Artisan Millenium Test paddle

-- Last Updated: Nov-29-09 10:29 PM EST --

I paddle a Valley Pintail, which I love, but I fantasize about having a little more speed, and tracking. The trick is I don't want to give up good surfing or rough-water handling, and I want to maintain moderate "turniness". Doesn't need to spin like the Pintail, but I rarely pass a rock-gardens without stopping, so good response to a bow-rudder, for example, is important.

To that end, I took a KajakSport Artisan Millenium out for a 5 mile test-paddle this morning to get a more thorough idea of what that boat is like. (I weigh about 195 pounds in my gear, and had about 5 pounds of other kit in the day hatch. I'm 6'.)

On flat water, it tracks great, yet responds very well to maneuvering strokes. Passed that part of the test nicely. Rolls just fine too, despite a fairly high rear deck. Not quite a peer to my pintail, but perfectly passable.

In 5-10 knot beam winds, I immediately noticed that this boat is affected by the wind much more than my much lower-profile Pintail. If I stopped paddling, it was turned and pushed by the wind, and in light-moderate wind the boat weathercocked a bit, but was easy to lean, and solid on edge. I could hold it on course by paddling leaned over in that wind. When I got it out into the open conditions, however (15-20 knots, 1-1.5' wind waves), it was more bothersome to overcome the weathercocking without the skeg, and I had to put it all the way down if I didn't want to make frequent corrective strokes.

Going directly upwind was easy without the skeg, and the boat was pleasantly fast into the chop. With a steady 15 knots on the nose, gusting higher, I still made 4 knots without much work, and I'm not a super fast paddler. I definitely have more trouble maintaining that speed with a strong headwind in my Pintail, so I liked that part a lot.

When I turned back downwind, I was expecting to have a really fast down-wind leg, and wanted to see how the Artisan caught waves. Sadly, this boat seems to do one thing well downwind, and that's broach. I'm used to really easy to control downwind surfing in the Pintail, so this was a huge change and pretty much a deal-breaker on this boat for me. The skeg had to be down all the way to have any chance of keeping my course while paddling downwind, and I wasn't even surfing most of the time. Only occasional waves were big enough to catch, so mostly I was just paddling downwind with the waves, but everytime one was under the stern, the boat broached off to one side or the other. Even with the skeg down I sometimes had to use a stern rudder to get the boat back on course. And these were pretty small waves. I can't imagine dealing with this in tight 3-4 footers.

This boat tracks fairly hard, so weather-cocking or broaching were particularly annoying to deal with, since getting it back on course took more effort than it would in a more "spinny" boat like my Pintail, where quick course changes are done in a flick of the paddle. And besides, I've barely noticed any weather cocking in my Pintail. That may be a result of me sinking it pretty close to the sheer-line. But I almost never need to put the skeg down to trim the boat. I'll often use it to avoid zig-zagging when I'm just slogging out miles, but I've never really felt turned by the wind.

Has anyone else tried the Artisan Millenium? Had any better luck? I'll try it again another day with a camping load in it, and see if it paddles better with more of a load. It is apparently designed for heavier paddlers, so maybe some of the poor behavior I was seeing was due to it being under-loaded.

It's too bad, because it's a nice fast boat, and has a good bit of room too. Nicely built and finished boat, and feels light to carry (this is a fiberglass layup). But it was annoying to fight it for so much of the time.

Any boat suggestions for my mythical fast-paddling/wind-neutral/good-surfing/rock-gardening/all-in-one boat? Avocet? Force 4? (someone's going to say Nordlow, I'm sure. - I'm wary of the "unforgiving" description for a boat I intend to use exclusively, but I should probably try it anyways.)

Thanks for reading this far. You win a cookie.


No Nordlow…
…regular H20.

Yum-yum (cookie)
I won’t say Nordlow.

A Nordlow is like marrying a stripper, loads of fun but you have to keep an eye on it.

Too much work if it’s your only ride.

:-), GH

more speed/tracking
the Millenium is high volume. Do you want the above characteristics without high volume? The Chatham 17 isn’t fast but if you want a kayak that handles waves well AND is easy to manage in high winds with or without the skeg I’d look at it. You’re essentially looking for contradictory things in one boat.

Would take a while to get used to…
… for someone regularly paddling a Pintail. Maybe more so for someone going the other way.

Pintail paddles like a 14’ kayak. It’s like comparing a toboggan to a saucer sled! VERY different animals, and not two I’d compare (other than the way you are sort of forced to by present reference/preference).

To appreciate the KS I think would take a couple hundred miles of get acquainted time and most of it ticking off miles where the added LWL can be put to good use, not so much poking around rocks. Time to get used to the differences in conditions, right skeg balances, etc. After that, they might be nice compliments for different uses. Plenty of other choices too though…


– Last Updated: Nov-30-09 6:34 AM EST –

I wouldn't mind a bit more space for camping stuff, and I think I need a boat that carries a bit more weight than the Pintail, even just for my day-kit. The back deck scoops a lot of water when I do an outside edge turn in the pintail, and a couple instructors have told me to go boat shopping. But I'd prefer something that doesn't get blown around as much as the Artisan Millenium.

Have had mine for about 4 years and I love the boat. I’m about the same size as you and I would beg to differ on downwind runs. I find catching waves easy and judicious use of the skeg helps and only comes with practice. It does weathercock a bit, but not as much as my CLC17. Again, though, the skeg negates the weathercocking to a large degree.

For straight distance paddling, the Artisan excels, It eats the miles and it’s a comfortable boat to sit in for hours on end. I took out the back band and put a hard back and I found that improved my comfort.


It’s definitely a very smooth cruiser. I do appreciate that, especially in comparison to my saucer sled. :slight_smile:

I wonder though what makes this boat so much more skeg dependant than others? Folks my size in Explorers, and Force 4s say they almost never use the skeg. Is there a trade off? What positive attribute of the Artisan Millenium results in the side-effects of weathercocking and broaching?

I shouldn’t interject here
since I paddle neither one, but comparing an Explorer and Artisan Millenium strikes me as comparing apples and oranges, they’re different things. Just looking at it, the Millenium is shaped like a compass needle–long and skinny and pointy at both ends, strait lines tapering from cockpit to either end–whereas the Explorer is infinitely “boxey”, with volume no matter where you look. Plus, isn’t the Millenium longer too? Or am I thinking of the Vivianne?

I rarely use the skeg, but I’ve learned to use as needed, particularly in weathercocking situations. All I need to do is dial in the deployment and then just make some fine adjustments as needed.

I’ve also been impressed with paddling the boat loaded, acceleration suffers, but once you get going the added load is a non issue.

I’ve also rigged the boat to sail and have a rudder that takes me minutes to install. I only put the rudder on when I plan to sail.

IMHO the Artisan is one good looking boat, perfectly balanced for a shoulder carry, is put together well, and has KS hatches that don’t leak at all.

The Millenium is 18 feet 3" X 21.5"
Viviane is 19 feet long.

KS hatches on a KS boat
go figure! :wink:

(PS: It is a good looking boat)

Longer LWL = longer broach lever

– Last Updated: Nov-30-09 1:12 PM EST –

You need to keep speed up and react sooner (relative to Pintail) to stay on top of things. Same thing for maneuverability in general. No sit 'n spin stuff in slop - got to get some speed. It's about getting through those conditions vs hanging out in them.

Just different, and each has advantage for different things along the lines already touched on in this thread.

The trade-off to using the skeg vs toughing it out is efficiency. Better speed made good for effort in side, quartering, and downwind stuff (assuming skeg is deployed optimal amount for each). GPS easily verifies this. It's not just the ability to focus on forward vs corrective stroke component either, it also reduces crabbing a bit directly and so lets you set a bit less ferry angle (in other words you paddle a shorter line).

In a nutshell, if you have a way to balance the hull to the wind, do so (and the longer the LWL the more this benefits you).

You sound a bit averse to using skegs, and all I can say to that is that it is there for a reason. Using it or not (and to what degree) should be based solely on conditions, and IMO not preconceptions about skegs or comparisons with really spinny kayaks or what others do with their skegs in other kayaks.

Besides, some pintail owners have been known to use a little skeg when cruising in calm/flat water. As a tracking fin vs a balancing aid! Not too may kayaks make you want to do that.

Bottom line is there are times for a playful hull, and times for a cruiser (which to my mind are just different kinds of play!).

Many designs try to split the difference. Some even do an OK job of it. More than OK for what most people do with them at group paces in mild conditions. Beyond that, the differences matter more.

Mr. Obvious strikes again!

Who’s Viviane?

– Last Updated: Nov-30-09 12:56 PM EST –

She de bikini babe on alot o' yer daguerreotypes, Andreas? Iffin' so, she got a twin sister?


Yeah, I guess my feeling on skeg use is that I’d not like to be without one, but I’d rather not rely on it. I have a friend with a skeg that is often jammed lately, and he has to work his butt off if he discovers it’s not working when doing a crossing in the wind, because his boat weathercocks a good bit.

It seems that ideally a boat would be minimally dependent on a skeg.

It may be that my impression about the Artisan needing lots of skeg is a first-timer issue though, and using the boat more that could change. Wasn’t a tempting first day though.

Yep, keep the speed up

– Last Updated: Nov-30-09 1:10 PM EST –

Your impressions of the Millenium are fairly accurate IMO having owned one for some years. It's a far better boat than I am a paddler.

Never had an issue with my Milleniums skeg jamming. I've made many landings after forgetting to retract it too....

My skeg has never jammed
But as I said earlier, I don’t use it that much. But it sure is nice to have when I need it. I agree with with what Greyak said, speed is the key. When you’re in rougher, windier conditions, the Artisan when brought up to speed, handles it nicely. In fact, I relish paddling the Artisan in those conditions, it’s downright fun!

Because of the Artisan, I’ve become a very poor group paddler. I can’t help myself, the boat wants to go fast and I oblige. As a result, I’m usually way ahead of any group I paddle with.

Last year at Raystown, Jcamry and I paddled together. Jeff has an Artisan too, same color as mine, but mine is prettier. Jeff is a strong paddler and I worked hard to keep up with him. But we sure looked good in our long, skinny red over white kayaks! :wink:


I don’t like the term "dependent"
It conveys nearly the exact wrong thinking about skeg use. See my edit above.

There are some rudder dependent designs, but there too “dependent” is the wrong term. Those hulls were simply designed to have a rudder - which allows some other design aspects to be pushed a bit more (race/surf ski).

Some are designed for skeg, but skeg is more about balancing than correcting. Can accomplish much the same by shifting loads via sliding seat or gear packing (but that’s really hard to adjust underway as conditions change).

Many are not really designed specifically for either, and are designed to not need anything much of the time, and when they would benefit either a skeg or rudder would do the job adequately.

My gut take on it (for typical range of designs anyway) is over 13’-14’ LWL skegs are nice to have sometimes (and pretty easy to live without), 15’-16’ LWL they’re highly recommended (very good option/and a safety device really). 17’+ LWL really asking for trouble without something, and a rudder may be more appropriate at this length and above (I mostly paddle a kayak with 17.5’ LWL, and I rarely use the skeg [has more to do with when/where I paddle than the kayak really], and a skeg is good on it when I do need a bit of balancing, but there are also times when it’s clear a rudder would be better - something I doubt anyone would ever encounter in a Pintail!).

She’s Dulcinea’s older sister…
and I duel with windmills…

blown around
and that’s the reason for mentioning the Chatham17.