Artisan Millenium kayak review
This year I finally splashed out and bought a new sea kayak. I had been thinking about this for about 16 years. In fact 16 years ago I did buy another sea kayak but it was built so badly I sent it back. (No names !!). I had been reluctant to explore the market again until this year. And why should I do that? Although my existing sea kayak still has many years of paddling life left, there were several reasons;
• there have been great strides in the extra features available in the latest sea kayak designs,
• my old boat has seen me through more than 20 years of sea paddling. If my next boat is to last as long I’ll need to buy it now to get full value out of it,
• sea kayaks are now lighter and my old Norkapp is very heavy. What could terminate my serious paddling could be a back injury when I’m shifting the old boat.
Of course, deciding to buy a new sea kayak is easy!
The difficult bit is choosing which one to buy. I looked around and obtained some leaflets. I asked a few people then went to Woodmill (Southampton) to look at their collection. My thoughts, up to that point, had focussed on the Romany Explorer and the Sirius. Phil Quill suggested I looked at the Mega and the Artisan Millenium. I had not heard of either of them. Phil offered me the use of them for a club paddle so, two weeks later, I took the Millenium on the club trip from Eastney to Cowes. and in the flotilla were a SKUK Explorer and a Mega. The reason I had chosen the Millenium for the trip was because of its length and features. On the trip I was very impressed with its speed. When we landed at Cowes I was allowed to borrow the other kayaks for a short paddle to compare them with the Millenium.
So why did I go for the Millenium and what do I think about it ??
Firstly though, I have to say that all my comparisons are made with the Nordkapp, because I have paddled one for 20 years. I had had the opportunity to try Dave M’s Norkapp Jubilee, and I did not feel that it was much different to my old boat, except for the lateral stability and the optional extras.
A simple comparison of the main parameters are:
The optional extras that come with most kayaks that I did not have on my old Norkapp were :
• adjustable skeg
• oval back hatch cover
• small day hatch
• adjustable footrests
• back rest
These features alone make such a difference to the comfort of the present day paddler. But there are differences between these features on the Norkapp and the Millenium.
The skeg on the Millenium is of the fin type rather than a blade which, I feel, makes it stronger, less prone to being bent on shore and probably causes less drag. The front round hatch and rear oval hatch are large on the Millenium, making for easier packing. It was this feature alone that made such a difference on my recent trip, compared to my old boat. It enables you to make full use of the space and to reach well into the holds. I was able to pack my Karrimat inside the back hatch as well as food and clothing. This left my rear deck clear except for the spare paddles.
An additional hatch cover is fitted to the very rear of the Millenium. This is only 10cm in diameter and is fitted to the deck behind the skeg box. At first I thought it was more of an adornment than a useful feature, but I was wrong. It gives good access to the volume behind the skeg box and the diameter of the hatch is just right for taking packets of milk, spare spraydecks, and small tins for lunches.
What about the main lines of the boat ??
Although it is only slightly longer than the Nordkapp, the bow and stern are not raised as much at the ends of the boat and they are not as slender. This gives it a longer waterline length, which adds to its speed. While I was in Scotland I was told that it rides slightly higher in the water than the VCP boats. I felt that there was a tendency for the kayak to catch the wind slightly more than the VCP boats so if you were not careful it was easy to drift well away from the others.
The hull has a semi-hard chine so there is a slight initial wobbliness but the secondary stability is good. This is another feature I wanted to improve upon compared to my old boat. Although the width of the Millenium is only 1cm wider than the Nordkapp, it retains a wider section further along the hull. At the position of the feet there is plenty of room so you can pack extra items near the footrest and still have ample room to move your feet around; very useful for long paddles !!
The deck of the kayak is flatter than that of the Nordkapp, which again adds to the storage volume.
Of great importance is the seat. This is a semi-rigid plastic construction with a foam backing. It is very comfortable for those long hours afloat. The back rest is integral with the seat and I found this rather difficult to fit, but that is probably because I’m not used to back rests.
The material of the hatch covers is softer than the VCP hatch covers. The oval cover is very difficult to crack open, and one needs to develop a technique for this. It makes for a very dry boat. The hatch covers are all attached to the kayak by cord, which is probably the cause of my one leak. I put this down to the trapping of the cord between the small rear hatch cover and the rim.
Finally, the quality of construction. I cannot fault this; it looks as if the makers have taken great care to both the outside and the inside. The inside of the cockpit is very smooth and the joint between the deck and hull is very securely glassed together.
I am delighted with the boat. It is fast, comfortable, more stable than my old boat and is a good expedition craft. I would recommend it to anyone thinking of buying an expedition boat. Of course, sea kayaks are like shoes; what I find comfortable will not necessarily appeal to another person. Nevertheless, I would suggest that this kayak should be on everyone’s list when looking for a new, high quality expedition sea kayak.