The Merlin XT has been discontinued, so you should be able to find some very good deals on it now, possibly even new leftover boats from dealers.
The Merlin XT is not a beginner's boat. Beginners will find the stability, both initial and secondary, insufficient. Experienced paddlers may think the stability is perfectly fine. The stability problem is caused by the very deep V hull. This is NOT a shallow V. In calm water the Merlin gives a smooth, fast, stable ride, very responsive.
The shape of the Merlin is now outdated, compared to the beautifully designed new Eddylines. But it does have huge storage capacity. The cockpit is large and comfortable. The seat is only moderately comfortable. The Merlin has the usual beautiful Eddyline thermoform finish and is very light weight.
I'm giving the Merlin a low rating due to the stability problem. Otherwise it does have some qualities and might suit an experienced paddler.I have owned my Merlin XT in Carbonlite for over a year now, and am very pleased with it. It's lightweight, seems fast to me, comfortable, and durable. It requires no rudder since the shallow V hull makes it track like an arrow. The low profile makes for a very wind-resistant watercraft, which I really like. Hatches are roomy and stay dry. Cockpit is plenty roomy for those of us who aren't supermodel slim. (Had a Merlin LT before this, and needed WD-40 to get into it, and the jaws of life to get back out.)
The only reason I don't rate it a 10 is that, while some have said it "turns on a dime"... well, that's not my experience. The Prijon Yukon Expedition is the only long kayak I've ever paddled that I could paddle straight or turn abruptly (trihedral hull), but that boat is hard for some to handle. Another thing about the Merlin - it has the great looks of a composite kayak but you don't have to baby it. Small scratches are easy to repair; the carbonlite is a very tough material. The Eddylines are a tad expensive, but worth it in my opinion.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.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.What a great plastic boat. I bought this boat for three reasons -- the price (the dealer was selling his boat to free up capital); the looks (of all the plastic boats out there, this is a true beauty -- it does not look like a plastic boat); and, the rudderless design (this boat is designed to track well without a rudder). On the water, this boat is truly a pleasure. It tracks well; it has good initial and secondary stability; and, the cockpit is large and comfortable. Further, the boat can be edged well. It takes wind well and has only a slight tendency to weathercock. It is also light (for a plastic boat). The only complaint that I have about the boat is that the covers for the forward and rear hatches are difficult to secure so that they are water-tight. A suggestion given me by Eddyline -- apply some 303 to the covers and the seals. Another small complaint -- the deck behind the cockpit is raised in the middle. This makes self-assisted re-entries using a paddle fl!
oat not as easy as they should be.
All in all, a great boat that fulfills a wide range of activities well. It works well; it looks great; what a boat!!