I sent the following to Chris Cunningham as a response to his article and question in the latest Newsletter.
You ask a very interesting question. I paddle a 12.5-ft Warren Light Craft Little Wing that like the legendary Coaster was ‘conceived, planned and executed as a genuine sea cruiser.’ My LW is 21.5-inches wide, is constructed of all carbon fiber over a foam core, weighs an actual 24-Lbs [I weighed it], and has a 16 x 31-inch cockpit and two watertight bulkheads. To me, it seems as ‘seaworthy’ as any kayak and it ‘is every inch a sea kayak’. I can cruise as fast in it as I do in my 16.5-foot Folbot Cooper; about 4.0-4.2-mph in each. [However, I can easily cruise at 4.6-4.8-mph in a Necky Eliza.] The following is my experience with my LW 12.5 at the June 18-21, Inland Sea Kayak Symposium that I shared on paddling.net.
I participated in the Inland Sea Kayak Symposium last weekend in Washburn, WI on Lake Superior. Nigel Dennis led an ‘advanced paddler’ tour (I did not participate in this), and, in general, this was a very serious group of sea kayakers. By far the most common kayaks paddled were NDK Romanys and Explorers as well as other Brit boats such as P & H and Valley. 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. They were very impressed with the weight and the finish of the boat. Once the organizers saw my boat, they approved it for the tours. Previously, that had told me that only boats over 15-feet long could participate.
Many of these paddlers in their 17-foot kayaks were probably somewhat less amused by the Little Wing during the 6-8 mile tour of the mainland sea caves in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. First, we had to carry our boats down 44-steps from the parking lot to the beach launch site. The Little Wing’s 24-Lbs weight made it much easier to portage. On the way out to the caves, we encountered 2-ft plus beam and following seas (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). The Little Wing handled these 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 included in 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.
I would like to see a test of a Little Wing in Sea Kayaker magazine. Warren also makes 14-, 16-, 15.5- and 18-foot models of the Little Wing. I suggest testing their new 15.5.