I've been comparison testing a number of boats over the past two weeks. I currently own a Necky, Eskia which was right for me two years ago when stability meant everything. So, by a process of elimination, I zeroed in on the XT. This is a lively boat, turns easily and tracks extremely well without skeg or rudder. Paddled today in gusty winds and the boat held its course, first with a rear quartering wind, then into the wind and finally a front quartering wind. Just occasional leaning and double stroking needed to hold it on point. I even did a paddle float re-entry in wind and waves without a problem.
I both tested and bought the model with the conventional, non-keyhole cockpit, I would have bought a longer Eddyline but their keyhole cockpits are apparently intended for double-amputees. I don't know why Eddyline seems to favor the smaller paddler.
Anyway, considering price, value and seaworthiness, the Merlin XT does it all.
Also, while the XT is certainly not a racer, it sure is considerably faster than my Eskia. As measured with a GPS, I had no trouble getting the boat up to nearly 5 MPH. It's easy to maintain 4-4.25 MPH without wind/wave assistance. In comparison, under identical circumstances, the Eskia averaged 3.5 MPH.