Merlin/Magic/Osprey in Wind & Waves????

As a avid kayaker and pretty new canoeist it is possible that my expectations for a canoe in the wind may be unrealisitic.

I paddle a lot on a wide river where the wind and waves can pick up. Yesterday I paddled in about 20mph winds with my Osprey and 2-3 foot waves.

The Osprey is very seaworthy in these conditions but is a bit of a pain in the wind. I can get it to where I want, but it tends to want to wander and not to track well in these conditions.

Two other boats I am considering are the Magic and the Merlin II. Can anyone comment how these might perform in the wind compared to the Osprey?

As a kayaker I know that there are many variable when it comes to a boat’s performance in the wind. Of course a boat like the magic has a long and straight keel so it will tend to track better and get tossed around less by the waves…on the other hand it also has a longer amount of boat upon which the wind can act which could make it weather cock more. Shorter boats like the Osprey will get tossed around more, but have less surface for the wind to influence and are easier to correct to get back on course. So seems there is a delicate balance of tracking, length, maneuverability, etc. that all has to come together to make a boat neutral and manageable in the wind.

From my limited experience with canoes, just seems that the Osprey is a little bit loose and not the ideal boat for the wind. Seems I spend more effort keeping it straight than on forward propulsion. I can’t really paddle it fast across the wind. Too bad because paddling in these conditions is a blast in my opinion especially if you can put the hammer down.



in respnses since I have the same question and paddling conditions. I have not tried either boat yet, but Magic and Peregrine have made my short list based on recommendations from others.

Merlin II
I think you might be right, your expectations for a canoe in high winds might be a tad unrealistic. As you know, one of the greatest advantages a kayak has over a canoe is much less windage. If you were able to get where you were going in 20 mph winds and 2 to 3 foot waves and only had to struggle a little, I would say you were doing quite well.

I own a Merlin II and have paddled it (unloaded or lightly loaded) in some pretty stout winds and (at 185 lbs) I have found it to be pretty predictable and forgiving. I have paddled the Magic and Osprey in some wind, but nothing approaching sustained 20 mph, and I don’t remember any particular difficulty, but I don’t think I can comment on their performance in wind relative to the Merlin II.

A long, minimally rockered, straight tracking canoe like the Wenonah Voyageur can be a handful in the wind. As you pointed out, the windage created by all that length can really cause the canoe (lacking a skeg or ruddder) to skate sideways in a cross wind, and it can be difficult to turn upwind.

I have a MRC Traveler, a big volume, relatively straight-keeled solo patterned after a downriver racer, with a lot of windage. Although it is extremely seaworthy, I find that boat a lot more challenging in wind than the Merlin II. A sliding seat can really help in a boat like this. Getting down on your knees to reduce the amount of body surface you present to the wind can also help.

In general, I would prefer a boat that is a little looser in high wind so as to be able to correct more easily when you need to quickly, such as with a tailwind and following sea where you are tending to get surfed.

Hopefully, some owners of both the Merlin and the Magic and/or Osprey will comment.

Magic in wind and waves
In the interest of full disclosure I am a land bound sea kayaker. I mention this because many that will reply don’t get the difference between high wind on a land locked lake (even big ones) and offshore waters.

The Magic has been my boat of choice for day paddles and week long plus self supported voyages into the wilderness. I have had that boat dead empty and loaded to the gills ( me 200 lb, dog 45 lb, portage pack 40 lb, and miscellaneous gear 20 lb) running into, with, and everywhere in between in 20 mph winds (higher recorded but reduced for conditions at the surface). Those winds created up to 2-ft waves with very short periods, barely a boat length long. I never had the boat feel out of control and always kept the line I had it headed with correction strokes. The only direction I don’t like traveling with steep short period waves is perpendicular to the wind but the Magic with it’s very round bottom rolls nicely if you have to do that.

Now if I was paddling the Chesapeake or Atlantic, and you are talking 20 MPH winds with offshore 3 foot rollers I would be confident that the Magic will go where you want it, except perhaps in a downwind surfing mode. It is a long, relatively flat (no rocker) boat so you might find the bow digging in making it hard to keep the boat facing down-wave. Just conjecture on my part. Whenever I head to the coast I take the P&H Capella.


My experience w/Magic
is essentially the same as Pyker’s, except I load my boat about 50# heavier. I find it to be a deceptively dry boat - it takes some serious waves to crest over the gunwales.

I have probably not had my Magic in as serious water as Pyker, and he carries a movable weight (GreyDog) and fishes from his boat, so his evaluation carries more credence than mine.


sounds like
Sounds a lot like my NDK Explorer. I have owned lots of different kayaks (like a dozen) and it is one of the most neutral in the wind I have paddled. Easy to keep on course in any direction to the wind and tracks reasonably well without getting pushed around too much. It is not a super stiff tracking boat, but not super loose either. Kind of inbetween and makes for a good balance.

While I know that a canoe will not achieve the same performance in wind as a kayak, I am looking for a canoe that will perform in a similar fashion relative to the spectrum of what is possible in a canoe vice a kayak.

I have read lots of reviews and seems that boats like the longer Wenonahs are great trackers but a bear in the wind. The Magic though seems to be reviewed as being a strong tracker but not really bad at weather cocking.

I paddled an old Bell CJ solo a few times and did so in some moderate winds. From what I recall this boat was hard to turn in the wind but once you got it pointed where you wanted it would stay on that course pretty well. I did not really like it though as it was somewhat log-like in terms of being slow and not very maneuverable but it did seem good in the wind.

I think that true “speed” on open water is achieved by being able track on and maintain a course in the intended direction of travel. For a good tripping canoe on open water it seems that the boat that is best able to track in conditions may offer the best point to point speed and may not be the longest or “fastest” boat of the bunch.

Guess that is the other thing I am kind of looking at here.

My guess is that of these three boats the Osprey may be the worst in the wind given its looseness. I imagine that the Merlin may be a bit better since it probably tracks a little better but is still reasonably maneuverable. Hard to say on the Magic. Hard tracking but less maneuverable and more surface….


Osprey, Track, Huh?
For the conditions you describe I would want to be in a Hemlock Perigrine first, or a Bell Magic close second. No good reason for choosing one over the other. The Magic made me confident. The Perigrine made me grin ear to ear.

FYI that is based on a very short amount of time in each, just me in the boat no load. (Thanks Wes, Thanks Marty!)

IMO the Osprey is far more manuverable than either of those. Which means you need to stay on it to maintain your heading. As you noted, she’s pretty loose.

I have had no issues padding into the wind and/or waves nor with a beam wind. Paddling down wind, especially when the wind is driving waves, she can be a handful. But IMO, she still moves pretty well. I just have to stay very focused.

My current open water boat is a Voyager. Only had that one out once so far so and I did notice a tendency to lock onto a beam wind. Time will tell with that one.


Merlin vs Magic
I test paddled a Merlin II and Magic a month ago, to choose between the two. The Merlin had more appeal to me as more of an all around boat, but I thought the Magic might be/should be faster as a lake tripper, and if that turned out to be siginificant, I’d probably go with the Magic. Both boats were KevLight.

Tested both boats, in rotation, twice, paddling around a small lake in light wind, but strong enough to affect the boats - no waves to speak of - so we went downwind, upwind, and crosswind. Paddled empty, no gear.

No contest, the Merlin was way better than the Magic. The Magic was “stiff” to turn (as you’d expect)and was blown around quite a bit more than the Merlin, as you’d also expect, and was a lot harder to keep course at any angle to the wind. I didn’t try for all out speed, but kept up a fast cruising speed, more or less. I could not discern any difference in speed between the two boats at that speed. I “C” stroke; I think if you are a “hit and switch” bent shaft paddler, you might find the Magic faster, as it did track better than the Merlin - but I didn’t have any trouble getting the Merlin to track for me. The Magic was the steadier of the two boats - The Merlin had the kneeling drops, so seat was a bit high.

The Magic was a demo, and quite a lot cheaper than the Merlin -

I bought the Merlin.

Can’t campare either to the Osprey - I’d have thought that the Osprey would be similar to the Merlin, but with less rocker would be better in the wind, but Tommy’s saying not.

Have you tried a Rapidfire?
Great performance in rough conditions.

If they are REALLY 2- to 3-foot waves,.

– Last Updated: May-15-09 2:59 PM EST – did an amazing job. Bear in mind that for most paddlers, 3-foot waves will completely block your view of the horizon when you are in the trough, so, did you frequently lose sight of shore when between the crests? (if you paddle from a kneeling position and are also a tall person, you probably will "just barely" see over the tops of 3-foot waves). I frequently go rowing on a lake that is several miles wide, and it takes a wind speed 35 mph to create 3-foot waves there. On shallower bodies of water, I've never seen waves that big under any wind conditions, and even 2-footers are rare (at the time and location of this photo, the Weather Service said we were having sustained winds of 45 mph. The fetch was well over a mile here, but with water only 6 to 8 feet deep, this is as big as the waves got - about 1.3 feet. ).

With that qualifier out of the way, I would say that my Merlin II is the least-capable boat I own when it comes to paddling in big waves, and so it is my last choice when things get really choppy. In plain old strong wind with more average-sized waves (which many people WOULD judge to be 2' plus even though they are smaller than that), I feel that the Merlin II isn't too bad as solo canoes go, but I haven't paddled nearly as many different solo-canoe models as many other folks here. I DO find the Merlin II to be rather fussy about "wanting" to go a certain direction when paddling at certain orientations to the wind to a greater degree than my other two solo canoes, which are symetrical. However, the lower profile of the Merlin II (offering less resistance to up-wind paddling) often makes up for that difficulty. When lake waves get a running start into the outflow of a river, the Merlin II is not a happy boat, but the situation is not unmanageable. The handling in that case likely would not be as tricky if a load of gear were on board.

Maybe it's just my style of paddling, but I find differential rocker to be quite a handicap in strong wind. I end up often needing to counteract the bow blowing off course while the stern "stays put" (at least in a relative sense), and I don't care for that feeling in a boat. When the water gets bumpy and the wind starts shoving me around, the less the degree of differential rocker I have, the better I like it.


– Last Updated: May-15-09 3:20 PM EST –

I am good at estimating wave height in a kayak. A 3 footer is about eye level when you are sitting in a kayak.

Kneeling in a canoe is a higher perspective.

I estimated the waves to be a little over two feet. I meant to go back and measure the height of my bow when I got home in order to get a more accurate measurement.

The waves were big enough in places to break over the bow of the boat. Winds were 20-25 mph with a few miles of good fetch (wind blowing up the river). Water is shallow with a rocky bottom and the wind was blowing opposite the current. There are a couple of places on the river that I like to play where the waves are a bit bigger due to faster current thus producing bigger yes I would say that the waves were in the 2-3 foot range in places...closer to 2 foot. Waves on the open water were probably in 1-2 foot range. Waves of two feet or higher (estimated) were only in select locations.


Merlin II
I would tend to agree that in strong winds the Merlin II sometimes develops a mind of its own as to which way to head. But it certainly isn’t the only canoe I have paddled that has that tendency. And it’s not always a bad thing, as often one can paddle with full power on one side with no correction strokes when the wind is off the quarter.

I have not had this canoe out in waves of any size, but I don’t think I would be eager to do so intentionally.

Your experience is counter
to what I’ve seen. We spend a week plus in the Boundary Waters every year - 2 Magics and a Merlin II. Wesd and I set a course in the Magics and have no problem with windage in any direction as I indicated above. Now if you completely have a brain fart and wind up facing the wrong way it does take a few bow draws and a stern pry or two to get back on course. But with a little attention we’re fine while Steve has to constantly correct to go straight. Now the Merlin II is way capable in that big wind and water stuff, just seems to take more attention.

Now if you get into the little tight connecting creeks, well no contest. The Merlin II just zips along while Wes and I use bow rudders and stern sweeps, and still on occasion wind up aground on the far bank.



– Last Updated: May-15-09 5:05 PM EST –

A friend owns the Black and Gold Magic and I have the Kev ultra-lite Wenonah Prism. His boat will out perform mine in all most all different situations. The Magic is not as stiff a tracker as the Prism so although it is probably a hull design that tilts toward tracking, I think it still offers you enough maneuverability to allow you to quickly turn it when needed. If I could have ever found a used Magic at the price I found my used Prism there is no question that I would have opted for the Magic. It is also very fast and will pull away from most sea kayaks.

I did try a Swift Shearwater once, but felt it had too much over all volume for the purposes I was looking for. I also owned a Swift Kipawa (tandem) once and if they had put a reverse tumblehome in it instead of it's never ending flare, I might still own that one. Fast, stable, likes rough water, maneuverable and reasonable at tracking, but just too dam wide at the gunnels because of the flare.

not sure about the measuring

– Last Updated: May-15-09 5:05 PM EST –

but i'm glad you brought up the point about a differential rockered canoe acting squirrely going downwind.

in my mind i've always thought of the benefits of going into the wind, but hadn't thought about the bow being naturally loose while going downhill.

You might be really tall

– Last Updated: May-15-09 9:27 PM EST –

I'm 6'2", and I figure that a low seat, like the one in my guide-boat, puts my butt right at the waterline. I think a kayak seat is even lower than the waterline for most of the people (the seat of a kayak is about 3 inches lower than the seat in my guide-boat, and side-by-side "running aground" comparisons prove that the average kayak hull sits a few inches deeper in the water too). Anyway, just did a measurement, and with my butt at the waterline, I can "stretch" to 35 inches above it but when sitting in a "comfortable" posture, eye-level is 31 inches, which is close enough to 2.5 feet for me to call it "2.5 feet". When kneeling, eye-level for me is just a little higher than 3 feet above my point of support, BUT when kneeling, my point of support is a few inches lower than when I'm seated on a low seat, so really, eye level for me when kneeling is not as much higher as it might seem. Kneeling is really just the same as "sitting" on a high seat.

Oh, I temporarily forgot about the other possibility here, which is something other than how tall a person is. I know lots of people who are a lot shorter than me when we both are standing, yet also a lot taller than me when we both are sitting! That's because I don't have as much "padding" as they do between their body and the surface of the chair!

Okay, if those were two-foot waves: I wouldn't even consider taking the Merlin II out in waves that high during short-wavelength situations, which is what you get when the wind blows against the river's current. The Merlin II will be swamped in seconds if the waves are closely spaced, two feet high, and you attempt to go straight upwind. My Wenonah Vagabond was the same - it'd be swamped in seconds in that situation. Look at that photo I provided the link to in my previous post. The boat in that photo is a Blackhawk Starship, which is very similar in dimensions to the Merlin II. Imagine if those waves in that photo were 2.0 feet instead of 1.3 feet, and you can see what would have happened to that boat too - swamped in seconds!

Also, when I have had waves break over the bow, of a canoe, the actual height was lower than the height of the stem. In my experience, it doesn't take much of a downward angle coming off the previous wave to significantly decrease your clearance for the wave that you are running into. The skinny bow on some canoes will dig in pretty deep when the boat is partially bridging a trough. In my guide-boat I don't ever have that problem to a serious degree, so for that and a few other reasons, I use that boat for choppy waters if I have a choice. That's also the main reason I can't provide greater details about what happens for me with a canoe in big waves - I'm usually having too much fun in a boat that actually belongs in those conditions.

Going straight downwind is not …
… such a big problem, but when going even a small degree crosswise it can be. On the other hand, IN THEORY, differential rocker should cancel-out some of the tendency of the stern to be looser than the bow as a result of the lower pressure against the hull at the trailing end of the boat. What it comes down to is that I don’t think there’s just ONE answer regarding “what works best” in wind.

One other poster noted conditions where you can paddle the Merlin II in strong wind using hard, non-correcting strokes on just one side. I’ve found that to be true at times too, and in that moment, it’s a handy characteristic for a boat to have (My Wenonah Vagabond would act that way sometimes too).

Magic pulls away from most sea kayaks?

Tumblehome versus Flare
Of course, if they gave the Shearwater tumblehome instead of “never ending flare” you couldn’t still say that it likes rough water. Okay, that’s just an assumption since I’ve never paddled one, but doesn’t every good rough-water boat have plenty of flare?

spray cover for wind
I think a spray cover really really helps a canoe in the wind. In many cases it will make more difference than you choice of canoe. It helps the wind flow more easily over the top of the canoe and reduces the tendency for the canoe to act like a sail.

At least them it is only the sides catching the wind and not the sides and the insides.

Hope this helps.