Long time reader, first time writer! I'm hoping with the wealth of experience on here, someone might have a good suggestion...
In short: We have hired Swan Rapide (see photo) from Richardson’s for the start of April - it's an Alphacraft 48 lowliner. Has anyone got any suggestions for how to make the upper helm of one of these craft comfortable/ useable?
In long: This is our third Easter (in a row) boating on the Broads - I absolutely love it (and my wife indulges me). I used to come with my parents when I was a child (starting in bathtubs and then more usually in centre cockpits, usually Sheerline 950s). We started with friends aboard Contessa (of Richardson’s) and had a short break aboard Evesham Light (of Herbert Woods) last year. We were going for Astral Gem this year when my best mate and his family asked to join us; hence, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Richardson’s were amazingly helpful and allowed me to upgrade to Swan Rapide. Affordable, dual steer (my preference), and a huge saloon (perfect for two toddlers and two families) - one of only three in the hire fleet with this arrangement tat I can ascertain (Rio Light 1 and 2 being the others).
I had been very excited by this turn of events. A week with my best mate and his family! A third year on the broads! These pale in comparison to knowing that I would finally get to hire an Alphacraft 48 lowliner - widely publicised in Hoeseasons in the 90s when I was a kid. These boats were so sleek that they almost seemed to be the Lamborghini's of the broads (to my 10-year old self). Heck, they are still used (after more than 20 years) to demonstrate what is meant by 'dual helm'. So, with great excitement, I turned to the web to find all I could. Forum photos, holiday experiences, I even found the boat for sale with loads of information when it left Swancraft (now sold obviously).
When I started reading the forums more closely, I found opinion on this class of boat to be divided (typical supercar - never meet your heroes). Many praise what a bargain this boat is for what you get (240v, a microwave, bow thrusters, dual steer, low air draft, etc). Most complaints were about low head room toward the bow (we're short and we can just imagine we're on a submarine - am I the only one who thinks the forward lounge booth has a submarine flavour - see picture); small cabins (what boats of this crew size aren't?) and poor visibility from the internal helm (I expected this but it must be manageable even if inconvenient). My biggest worry though are reviews of the outside helm (where I prefer to be - no rain likely in early April I'm sure). When I look at pictures, the wheel appears to be on the floor, the throttle control beyond the reach of the bench seat, making neither sitting nor standing comfortable (see pictures). Reviewers say that anymore than 10 minutes up there might see you in traction or in need of a back made from iron.
I know that many private owners have fitted a separate helm seat as a solution. As obliging as Richardsons are, I don't imagine that they'd consent to this. So I ask the cumulative knowledge and wisdom of this forum: does anyone have any tips, ideas, or solutions for how the upper helm of this class can be made comfortable? I'm quite fond of my spine...
Many thanks in advance and, as with all new members, I hope that I've posted this in the right place and not broken any forum rules (I read the guidance notes, I promise).