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Right now the Carbonlite is beginning to show its age and I will be bringing it back to Eddyline for some long overdue maintenance, I only hope the Herons I own will be as durable.
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The shape of the Merlin is now outdated, compared to the beautifully designed new Eddylines.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.
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 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.
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.
All in all, a great boat that fulfills a wide range of activities well. It works well; it looks great; what a boat!!
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