Read reviews for the Merganser 18 by Shearwater Boats as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!
The sliding foot rest is very comfortable and the keyhole cockpit allows for varied leg positions. The slanted fore deck is great for vertical paddling, and it sheds water rapidly. If you like wood and good speed this boat is a good bet.
A couple things are worth mentioning for the next builder. The coaming has little overhang on the sides so trimming the two halves of the coaming spacer might help make a little more overhang on the sides, maybe a shade under 1/8" would do it. I've got about 1/2" overhang which feels minimal. Pre-glassing the inside of the hull panels before stitching up makes finishing the interior easy. The thigh braces on the coaming recess are mounted kind of far forward and inward, I've trimmed the inside and forward portion of the thigh braces to allow more room for entry/exit but they need to be moved back about an inch. On the next one I'll connect a little piece to extend the thigh braces closer to the thighs instead of knees.
Ok, handling, think of a slightly tippier Caribou with stiffer tracking but less weather cocking. It'll have less of a tendency to slide sideways on a wave compared to a Caribou but it'll still turn where you want with a constant lean. It won't allow as much green water over the foredeck as a Caribou. I only had a chance to take it out in 15mph breeze but it felt good in all angles to the wind/waves.
The 18 is not a big kayak, I think it's about a half cubic foot bigger than the Caribou, but for 200lb paddler with 60lbs of gear I bet it would be great in a lot of wind. For reference I've built two Pygmys, seven CLCs, a Merganser 16 and my own attempt at a 18'x21" s&g kayak. Have worked in kayak stores and taught sea kayaking.
Two thumbs up.