This was a lot to ask for considering the outfitting in the TEMPEST is the most versatile and comfortable cockpit regardless of boat price on the market (in my opinion). The Millenium, although having a hard seat was indeed comfortable for long periods, I added a wave sport hip kit that worked perfectly to hold me in the medium width seat.
Paddling the boat is a joy, with a quick turn of speed and easy to lean turns for a long boat. The secondary stability is abundant, its very comfortable heeled way over. In conditions it paddles very well in following seas. Rolling this boat is very easy, and very comfortable. With the addition of the hip pads, and some thin foam under the knee braces, you can hang out upside down comfortably and securely during a setup with out loosing any boat engagement.
When I described what I was looking for in my next boat to my local paddling shop, I told him I was looking for a longer faster Tempest 170. The Artisan Millenium delivered exactly what I was looking for. This boat has plenty of volume and storage capacity, the foot pegs have some increased engagement area and are somewhat sprung to provide some compliance, which reduces fatigue in the feet. My only wish would be to have a lower the back deck, by about two inches which would make laybacks a bit easier on the back, but if you enjoy a sweep roll, you'll never notice it.
My boat was a consignment purchase that was in nearly new condition, the hull was in beautiful shape and the hatches sealed very well. I was very fortunate to find this boat and at a great deal. I've installed Kajak Sports optional minibox, it can be fitted under the the front deck. In this fully watertight box you can keep small things within reach during paddling. I thoroughly enjoy this boat!
I was looking for a lightweight kayak that would be comfortable for me (I'm 6'2" 174lbs with size 12 shoes) that was fast, handled well, with plenty of storage space.
The Artisan Millenium is a very efficient boat and it doesn't seem to have the "wall" that many boats have near hull speed. It seems faster than anything else I have paddled. (I haven't tried a QCC yet, but the waterline and beam is similar to the QCC 700, though the Artisan has a bit more rocker I think). If you paddle harder it will go faster, and it is definitely fun to do that. There are definitely faster paddlers than me, but I was able to travel 9.5 miles on a lake in about an hour and 40 minutes, with a few minutes rest mixed in there without too much effort.
I have noticed that the pushrod that the artisan has instead of a cable connected the skeg allows one to choose exactly how much skeg to drop. It really helps to balance out wave and wind forces on the boat. It's literally possible to make precision adjustments to the skeg with changing wind & wave conditions if you feel like it, but it tracks straight without the skeg as well, with only a slight wave cocking in quartering waves. The Artisan seems to be very wind neutral.
The boat also handles 1'-2' waves and chop well, slicing through it like butter, and I can't wait to try it out in rougher water.
The Artisan's primary stability is good, but the secondary stability is excellent and it responds well to leaned turns, which is good considering its 18'3" length.
The fit and finish is very good. There aren't many Artisans in Minnesota and I've been complemented on its nice lines. My only complaint is the rather plain knob on the skeg control.
The fiberglass frame only weighs 51lbs, which is rather light considering the kayak's length. The hull does seem solid, however, and I usually try to avoid rocks, so I should be fine.
I was worried about the molded plastic seat at first sight, but it is very comfortable for me, even on paddles lasting several hours. The foot pedals are mounted on springs, and they give a nice solid feel, while supporting your whole foot. I haven't had any trouble with leaking and the bulkhead covers definitely do a good job. The fourth hatch cover just behind the skeg box is a nice touch so that the extra space back there isn't wasted. The biggest problem that I have had is that the rear main hatch is difficult to open and close because of its tight fitting seal.
I hope I'm not gushing too much, but I think that I have found a great boat, and I can't wait to take it out on the water again!
Craftsmanship is excellent, boat is perfectly balanced for a shoulder carry. When I get in this boat, all I want to do is go fast.
I still can't get over the sheer beauty of the design. Workmanship is outstanding, with many extra touches. Between the broad foot paddles and unusually designed seat, it's far and away the most comfortable kayak I have paddled. It slices through the water with almost no wake, making even high-speed travel amazingly easy, and it tracks arrow-straight, even with skeg retracted. It also rolls beautifully.
The bad points: While it's very stable and safe in high winds, it becomes nearly impossible to turn, especially into the wind, without laying it nearly on its side. Even in calm conditions this is a slow-turning boat. Beginners will probably find it tippy, and I still feel uneasy sometimes paddling broached in heavy chop. Yet it's never taken more than a light brace to keep it upright. 9 going on 10.
Nits - boat is heavy in glass (which means also VERY strong), and I use small piece of foam to hand carry at cockpit, because rim is sharp at balance point. This is only reason for my "9" rating.
Overall - one of the best all-around sea kayaks I have used in almost 25 years of paddling.
Complaints: a boat this expensive should have a keel strip BEFORE you buy it. By using bungee cord, I very neatly carry a Betsie Bay Storm spare paddle. I can access it from the seat, or from under the water. BUT, I had to figure out how to do this. A spare paddle is just about a must. The manufacturer should put on the bungee cords, or give you a picture(s) of how it might be done. Oh, nice fat deck lines. The last complaint has nothing to do with this particular boat: high end boats (well, maybe all boats) should come with a 1/4" thick bow and stern protector rubber cover which is permanently heat sealed on. End on, the boat would look a bit like a bottle-nosed porpoise. The bow and stern are the weakest places, AND the places likely to get dinged. Simple stuff, which is very annoying, like being pushed up under a fixed dock at a marina, or swinging around carrying it on your shoulder before you are clear, or getting rotated from a high wind when carrying it. Bill at Country Canoeist very nicely mounted a big Nexis compass on the front hatch cover. If they build one in, I sure hope they put it on MY side of the hatch, not out there where I can't see it.