Submitted: 10-01-2001 by CHB
First off-Your faithful correspondent: a 50-year-old out-of-shape 5-10, 200# newbie to paddling, with one season's experience on a 12' sit-on-top, though I've been around boats small and large all my life. Goal: day paddling on Lake Michigan off the beach. Have tried a number of boats on demos, and had the Merlin XT in Carbonlite over the Labor Day weekend. Verdict: No issues with materials or execution--well built and finished. Nicely responsive, tracks well sans rudder which really doesn't seem to be needed at all. Doesn't track like the 17' Solstice GT I tried, but would be a lot easier to carry up 2 flights of stairs to the garage from the beach!
Problem: At my weight, the stability is an issue; felt insecure initially and I couldn't define a solid sense of the secondary as I have in other trials. Between that and the cockpit--OK once in, but tight on the way--entry and exit were a challenge, except for the unplanned wet exit, which turned out to be surprisingly easy! Didn't feel secure enough to reach around the boat without keeping a paddle blade in/on the water; wouldn't want to try photos. Definitely felt insecure with the seas (1-1.5') on the aft quarter; better with the seas from ahead of the beam. By comparison, I felt significantly more confident in a Caribou-S I tried, even though it's narrower; the V bottom on the Merlin definitely translates to less primary than a different design would have, and I suspect my weight has to do with the weaker secondary than I expected. Would be a great boat in the more compact category for someone lighter or more experienced.