The Merlin XT has been replaced by the Journey
Read and submit reviews for the Merlin XT.
Having owned many kayaks the Eddyline's are the best you can buy in plastic-by far. Others that have imitated the ABS plastic (circa 2007 Current Designs, Hurricane, etc.) do not compare to the durability, quality, or design. That said, the ABS plastics simply do not perform as well as composites; the stiffness and energy transfer is not the same.
The Merlin XT itself is a good transitional kayak, serving the role between recreational and experienced sea kayak. At only 15 feet this kayak does well without a rudder, adequately stable for beginners, yet provides enough performance to still be a fun ride.
The Merlin XT has an awesome cockpit. Many newer kayaks have transitioned to the ever so annoying key hole cockpit (which leaves very little room for anything else). The Merlin has an egg shaped cockpit (which helps you by giving you the room to get in and out easier, as well as allow you to access the pedal adjustment with relative ease. The kayak is light, easy to load and unload, and glides beautifully in the water. It is able to turn on a dime thanks to the soft chine, however, because of the soft chine it can also be considered a lot less stable than hard chine kayaks. You will find that you must keep yourself braced when paddling, or you might just topple over and find yourself practicing rolling in the water. It is extremely comfortable and has a very well shaped seat.
The part that no one said in their reviews which I find most important is the leg room. In the Merlin XT you have the leg room to put your foot on the interior peg, and bend your knee pressing it against the sides with just enough of an angle to feel comfortable and stable. It is more important to me than anything else in a kayak to be able to bend my knee far enough to feel good while sitting for possibly hours. Out of all the other kayaks I tried, only the Merlin XT and the Wilderness Tsunami 140 had the correct amount of room in which to do this. Kayaks that I tried such as the Nighthawk kept my legs perfectly straight, and had no room to bend your knee even a little. Not being able to bend your knee will leave your legs feeling very cramped and cause them to hurt within a few minutes. In fact, the Nighthawk I tried was being sold by a gentleman who did not even sit in it before buying and discovered too late the negative aspects to the absence of leg room. He had even told me that many others had come and sat in it before me and none of them called back (well I was in that category as well after i sat in it). Other kayaks like the Pungo, skylark, fathom, or any of the Necky, or current design kayaks all either had the straight leg feel, or so wide that in-order to bend your knee and brace yourself to add stability you would be spread eagle sitting in the kayak straining yourself to keep that position. However, the Pungo was more like your knee's were not inside the kayak but pointed towards the sky and you would have to be constantly adding pressure outwards (as if your legs were trying to flap like a butterfly) in-order to brace for your next stroke.
I really did love the Wilderness Tsunami 140 as well, however, it was root molded plastic and had a keyhole cockpit that was very small. But to it's credit I had purchased the tsunami but left it in the store until I was able to check out the Merlin XT. Although once I sat in the Merlin XT I knew it was perfect for me. Yet, if the merlin had been as tight a fit as the Nighthawk, I would have simply picked up the Tsunami from Tumalo Creek canoe and kayak and taken it home. It really was a great kayak as well. It was very quick, and had the benefit of a hard chine which makes it much more stable than the Merlin series.
I will warn you though, the Merlin will require effort to keep it balanced when paddling, and requires a lot of extra practice in learning how to lean turn. But it does allow you to rest, and if you sink down into the cockpit wanting to take a break and read a book or something, you will be able to do so without worrying about toppling over in the water. It does have decent stability so don't let all the other reviews freak you out. It's really not that bad. Just remember, whatever price whoever is selling it at is, it will be half the price or less than a brand new kayak with the same quality build being sold at your local dealer. It is the same material, and has a very very similar design. It tracks very well, turns very well, and glides very fast and sleek through the water. It took me 2 strokes to begin gliding upstream in the Deschutes river (in a very fast moving portion of the river may I add). So anyone who says it does not do any of those things well is either very fat, or very negative and picky, or even comparing it to a super long and skinny kayak that will obviously go faster due to its design, however, will it be comfortable or will it keep your legs cutting off blood flow until when you try to get out you find your legs are still located in the kayak and you are now a legless midget in a sea of tall people who realized leg room in kayaks does matter! Jk.
As the Merlin series has been discontinued, I have no idea what other people will be selling them at, or where you will find one. At this point there is no dealer who has them, and most employees are so new they do not remember this series of kayak and can offer no help in your purchase comparisons of other kayaks against the Merlin XT. All I can say is, do not use pictures to guess if it is like another kayak (because I did, and it led me to almost not go look at it because I thought it would be the same as the nighthawk due to the fact that it looked to be the same size as the nighthawk in the picture), and do not simply buy one because its a good deal and not even bother to sit in it (this will lead you to regret buying it, and try to desperately sell it like the owner of the nighthawk I visited).
Leg room is key, and feeling good sitting in whatever kayak you choose for hours on end is the most important aspect you should be looking at when choosing your water toy. I am about 5'8" and weigh about 145 pounds. My legs are shorter, and my torso is longer, I do not have a gut (I am skinny), and the Merlin XT is perfect for me. It is a 15' kayak, and is 23" wide with a 19" wide cockpit and does have the leg support bump that sticks slightly inward from the edge of the cockpit and is where my legs hook in in-order to be able to brace my body and easily use my hips to balance the side to side motion of the kayak.
The Merlin XT is by far my absolute favorite kayak in all existence now, and I did try out just about every kayak on the market. So maybe what works for me might not work for you, but at least you now know my size and the Merlins size, and you know how it fits me and what I look for in a kayak to make it a pleasurable experience. I hope this helps, I never saw one review that spoke about the topic of bracing and leg room.
-good leg room
-able to brace knee's and control stability
-soft chine (less stable than most others)
-glides very well (carbon lite allows easy upstream movement)
-turns on a dime (soft chine makes water flow under the kayak with greater ease allowing water to flow under the kayak a little easier making for quicker less strenuous turns)
-Egg shaped cockpit (easy to adjust pegs or reach supplies stored between legs
-only 49 llbs (easy to load and unload)
-multiple easy to open storage compartments
-good length kayak for general use in rivers or sea
-cheap accessories (such as $70 skirt)
-comes with cockpit cover for storage (keep spiders out)
-Made of durable carbonlite plastic which is UV resistant and gel coated for very fast movement
-tracks very well
-much much harder to lean turn (no secondary support in lean turns)
Comparing the Merlin to other kayaks is best said in what other kayaks have that it does not (which is a very short list)
-no secondary support (hard chine is where they design the secondary support into the bottom of the kayak in-order to greatly improve stability, it is also why they discontinued the Merlin XT)
-No deployable skag (the rear fin that new models have which is able to retract into the hull of the kayak when not needed or during transportation).
-slightly heavier than some newer models at 49 pounds but the same weight as others (all in all an average weight for the length and material used in/of this kayak.
what the merlin has that most others do not
-better price (now that it is discontinued it will be sold at a steeply discounted price by private parties who either no longer kayak or are making the mistake of getting a different model that probably has no leg room.
I tried almost every eddyline, current design, wilderness, and Necky kayak that is on the market today (July 2015) and I can tell you that either they have leg room but no way to brace your knee, or they have a way to brace your knee but not enough leg room to feel comfortable. Or they have a keyhole cockpit that is so tight you have to slide in with your legs straight and feel like a sardine being packed for shipment. Only the Merlin XT seems to have the carbonlite exterior and is built with both the leg room and cockpit that makes you feel like you could kayak 24 hours straight without needing to stand up and stretch. To me these are the only things that matter when choosing a kayak, because who wants to feel like they have to stand up every ten minutes or their legs with cease to exist?
The Merlin XT is the most amazing kayak I have ever tried and the only thing I would change is to make it a hard chine, but seriously the soft chine really isn't that much less stable like most in this forum lead you to believe. Hope it helps, and hope you make a good decision and buy the kayak whose features perfectly coexist with your bodies shape, length, and needs.
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!!