believe it is now just refered to as KevLight. I did also try out the Wildfire (Black Gold) which as expected was more stable than the Merlin, but lacking in speed. Both beautiful boats, but only room for one in the budget at this time.

Technologically Challenged
It is a beautiful boat and I would post a picture, but I’m unfamiliar with that whole process. It looks just like the one shown on the Bell site.

Seat Height
I’ve got the seat as low as it goes and that’s just fine with me. I can brace my lower legs perfectly underneath the seat which gives me great control over the boat.

Dealer Differences
Ditto. I traveled 3 hours to buy the boat from Mr. Canoe’s Paddlesports in Santa Rosa, CA even though there is a Bell Dealer (in Sacramento) an hour from my home. When I initially called this other dealer I got a kid who had to go ask if they even stocked Bells. After he found this out he was more than happy to order me one from their catalog. I didn’t even bother to ask about prices and hung up the phone.

good point
When I helped spec out Red Cross Randys big Blue Minn 2 at my local dealer I felt a distinct lack of knowledge of the product. If I had not specified the yolk and the slider(rear) the Salesperson( and I use the name advisedly) would not have known to ask. I realize that some people can only paddle with a double blade, but darn it would be nice to have some one who new more about canoeing then I did to help and make suggestions that were not guided by $$$$ alone.