Built my merganser from plans. It is very light at 18 kg and has a tough Kevlar layer on the bottom. Stability is not low but the kayak is very fast. And handles very well without a rudder or skeg. It is hard to maneuver without edging. But slight edging takes care of any slight weathercocking.
In the surf the boat is fun. And I have had some awesome rides ( and some awesome wipeouts! ) I am planning to take 25 mm or so of the forefoot and deadwood aft to improve the maneuverability on the basis that I can always add them again with epoxy if needed. The plans were easy to use. And I am very pleased with the look of the boat. This boat has taught me a lot of good paddling skills, that I would not have learned in a more stable boat with a rudder. It seams like an easy boat to roll.This review of the Merganser 17 will be two parts. The first will be the construction. The second will be the kayak on the water.
The kit is very easy to follow and Eric from Shearwater Boats will answer emails and phone calls. I had never built a boat before. I have built remote control airplanes, finished models, made wooden pens, and built computers. The skills learned in other projects were helpful in building this boat. With that said the kayak had different issues, and I did have some times of indecision.
Sanding was the biggest part of this project. I bought a new sander my other 2 old ones wore out. They were very old, but there is very much sanding in a project like this.
The epoxy was very east to work with and the directions tell you how to thicken it and sand it and the like. I had never fiber glassed before, but now I use it to strengthen things I build or fix. It is not a brainy activity, but it is labor intensive.
I would recommend building a wood boat and not buying a pre-built one. I say this because I was a little afraid of building a wooden kayak so I almost bought one on ebay. I am really glad I did not do this. I have done some repairs on the boat and if I would not have built it I would not know how to do that.
The directions say 80 hours or so to build the boat. I would agree with this estimate. I may have taken a little longer due to it being my first time. It was relaxing for me to go out to my garage and build.
I did not make the garage perfectly dust free when I varnished my kayak. I cleaned up the garage and told people to stay out, but I did not make a dust free room. I wanted a kayak I could use, not a coffee table. It looks great, but I do see the flaws.
The Merganser 17 is my second kayak. I own an Old Town Adventure XL160. The Old town is a great kayak, but very heavy (#65) and wide (26"). The Old town does not tip. The Merganser 17 was a little different. The first 3 times I tried to get in the Merganser 17 I rolled it over by accident (went swimming). Once I got in it was east to paddle.
The Merganser 17 tracks very well. I do not have a skeg or rudder on this kayak. It does not weather cock much at all. It has a somewhat lower profile and I have not found weather cocking as much as of a problem as on the Old Town.
The Merganser cannot carry as much as my Old Town, but it can carry enough for a short week trip. I made the hatch covers stay in place with bungee cords which is one of the options. I did this so the deck would have a good look. The hatch has no straps over it or a knob on it. The problem that I am still perfecting is that this option does allow a small amount of water in.
I have had this kayak for about a year and a half now and nearly two full seasons. I have taken it out on Lake Michigan, down rivers on trips, and on smaller lakes. It performs well in all areas. It has to be leaned to turn well, but this is easily learned. I recently took the kayak down a river system that got a little shallow. The kayak took some had hits and scraps. I was upset at first them I realized I could sand and then varnish again. It looks better and was fun to work on again. Next spring I will be sanding it down to the fiberglass and then I will add another coat or two of epoxy, and then I will varnish again.
This company and this kayak are quality. First when the deck cord was not included in the kit I emailed Eric and soon I had a box in the mail with the deck cord. Secondly, all the holes for the stitching are pre-drilled. Let me tell you what a blessing this is. I did not have to decide how many hole to drill or where to drill them. I added a couple on my own, but what a blessing.
One grade can never describe a project. I will give this kayak a 9.5. What a fun project and great kayak to paddle.