Herb McCormick - Cruising World editor at large

Around the Americas…With Two Little Wing Kayaks

Herb McCormick's Little Wing 14 and Little Wing 12.5 Review

When skipper Mark Schrader offered me a berth on his expedition “Around the Americas”, to promote ocean awareness and conservation, I immediately thought that the perfect compliment to our 64-foot steel sailboat, Ocean Watch, would be a pair of light, fast, fun kayaks that would allow us to poke into the shallows and the ice, and allow us to explore waters inaccessible to our deep-draft keelboat

All we needed were the right kayaks. As we were heading north above the Arctic Circle, where Inuit and Eskimo nations had employed kayaks for hunting and traveling for eons, I wanted boats that would not only be useful and utilitarian, but that would also honor the form and heritage of the craft themselves. Plus, as we had limited storage space aboard our yacht, we needed something easily handled and launched. And frankly, the old beater roto-molded boats in my backyard in Newport, Rhode Island, weren’t going to cut it on any counts.

That’s when I met Ted and Zac Warren, and discovered their Little Wing line of kayaks. One thing led to another, and when I left Newport bound for Seattle to begin the voyage in the spring of 2009, I had a pair of carbon-fiber Little Wings, a 12.5 and a 14, lashed to the racks of my Chevy Silverado.

Now, writing from Ocean Watch as we near the Equator bound for South America and Cape Horn – with a summer’s worth of unforgettable sailing and paddling experiences in the Northwest Passage behind us – all I can say is that the Little Wings have truly enhanced our journey above and beyond my wildest expectations.

With a good sailing friend on San Francisco Bay, we conducted our first real sea trials on a circumnavigation of Angel Island from the protected waters of Sausalito. I wanted to make sure I’d paddled the boats in some strong winds and currents before taking them out in the less forgiving waters of Alaska and the frigid, far north, and the Bay served up both in spades. I was immediately impressed with the seaworthiness and tracking ability of the boats, as well as their extremely easily driven hull forms. On top of that, they looked great (I spent lots of time on my cross-country drive explaining to strangers what I was carrying strapped to my truck…no, it wasn’t a catamaran!). I left Northern California confident we had the perfect tools for the trip ahead.

And nothing after that changed my opinion. In the weeks and months that followed I enjoyed some remarkable paddles: with humpback whales near Alaska’s Icy Strait; weaving between the gold-rush dredges off Nome; in big water off Cape Lisburne, north of the Aleutian Islands; amongst ice floes and bowhead whales at 71N, near Point Barrow, the northernmost U.S. town; off glaciers and mountains anchored by Pond Inlet, at the north end of Baffin Island; under the big bridges in the very cool city of Halifax, Nova Scotia; and in numerous other harbors and waterways, as well.

Last week, for the first time on the trip, I took off in my baggies and a t-shirt (no spray top and fleece!) while we were docked at the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, and while the rest of the crew caught up on email, I launched my kayak, slipped quietly out of the harbor, pulled the Little Wing up on a beach, and had a long, long swim in the turquoise waters. I’d been thinking about just such a foray all across the Arctic, and man, it was as sweet as I’d imagined!

So, with one half of our adventure over, we’re heading south. I’m not sure quite yet where our Little Wings will take us, but I can’t wait to find out. Thanks, Ted and Zac: to put it mildly, you guys build great boats.

– Herb McCormick

Susan and Doug - Rome, NY

Two Little Wing14s in PPG "Yella"

Susan and Doug Little Wing 14 Testimonial

Photo By: Bob Reynolds - Rome, NY

After trying to spend an afternoon paddling on the Connecticut River in an unmanageable, oversized, overweight, fiberglass tub-for-two, we had all but given up on our idea for a healthy, fun-filled, retirement activity! A few days later, while strolling the bewitching streets of Salem, MA, a small, white sign on an old brick wall caught our eyes. It advertised carbon fiber sea kayaks, just steps toward the harbor. Truly, it was love at first sight with these shapely featherweights! Despite our inexperience, a "test-paddle" completely sold us and "The Twins" were ordered.

A month later, we returned for pick-up and another "how-to paddle" in Salem Sound. That week these novice paddlers bonded with our gleaming Little Wing kayaks and explored the salt water around Marblehead as we watched the tidal changes and discovered the joy of riding the waves. Since then, weve paddled rivers, lakes, and canals closer to home in upstate New York and we now find that four and five hour paddles are the norm for us!

Thank you, Ted and Zac, for designing and crafting the kayaks that made our dream a reality!

Naneki and Michael - Santa Fe, NM

Two Little Wing14s in Standard Blue

Naneki and Michael Little Wing 14 Testimonial

Michael and I picked up 2 Little Wing14s in August 2007. After enjoying them for a day in Salem Harbor, we headed for the Adirondacks where we spent many happy hours paddling. Our most challenging conditions happened on our way home to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Lake Superior can have some heavy "seas." We encountered them on the eastern and northern shores before two storms reached us. The Little Wings were superb. They maneuvered well over the varying swells. Never once did I, more cautious than Michael under such conditions, flinch as the kayaks rolled perfectly with the waves. Our easiest autumn paddle was on a small river in Nine Miles Falls, Washington, just south of Spokane.

Our next trip will be to Arizona and California within the next months. Everywhere we go we get great questions about the kayaks. We are happy to recommend them; happy to experience their amazing maneuverability, light weight, and sturdiness.

Thank you Zac and Ted for creating such high performance kayaks.

Larry - Pierpont, OH

Little Wing14 in House of Kolor Pagan Gold

Larry fishing from a Little Wing 14

AWESOME! I just got home with the kayak. It is beyond what I expected. The finish and craftsmanship are A-1. I have been searching for about a year now for a composite boat. I had narrowed it down to a little wing or a Seda Ikkuma. I can see I have made the right choice. I got in the cockpit and adjusted the footbraces and it fits like a glove. This thing looks fast just sitting on my lawn.

After my first paddle the kayak has gone from awesome to unbelievable! The only way to truly appreciate the Little Wing is to paddle it.

I launched this morning with just a glimmer of light on the horizon. A stiff 20 mph headwind was hitting me in the face with short choppy waves. As I paddled to the east easily making way against the wind I cleared the island to the south of me and that is when the short rollers from the south joined the east chop to make for some confused water. The Little Wing just danced and rolled with the waves without an ounce of instability. There was virtually no weathercocking like I have experienced with most other kayaks. No corrective strokes were needed, a slight lift on the thigh brace and a gentle lean were all that was ever needed to stay on course. After travelling 3 miles into the wind the sun was up and the fall colors at peak glowed like fire as I headed south across an open stretch with the east wind throwing the waves directly on my port beam, the gold colors matching the beautiful paint on the Little Wing. Again the kayak just stayed on course riding in the troughs of the waves and rolling up and down the faces and backs of the waves. I had a spray deck on because of only 53 degree water, however it was not necessary because the ride was very dry. After 2 more miles of beam waves I turned to the west to take the waves directly to the stern. The Little Wing again just stayed on course surfing along. At no time did the bow submarine under a wave or did I take a wave over the deck, the buoyancy is amazing. After travelling about a mile west I was again in total open water and the multi directional rollers from the SE and NE were converging causing the waves to crest at odd angles. Again I just bobbed and rolled with total stability able to keep on course with just a lean now and then with no corrective strokes. I then headed over to a protected bay by an island to try out the Little Wing on calm water. The kayak glides and turns effortlessly with incredible speed. You don't realize how much water you are covering while paddling. I then pulled up on the island to stretch, and exiting and entering to boat is easy due to the great stability.The boat edges and turns quickly also.

The backband adjusts easily via ratchets and is comfortable. The footbraces are adjustable while seated in the cockpit, and though lacking padding, the seat is comfortable. Hatches stayed dry and have much more storage than a conventional kayak design. The deck rigging is adequate and my deck bag with all my safety gear fits perfect on the rigging fore of the cockpit. My spare 3 piece paddle fits easily on the rear deck. The 26 pound weight that anyone can handle, makes this kayak a pure joy to load and unload onto the rack of my truck. Fit and finish of the Little Wing is exceptional. I can't find any fault with the yak. Great job on a finely engineered kayak