Topic : Merlin or another Double Hander

Hi, I would like some advice please.

How easy is an older merlin to sail? My 11 year old son is happy to go sailing with me in my solo or other boats even to the extent of trapezing off another club members cat, but makes sorts of excuses why he doesn't want to go out in his topper. I have finally found out that he does not like sailing on his own and really he wants to sail with me (I can understand as we sail on the Thames near Southend and the tide can be a bit daunting when trying to learn how to sail).

We intend to carry on sailing on the Thames or a large inland water and I have been looking at a few double handers that my be suitable (GP, Miracle etc. boats that have a spinnaker) but my first love has always been a merlin (I used to crew in one when I was a teenager). We used to have a mirror but that gets a little cramped especially if my son helms. I would love to get an older merlin to suit our weight (my son is 8 stone and still growing and I'm closer to 15 and slowly getting smaller) but I am always being told that they are very unforgiving, especially down wind where they will throw you in at the slightest mistake. Is the merlin really that bad or could we sail one?



Posted: 14/07/2009 08:50:30
By: Steve
The Merlin's a great boat for this, I first crewed for dad when I was nine years old in his Proctor mkIX on the Thames, and all I have are the fondest memories. Merlins do have this "tippy" reputation but they are much more stable than some classes and the potential to learn about different aspects of sailing is very high in a Merlin because of it's versatility, and you will be able to find a design that suits your weight, aspiration, and budget because of the range of boats available.Good luck.

Posted: 14/07/2009 09:30:09
By: Ben 3634
I've had Merlins since I was 15, 36 yrs on and the only, bad experiences I have had were on the first few sails [straight form a Gull]. Merlins react more quickly than say a Lark, esp. a GP14, so sailing one for the first time they may feel 'tippy' but in effect the boat has just done what any other boat would have done, but sooner than you expected. 

You do not have to use a large spinnaker, you can move fittings to suit and you get the thrill.

So read the design guide, and go for it. No doubt you'll soon find yourself as crew.

I am sure others will say similar.

Posted: 14/07/2009 09:35:42
By: Miles
I started crewing a Merlin aged 13 and then helming a Proctor XII on the river at Bourne End. Merlins aren't that tippy and you'll both have a lot of fun.

As Miles says, check the design guide and then have a look at the second hand list.

Posted: 14/07/2009 12:10:40
By: Chris Rathbone
Strangley the wider the Merlin the better, that because when they start to heel there is a lot of 'resistance' to the leeward side actually going under the water. Unlike say a GP14, which will heel and then capsize. Some older designs had nose diving habits, but depend what you mean by older ... read through the deign guide as recommended ... if by older you still can get an NSM2, NSM 4 or Canterbury Tales, you will have a very well behaved boat ..

Posted: 14/07/2009 12:58:50
By: alanf
Hi Steve,

The first ever dinghy I stepped into back in '91 was a Merlin, (baptism of fire), and have never looked back. That said,yes the the Merlin was a bit sensitive to start but it didn't take long to get used to the boat.

You and your son will have a fantastic time sailing a Merlin. They are fast, fun, exciting boats to sail.

Good luck and enjoy.

Posted: 14/07/2009 13:15:13
By: Richard Battey
Another one of the converts, I am afraid - go for it Steve. 15 stone & 8 at the front, sounds like a perfect combination, the twin poles make a big difference when you decide to indulge with the kite and as the poles are so long, you could have a lower ring on the mast to assist.

Southend off the pier ... had a big moment there with a fleet of class II powerboats coming the other way, helicopters and massive rooster tails. Very scary, but not as scary as almost hitting Charles Devonport's MkI Winders still wet gel coat on his first sail, but that's another story.

My first ever sail was in a Enterprise, hated it, but Dad got a Merlin - Black Sovereign, a Gregory Echo, 2733. 20 years later, still sailing Merlins, tried others, but nothing compares.

Posted: 14/07/2009 19:29:18
By: Andy Hay - Enchantment 3386
I bought 3280 NSM2 and sailed it with my son in light winds. He loved it. I helmed upwind and I crewed downwind as he couldn't put the pole up. He now loves his Optimist but has helmed a Fireball and done well at club level. Not bad for a  boy of 28Kg

He had his sail and spars stolen a few years back and Merlin members let him have some spars and a sail. A big thanks to them. Measurement man & Alan F.

His last result was 1st at the Speed Sails sponsored Barnt Green Open. Three 1st places gave him the win. A big thanks to Andy at Speedsails for his support and advice.

Wish him & crew luck at Salcombe


Posted: 14/07/2009 21:40:33
By: Nigel
Saying "throw you in at the slightest mistake" is not correct at all. However, some newcomers think they are tippy until they get the hang of it. After a few days you'll not think anything of it.

The only problem I can think of (and this applies to other large boats like a GP14 or Wayfarer) is that your son might not be much help pulling the boat up the beach on a trolley. If you want an easy life after a hard sail, then you'll have to stick with the Mirror! But it's not an issue if the boat is empty of water and the ground is firm.

Posted: 15/07/2009 09:41:54
By: Mags
re - pulling up the beach...

For its size the Merlin is really quite light. I can recover ours from our (lake) sailing club single handed - I see the Ents struggling, the GPs, Wayfarers etc need at least 2 people...

If you have a wooden one, then you just grab the crowd of admirers standing around and ask for a little help.

I think that people think the boat is "tippy" when they really mean "responsive" - it will respond to the twitches of the tiller unlike a Mirror. You don't need to bear away to gain speed to tack (normally), and it will accelerate.


Colin (3387)

Posted: 15/07/2009 10:22:07
By: Colin
Thanks for all your comments.

It looks like I will be looking for a merlin once I have disposed of a couple of boats to get the funds.

Thanks again. Steve

Posted: 16/07/2009 08:07:49
By: Steve


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