I have had the Little Wing 15.5 sail for about 4 years now. It is an excellent kayak and have had no problems with it. As a sailboat it is a "sailor's" sailing kayak. It tacks well, is very fast(have had it over 10kts) and extremely stable. It takes a bit longer to setup(about 45min) than the Hobie Adventure Island I used to have, and it is in an entirely different league when it comes to sailing. Comparing them on paddling, the Hobie is like a barge by comparison. Even with the pedal-system the LW 15.5 is much faster and does not kill my knees. Moreover, the LW is a dry boat, and the seating is more comfortable than any kayak I have had(or have; I have 5 CLC's including one CLC 21 tandem and the rest 17's). We use them at our winter home in AZ and at our mountain cabin. It is not quite as fast as the CLC 17, though.
I bought my wife the LW 12.5 and she loves it. While we have dollies to carry it to the water, she just picks it up and carries it. We have paddled both kayaks in many lakes in the Colorado Plains and Mountains and in Boundary Waters.
The only downside is that these are painted boats so they do get scraped up on the shore.
BTW, my wife is 74 and I am 76, so being light is a plus.
I had not been in contact with Zac since I received my boat but I wanted to buy a cover for her so I thought I would ask him for a recommendation. He was back in touch with me the very next day and sadly in that email he told me about closing down their business. He has always responded to me in a fast and polite way!!!
My girl friend (73yrs young)who has had her 14'Little Wing for over 5 yrs ask me to include her in my response. Both of our experiences with Warren Light Craft,LLC were professional in every since of the way. I do hope that Zac and his dad will reconsider and start making the Little Wing Kayak again, they are an Awesome boat. Proud and Happy owner of a Little Wing Kayak!
Zac stated he would repair by next spring or summer, but as he is out of business, I gave that no credence. Roger Crawford of MA is who I selected to do the repairs, look him up on the internet and you will be impressed.
Also know that there has been a failure to deliver boats that have been ordered and paid for.
My Little Wing drew a fair amount of interest and many questions from fellow paddlers. However, mostly they were somewhat amused by the design; they live in a Brit boat world and don't plan to change. The organizers and fellow paddlers were very impressed with the weight and the construction and finish of the Little Wing.
After the organizers saw my boat, they approved it for the intermediate-level tours. Many of these paddlers in their 17-foot kayaks Brit boats were probably somewhat less amused during the 6-8 mile tour of the mainland sea caves in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. On the way out, we encountered 2-ft beam and following waves (which I had never even seen before on any water body, much less paddled; most of the other paddlers encountered conditions like these quite frequently in their paddles on the Great Lakes). My 12.5-ft Little Wing handled these conditions very well and was among the "faster" boats. The two guides/instructors split us into two groups for a more direct trip back through a 10-15-knot headwind and 2-foot waves. Surprisingly, I (and my Little Wing) was assigned to the faster group of paddlers, and the Little Wing was not the last craft to reach the put-in beach. Needless to say, the LW was easier than the longer boats to maneuver in the sea caves and surrounding rocks.
Overall, I am very pleased that my 12.5-ft Little Wing more than kept up with the 17-ft boats on the intermediate level tours in mildly rough waters. My boat seems to have much of the performance of the longer boats, but is much lighter and more compact.
Being of small stature (5-ft, 3-in and 125 Lbs) and 63-years of age I was particularly interested in Warren’s 22-Lb Little Wing 12.5, although they also make 14, 15.5, 16 and 18-ft kayaks. I wanted a kayak that was very easy to car top and carry to the water and that was very efficient to paddle at touring speeds.
Selection of the Little Wing 12.5:
I currently own a 10-ft, 10-in Necky Gannet and a 16-ft, 6-inch Folbot Cooper. Another boat that I have a fair amount of experience paddling is a Necky Chatham 16. I was looking for a kayak that was very light weight and that had the speed of the Cooper, the rock-solid stability of the Gannet and the rough water capability of the Chatham. I think that the LW 12.5 may be that boat.
I created a spreadsheet of 20 kayaks with three tables of specifications using information from Sea Kayaker Magazine tests and hydrostatics charts with a 150-Lb paddler weight, which was close to my weight plus some day-touring gear. I would be happy to provide the entire spreadsheet on request to my email: email@example.com. I only included in the spreadsheet kayaks that I have either owned or personally paddled or were deemed especially efficient for smaller paddlers at touring speeds by Sea Kayaker Magazine or other Warren Light Craft models.
First Impressions (fit and finish):
The LW 12.5 is a high-end sea kayak; and it is very light weight! I measured the boat at 24 Lbs by weighing myself on a scale and picking it up. Many boats are 5-10 Lbs heavier than advertised when I weigh them like this. The boat was wrapped in bubble wrap and was shipped in a very sturdy, trapezoidal-shaped, heavy (100-Lbs) wooden box that totally protected the kayak.
The LW 12.5 is well outfitted with a very comfortable carbon-fiber seat of Warren’s own design fitted with a mini-cell foam pad, Immersion Research "Lounge" back band and Keepers foot braces. The immaculate finish on the LW 12.5 is unlike that of any other kayak of which I am aware. Warren does not use a gel coat, but paints their boat using automotive paint techniques, and you can order your kayak in any color that you have seen or can imagine. I chose yellow for high visibility as we have many powerboats in our local lakes. The yellow pearl color that Ted and Zac Warren helped me select also has metallic gold flakes. Near sunset and in cloudy weather, the finish takes on a golden tone. The boat is beautiful, even stunning! Although the decks and hulls are molded separately, there is no visible seam on the outside of the kayak. The carbon layup inside the cockpit and hatches is very smooth and well finished with no rough surfaces or edges.
The shape of the boat is unique and is patented. The boat is narrowest at the cockpit (20 in) and flares out nearer the bow and stern to 21.5 in into "wings" which enhances stability. The wetted beam is only 19.5 inches with a 150-Lb paddler which results in greater speed and efficiency than the typical 12-13-ft kayak. The bow is shaped like that of a canoe and the stern with its transom and built-in skeg looks like that of a sailboard or small sailboat.
The foot pegs happened to be in the correct position for me as delivered. The seat and backband were very comfortable for several hours paddling, and the boat felt like they would be comfortable all day. I will probably add about another inch of foam to the thigh braces and hip pads as the fit was not tight enough for me. Only two kayaks that I have tried have ever fit me perfectly in stock form; the Necky Chatham and the CD Suka - and most people cannot even get into these boats.
The hull shape reminds me of a Necky Chatham without its overhanging upswept ends. The Chatham, with its shallow arched bottom and soft chines, is one of the best handling kayaks for me that I have some experience with, always feeling safe and stable in rough water.
How it Paddles:
I paddled the LW 12.5 for several hours today in our local lake. We had 15-20-mph winds and waves between 6 in and 1 foot (I was on a narrow arm of out local lake without much fetch). I will provide more details later, but it does seem to be some sort of 'magic' kayak in a least two ways. At first I was not too impressed with my effort vs. speed according to my GPS; I was expecting some sort of "magic" kayak that did not require hardly any paddler effort to cruise along pretty fast. I could comfortably cruise at about 3.8-4.0 mph, the same as in my nearly seventeen-foot Folbot Cooper (I know, pretty good for a 12.5 vs. a 16-footer!). The bow started making 'gurgling' noise at about those speeds. The 'magic' part was when I put pretty much full effort into my paddling to see what would happen. The speed almost instantly increased to 5.4-5.5 mph.
The other "magic" was the way the LW was securely stable in all wind and wave conditions and directions that I encountered. It seemed perfectly neutral in the wind and waves; it did not either weathercock or lee-cock at all, but when I stopped paddling it slowly broached to the wind. Warren does not provide either a rudder or skeg with the LW 12.5 and several of their other kayaks. I agree that neither a rudder or skeg is needed to cope with wind and waves. The LW 12.5 had a lot of the handling characteristics of a 16-ft Chatham, probably because of the relatively narrow round bottom that somehow (to me, inexplicably) remains as stable as a Rec boat, yet very responsive to paddler input.
After paddling my Cooper for several years, which tracks like it is on rails, it took some getting used to having to make any effort to keep the LW 12.5 in a straight line. But, it was quite easy to make minor corrective strokes. I love the quick turning of the LW.
I have paddled the LW 12.5 only once so far, but overall it appears to have the quick turning and stability of my Gannet and the Necky Chatham and the speed of my 16-ft plus Folbot Cooper, combined with the ease of handling on and off the water because of its ultra-light weight. The LW 12.5 is quite a remarkable kayak. I rate it a "10" for meeting or exceeding my expectations and my needs.