Next Solo Canoe like a larger Merlin 2 ?

I’m currently paddling a Bell Merlin 2 and a kevlar version of the Wenonah Rendezvous and have demoed a kevlar Argosy. I’ve been paddling solos most of my life including a Summersong that I loved and once paddled upstream through Santa Elena Canyon (to the Rockslide). I am 6’6" tall and 235 lbs and yeah I know the Merlin 2 is too small for me but I am in an area with little access to quality solos and I bought it used knowing I could paddle it and resell it for little or no loss if I want. I love how the Merlin tracks when paddling on one side as I kneel with little need for switching sides. But at my size it is a bit twitchy when I need to sit feet forward for a while to stretch and the seat is set high for knealing with big feet. The Rendezvous fits me better but is 49lbs with wood trim and seems not to track quite as well paddling on one side. The Argosy was fun but again, twitchy when sitting since it had no footbrace. Any ideas: kevlar Rockstar?, Shearwater, Perigrine? I’d like to know what Charlie Wilson and others might suggest as a boat that would paddle like an upsized Merlin 2. Thanks

Not the Peregrine
Dimensions are close to the Merlin II. At one time I had both and the Peregrine in a subjective opinion seemed edgier.

Rockstar if you can find one. Also check out the Swift Keewaydin 15 though it is of similar size…just tad wider.

Shearwater was designed for bigger folks too.

Sitting heeled over is just unstable…one tends to lean ones head over the side. That does not happen kneeling. Those that sit successfully and heel the boat have a lower seat . Your dilemna is going to be that then your feet do not fit.

Some thoughts
The Merlin II does feel a bit twitchy when sitting if the seat is set high enough to allow heel clearance when kneeling. Mine feels that way to me and I suspect your feet are bigger than mine.

It sounds as if you want a canoe with pretty good efficiency that you can both sit and kneel in. If you were only going to sit, you might go with a Magic (if you came across one) but that strikes me as a boat that was intended to be paddled sitting.

The Wenonah Prism would no doubt feel more stable and is pretty efficient, but it too is usually paddled sit and switch, although I knew at least one fellow who paddles one kneeling. It is a rather larger boat though, a full foot and a half longer.

You might consider the Swift Osprey. That canoe feels a bit more stable to me when sitting than does the Merlin II and it is pretty efficient to paddle.

Shearwater, Morningstar, small tandem
I found the Peregrine slightly less twitchy and slightly less turnable than the Merlin 2, but they are both so close in hull design dimensions that I don’t think the Peregrine would give you much of a change in feel.

You are a big guy. Of the Swift solo models, I think the Shearwater would best meet your needs for load capacity and seated stability. The new Keewaydin 15 has less load capacity than the Shearwater and a narrower water line.

To get seated stability in a relatively efficient solo you really need a waterline width of at least 28", and even than can feel twitchy to some paddlers at some weights when sitting, up to about 33", which should feel stable seated to just about most paddlers. The 28" width again suggests the Shearwater to me. Swift currently has nice factory sales going on.

The Swift Raven and NC Super Nova are larger capacity solos, but they have more the rep of being river canoes that are more designed for turning than tracking.

Your other alternatives are small tandems, which are often soloed by larger paddlers and have been much discussed here. Some candidates would be the Bell Morningstar, Hemlock Eaglet and MR 15’ Reflection (but that may only be in Royalex).

The Bell Rockstar has reasonable specs for what you seem to want, but I have no experience with it and have never even seen one.

Maybe clarify your paddling style?
I can’t be much help on picking the right boat in your case, but I was left wondering exactly what kind of paddling you wish to do, and I bet others are unsure too. You said…

“I love how the Merlin tracks when paddling on one side as I kneel with little need for switching sides”

… and of the two halves of the sentence, neither makes sense in the context provided by the other, so I can’t tell if you are a traditional paddler (paddling mostly one side for a while and switching mainly to give the other side a rest) or sit-and-switch (switching every few strokes to control your course). To clarify my confusion, a traditional paddler paddling mostly on one side at any given time would not refer to the boat as having “little need to switch sides” because there simply wouldn’t be any need to switch sides during normal cruising.

Clarifying which paddling method you use would surely affect boat choice. If you are a traditional paddler, you can deal with a wide range of degrees of tracking with very little change in technique, but if you are a sit-and-switcher (or kneel-and-switcher), you probably don’t really want a boat that tracks less strongly than your Merlin II. I just figured that info might affect what boats other people suggest.

Thanks for the responses re Merlin 2
Thanks to all who were kind enough to respond! Guideboatguy asked me to clarify my paddling style. My style is not sit and switch, but kneeling and paddling on one side with switching only to rest muscles, not for course correction which I do with a J or the occasional underwater recovery. But after an hour or so kneeling, I do need to sit for a while and get my feet out in front to prevent or relieve muscle cramps, etc. (I’m not so young and flexible anymore). Thus to stay in the boat for a long time without coming ashore, I need a boat that has enough stability to allow me to change positions without coming ashore. The Merlin 2 is not tippy at all for me when I am kneeling. Its only tippy when I shift to sitting, especially with seat set high for my large feet. But I really like the Merlin when I’m kneeling. Kayakmedic mentioned the Rockstar which would probably allow me to take the needed stretch break from kneeling but would a kevlar Rockstar still give me that wonderful Merlin 2 experience? Thanks in advance for your kind advice and interest!

The Rendezvous wouldn’t track as well
because of its increased rocker, but if you kneel close to the center of the boat and use a short stroke, firm catch, it should track well enough without your needing to J stroke except occasionally. I’ve paddled the boat, the Royalex version which tracks worse than yours, and I didn’t notice a need to J. In fact, my complaint about the boat (as a paddler of true whitewater canoes) was that it tracked too well.

Wenonah Wilderness
Have you looked at the Wilderness. From what you describe it may be a contender. …if not the all out winner.

My experience
I have owned a Merlin II and currently own an Osprey. The Osprey definatly has more capicity and is more stable. It feels secure paddling sitting and it’s seat is comfortable both sitting and kneeling. I don’t have a dog,but have paddled ot a lot with my active grandaughter in front of me with no problem. It feels only slightly slower than the Merlin and turnes better,I more capible in moving water,but tracks a little less strongly. I have a preference for boats that are only as large as necessary to maximize paddling ease,low weight,and wind resistance.

Hope this is of some help.


Well said
My experience with the Osprey is exactly the same as Turtle’s. The Osprey feels significantly more stable than the Merlin II but is perhaps a tad slower when going all out. It is still very pleasant and efficient at typical cruising speed, however, and is a bit more nimble than the Merlin II. It paddles well both sitting and kneeling.

My feeling is that if you can cope with the Merlin II you could certainly do well in an Osprey and gain just a little carrying capacity to boot. I have never paddled a Shearwater. If it paddles like a little bigger Osprey it might be a good boat for you, assuming you really want something bigger.

Another way to counter twitchy
is to carry something in the boat balanced fore and aft. I am always amazed at how the same boat feels so different empty and with tripping gear in it.

Its hard to find a Rockstar…so much of what makes our experience enjoyable comes not from data matching body specs but from our head. Now doubt your boat feels twitchy…it is more because you have raised your center of gravity.

But add to that your head reminding you of past twitchy feelings. Now you are expecting unstable and its more magnified perhaps because you were expecting it.

There is a limit. add some weight low down and boat feels more stable… Add too much and it feels like a log and in the case of some boats gets more unstable. Particularly those whose hull is wide low down. (that would NOT be the Merlin II)

Wow! Thanks for responses re Merlin 2
Thanks everyone for the responses! This is my first time to chat on and I am amazed at the 3Q’s of your responses: Quick, Quality, and Quantity! Thanks! I paddled a Royalex Wilderness and it didn’t catch my fancy but not to say that a composite Wilderness wouldn’t. Problem is I’ve lived most of my life in the Dallas area where you can test countless classy high price composites, but only if they are bicycles! I can only read about Swift Ospreys and Shearwaters, etc, etc. and drool. Especially helpful are comments from you guys that have owned boats I have owned alongside boats I haven’t. My kevflex Rendezvous really does a combination of things quite well, but is just a tad heavy at 49lbs, hence the ongoing search by this life long addict. Question: I know what the term “sit and switch” means aka “hit and switch” and used to own a Beaver marathon tandem years ago. But what is the name of the one sided style? I seem to remember North American Touring Technique or Canadian or Freestyle used somewhat interchangeably and probably inaccurately by guys like me! Again, Thanks!

paddling styles
North American touring technique is basically a hit and switch style. I hear the term most often applied to tandem teams in which the stern partner (who has a better line of sight regarding the heading of the boat) usually calls the switches, and both partners switch sides simultaneously, thus avoiding any correction strokes.

Traditional paddling style is probably what you do, pretty much sticking on one side at a time, using some type of correction stroke (C stroke, Canadian stroke, pitch stroke, or J stroke) to counteract the tendency of the power stroke to turn the canoe toward the off side.

Canadian style usually refers to a paddling style in which the paddler sits amidships in the boat (often a rather wide tandem) with both knees in one chine of the boat and the boat heeled (often dramatically) toward the paddling side. Heeling the boat this way clears the stems of a long boat from the water allowing a tandem to be turned more easily by a solo paddler, and making it easy to reach over the gunwale to plant the paddle with a vertical shaft angle.

Whitewater C boaters often use a different style of paddling which also lessens the need for correction strokes by using forward and cross forward strokes in combination to maintain desired heading and utilizing the tendency of the hull to carve a circle toward the paddling side to counteract the tendency of the boat to turn away from the side a power stroke is taken on.

Traditional it is!
Thanks pblanc for the clarification. With your memory jog I now remember Harry Robert’s(?) usage of the term “North American Touring Technique” for sit and switch, and I had misused it in my previous post having not even thought about the term for many years. So,I paddle “traditional style” or as my biking friends would call me on my steel road bike, “Retro.”

I have paddled a Shearwater,here are my observations;

-It’s REAL big

-contrary to my expecations,it didn’t paddle like a big osprey at all,more like many other solos,dull?,sluggish? it turned OK(remember I prefer small boats)I have seen it haul huge loads well with a strong paddler.

  • I’m a weak paddler and I found it hard to make a decient speed.

    -If I had to haul a lot I would prefer to paddle my Novacraft Pal solo.


As to your position in the boat
you may try pulling just one leg out from the kneeling position and placing it forward to rest it. With the other knee still incontact with the hull it is a very stable position. When that leg/foot feels OK, switch. I think Canadians call it a “relief” position.

It’s effective and can be done without going to shore, though I usually need to grab the rails while changing position.

A Hemlock Eaglet would work for you if you are not looking for top notch speed. Looks like a nice one for sale in the classifieds.

Solo Trippers

– Last Updated: Oct-10-12 9:36 AM EST –

DY has designed over ten variations on his solo tripper concept. The latest and largest is the Swift Keewaydin 15. Compared to the older Merlin II it is wider, has less pronounced shoulders and the differential bow rocker is increased and more localized.

Both it and it's stablemate the Winter's designed Osprey are a little large for me. The oppressive weight of the current presidential campaign has reduced my once 5'10" frame to 5'8.5". I need to move my offside knee to cross heel Osprey. Strange, but these are the best two of the larger solos; Shearwater is HUGE. It is not referred to as the USS Enterprise by Swift insiders for no cause. If one screwed four sheets of 3/4 in ply to the rails a light plane might be landed.

That said, you're much taller and probably need a wider boat. There aren't many to choose from, Bell's RockStar, Colden's WildFire, Hemlock's Eaglet, Merrimac's Baboosic, Sawyers, Autumn Mist, Swift's Kee 15, Osprey and Shearwater and Wenonah's Wilderness pretty much complete the array of hulls 30"+ wide by 14-15 feet long.

The WildFire and Baboosic have quite a bit of symmetrical rocker, and Baboosic has little center tumblehome. Autumn Mist and Wilderness have minimal rocker and Eaglet's is symmetrical, which brings you down to the RockStar, which hasn't been made in a few years and the two 15 foot Swifts.

Huntsville ONT is a long walk from Texas and fwe RockStars were made. Look at Swift's demo footage, try to access an event Raystown, a FreeStyle Symposium, PaddleFest in Old Forge NY, etc, where Swift will have hulls. RockStar is still irregularly available used.

Bon Chance!

I’m curious about Wilderness’s Rocker

– Last Updated: Oct-05-12 3:30 PM EST –

The catalog says the Wilderness has 1.25 inches of rocker. However, I know that the Wenonah Vagabond in composite form has that same amount of rocker and it is easy to see the rocker just by looking down the length of the hull, yet the Royalex version has no rocker at all. Once carrying even a very light load in water, the Royalex version has reverse rocker (the Royalex model is also half a foot shorter). Is this your observation about "no rocker" in the Wilderness? Considering how big a difference there is in performance and handling between composite and Royalex versions of the Vagabond, I'm guessing that the same may be true of the Wilderness. Perhaps the composite version of the Wilderness has, undeservedly, the same reputation as its (presumably) crappy-handling Royalex cousin.

Shearwater & Osprey
My husband and I own both boats. My husband paddles the Shearwater sitting, but I paddle it kneeling. Yes, it is large, but we are not small people, and we both like the boat. It’s stable, easy to turn, easy to paddle seated, great for Adirondacks camping, pleasant to paddle, can put a dog in it, and it’s lightweight to pick up. My boat is the Osprey, which I mainly paddle kneeling. The Osprey is extremely responsive. I don’t think of it as a smaller Shearwater, and I usually paddle it kneeling, rather than seated.

We specifically bought our Shearwater for canoe camping, not for day tripping, and as a stable platform for my husband to sit and paddle. It serves its purpose well for us. Ask yourself where you are going to use the boat you want to buy next, and what you are going to use it for. That helped us narrow down the choices.

Wildy Rocker

– Last Updated: Oct-07-12 11:23 AM EST –

I've run a tape on an upside down stored Kev Wildy at Adk Lakes and Trails. Will send image to any interested party via private email, but this site does not seem to support images?

Rocker is a drafting convention unique to each designer so comparing numbers is useless. That said, composite Wildy's are without useful rocker. Our prime onside turning maneuver, the Duffek, is highly compromised because that long, deep, bow won't draw to the paddle.