Manufacturer’s Design Statement:
The Merlin XT and its little sister the Merlin LT are the further expressions of a design concept that originated with Eddyline’s Falcon kayak reviewed by Sea Kayaker last year (June 1996). The computer modeled and machine-cut original provides design accuracy and perfection in symmetry that would make any designer take delight.
Design-wise, the Merlin XT is a full-performance sea kayak in a smaller package. Fully functional and user friendly without a rudder, this kayak will track in any weather, carve turns when leaned and carries a respectable amount of gear.
It sports a comfortable molded seat with a backrest that provides vertical adjustment as well as forward and aft motion. To top off the package, it is molded in our Carbonlite 2000ª material, which allows us to create sharp details, recessed fittings, excellent color, and a beautiful finish in material that is as easy to maintain as fiberglass.
TE 6’1″, 200-pound male. Day trips, no cargo. Winds to 15 knots, waves 1 to 2 feet and whitecapping.
DL 5’10”, 180-pound male. Pool session, day trips in calm conditions and in winds 10 to 20 knots, waves to 2 feet. Reflected waves in rock gardens. 15 pounds of gear.
VS 5’2″, 160-pound female. Day trip in wind 10 to 12 knots, gusty, with sloppy seas and whitecaps.
“The molded polycarbonate has an exceptionally smooth finish and fair hull; even in the area of the bulkheads there is no distortion of the lines” (TE). “The general appearance of the boat was excellent” (DL). The hull and deck are joined with an extruded seam and glue.
The polycarbonate has a hard finish that does not get fuzzy with abrasion. Paddling among the rocks, DL noted that “with the inadvertent smacking of rocks I was pleased to see that the hull held up with only minimal scratches.” “It is much stiffer than rotomolded plastic, probably as stiff as many glass boats” (TE).
VS and DL had no trouble carrying the Merlin solo, though TE noted that “the balance point falls at the glued-in thigh brace flange, an awkward and uncomfortable point to rest on my shoulder.” The ends of the kayak have toggles that have a strip of Velcro to hold it in a groove on deck and keep it from banging around while underway.
The deck rigging consists of lengths of bungies laced under short lengths of metal rod that span molded grooves in the deck. The ends of the bungie cord are secured with plastic clips bolted to the deck. The end of one bungie pulled out from the fitting and was not easily repaired.
The bungies were loosely stretched between fittings, and were “adequate for holding down note pads and charts in light seas, [but] not adequate whenever I roll the boat or when the deck was awash” (DL). “I’d tighten existing bungies and add grab lines around the perimeter” (TE).
The Merlin has a large cockpit, large enough for TE to get in seat first, then feet. The thigh braces are foam-padded flanges glued to the underside of the deck and coaming. Our reviewers found they could brace their knees on the underside of the deck, the thigh braces being in the wrong place (for DL and TE) and without enough contour (VS) to provide firm contact.
The molded plastic seat is comfortable. “The deep contours prevent any pressure points” (TE). The seat back is adjustable for height and angle. While DL found it comfortable, TE thought it needed some padding to relieve pressure points on his lower back, and VS, at 5′ 2″, thought it was too high to provide good lumbar support and made layback rolls difficult. The foot braces were “solid and easily adjustable” (TE). The Merlin XT reviewed was not equipped with a rudder.
The Merlin XT has “a nice, stable feel. It leans easily without feeling tippy” (VS). “Its secondary stability is very good and predictable, contributing immensely toward my confidence in putting the boat on edge” (DL). “The Merlin responds well to edged turns” (TE). “Very maneuverable and especially good in tight quarters among the rocks. I felt quite comfortable putting the boat completely on edge for tight pivot turns” (DL).
The Merlin also tracks well, without, noted VS, being “so stiff it is a hassle to turn. A nice balance of tracking and steerability.”
In winds to 15 (TE) and 20 (DL) knots the Merlin was well balanced and easy to keep on course in any direction. Only VS noted a “little bit” of weathercocking in winds to 12 knots, but had no difficulty holding any course.
The Merlin XT has a dry ride for the most part. The foredeck sheds water well. TE noted the “bow throws water out to the side where the wind can pick it up and blow it back at the paddler.”
Using a knot meter, TE “clocked an easy 4- to 41/4-knot cruising pace. In a sprint I hit 51/2 knots. It is not a racehorse, but should keep pace while cruising.” VS noted: “Not a speed demon, though it moves out well enough and glides well.” TE thought the Merlin has enough speed to catch wind waves and has good control while surfing them.
“The stowage space is more than adequate” (DL). The hatch openings are “big enough to load medium-sized dry bags without much trouble.” The tethered hatch covers have double rubber gaskets and are secured by nylon straps and buckles.
While the forward compartment stayed dry, DL and TE reported some leakage (11/2 quarts after 30 minutes of rolling-DL). One of the gaskets on the rear hatch had a gap where the butt joint had opened up. “Locating the butt joint along a straight side would help keep the joint from pulling apart” (TE).
The Merlin XT’s bulkheads are molded plastic, glued in place and watertight. In the test model the forward bulkhead is vented with a small hole, the aft bulkhead is not.
“Overall, the Merlin XT is an attractive, manageable boat that should appeal to a wide range of paddlers-especially entry level to intermediate paddlers. It is a pleasant boat to paddle” (VS).
“It is a good all-purpose day and camping trip boat where speed is not a main requirement. Excellent for exploring rock gardens and marshes or wherever tight turning and maneuvering are required” (DL).
“A good general-purpose boat with an intriguing new material with the toughness of plastic and the finish and fairness of a glass boat” (TE).
My thanks to Sea Kayaker magazine and its astute test team for the Merlin review. A few items have been updated since the test boat was built. The shock cord terminals, which eliminate ugly knots at shock cord ends are designed for 1/4-inch shock cord.
Our supply has been metric and slightly small, allowing occasional releases. We now use full-dimension 1/4-inch shock cord. We have relocated the joints on the hatch gaskets to eliminate the possibility of separation. We have added a piece to the deck aft of the rear hatch to further stiffen the deck during rolling. Both bulkheads are vented.
As a designer, I always put in water performance first. For example, the cockpit placement is vital to the all-weather ease of handling in this kayak even though it puts the balance point for carrying a bit forward of the cockpit.
The function of the hull shedding water rather than carrying the excess wetted surface is preferred even though the wind may occasionally blow it at you. The wind will blow something at you anyway.
It should also be pointed out that the thigh braces are a customer option and can be installed at a variety of locations to suit the individual paddler. Also available as an option is a fully-adjustable padded seat and backrest cover.
The cover has fitting options for complete customization of the cockpit fit.
In jest, I would have to say that anyone who claims a 15-foot kayak would behave like a race horse should be viewed with a jaundiced eye, but at 51/2 knots, the Merlin is well over its theoretical hull speed.
A final thanks to the Sea Kayaker team. From the sound of your review, it seems we hit the mark with this kayak.
Thank you. Tom Derrer
Options and Pricing
Standard Lay-up: Carbonlite 2000ª
Approximate Weight: 52 lbs.
Price: Merlin LT $1,499, Merlin XT $1,699
Options: Thigh brace kit, under-deck tray, seat and backrest pad custom-fit system.
Availability: Through a wide network of dealers.
1344 Ashten Road
Burlington, WA 98233