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catcouk

Help! Swan Rapide (alphacraft 42 Lowliner)

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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).

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Sorry, but we hired that very boat and it turned out to be the worst boat we have ever hired. Space almost everywhere was a compromise too far. That may well be because we opted for the six-eight berth version. The upper helm is a total no go area if you have any back problems at all. If you are fortunate not to have any, there is a good chance you will after sitting up there. Really sorry to rain on your exciting holiday but I do believe in honest opinions and experiences.

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Look on the upside though, it was in the Swancraft fleet for a good few years so I'm sure they will have made the best of one of Alphacraft's less auspicious designs. 

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A few years ago I hired Grecian Girl a similar vessel from the Summercraft (sadly no longer) stable , and yes there is no comfy helm seat , we ended up using a cushion to offset “numbum syndrome” , like any boat that houses a larger number it is at a cost of individual personal space but at the price they are charging it is exceptional vfm (imho) .

With two families aboard I presume the helming will most likely be a shared experience which would ease any back discomfort you may encounter , personally I didn’t suffer any and I was helming all the time including a long stretch crossing Braydon .

have a great holiday 

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2 hours ago, VetChugger said:

Sorry, but we hired that very boat and it turned out to be the worst boat we have ever hired. Space almost everywhere was a compromise too far. That may well be because we opted for the six-eight berth version. The upper helm is a total no go area if you have any back problems at all. If you are fortunate not to have any, there is a good chance you will after sitting up there. Really sorry to rain on your exciting holiday but I do believe in honest opinions and experiences.

Thanks for the honest feedback - I totally agree with honesty. Guess I'm still after suggestions for ways to make it better / bareable!

CambridgeCabby - I hope that it is good value. There are lots that think it are.

Sure we'll have a good time regardless.

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29 minutes ago, catcouk said:

Sure we'll have a good time regardless.

You always have a good time on the Broads - impossible to have anything else. :default_biggrin:

Please let us know how you get on 

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We used a blow up Vango chair when we hired an older version 38 lowliner from richardsons. Worked well for the week despite having a slow puncture.

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11 minutes ago, scaniaman said:

We used a blow up Vango chair when we hired an older version 38 lowliner from richardsons. Worked well for the week despite having a slow puncture.

Thanks for the idea. I was thinking about a folding camping chair. How did your blow up chair work out for legroom? As best I can tell, the 38 and 42 have identical cockpits.

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53 minutes ago, catcouk said:

Thanks for the idea. I was thinking about a folding camping chair. How did your blow up chair work out for legroom? As best I can tell, the 38 and 42 have identical cockpits.

In a word tight, I turned it sideways sometimes for change, usually with a glass of something amber. Does swan rapide have a separate seat fitted on a pedestal or is it just a fibreglass moulding ? I had blue horizon,which was the latter.

Paul.

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8 minutes ago, scaniaman said:

In a word tight, I turned it sideways sometimes for change, usually with a glass of something amber. Does swan rapide have a separate seat fitted on a pedestal or is it just a fibreglass moulding ? I had blue horizon,which was the latter.

Paul.

Different boats, I believe.  Blue Horizon is an Aquafibre Lowliner and Swan Rapide is an Alphacraft moulding.  I’ve never hired either, but did look over Grecian Girl at the end of a holiday on Grand Girl, with a view to hiring the following year.  I was grateful to have had the opportunity to see it first, as we booked Grand Girl again as the result of our viewing.

Aside from the upper helm being very small, there was insufficient space to be joined by the rest of the crew, condemning them to suffer the confines of the saloon.  Furthermore, visibility from the lower helm was lamentable.

There are far more practically laid out craft for hire and personally, I would go for a centre cockpit with a sliding canopy.

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18 minutes ago, Mouldy said:

There are far more practically laid out craft for hire and personally, I would go for a centre cockpit with a sliding canopy.

I think I might be inclined to agree but with a 1 year old aboard, the single level seemed like a smart move.

Swan Rapide only has moulding and no extra seat. It looked large enough for four adults in the photos? Oh dear...

I loved the Aquafibre Crystal 37 we hired a few years ago (Contessa of Richardson). Thinking that they may be one of the great boat builders...

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Sorry but for me I believe this boat was designed at 4 pm in the afternoon, and passed by directors for production by 5pm on a Friday! I have trouble trying to understand anyone who likes this style of boat.

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Probably doesn't really help but here is a photo of Rapide in its Swancraft days. Looks like a few could be seated up there (bring your own cushions) maybe

Rapide.JPG

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Here’s a write up that I did a few years ago when we hired Swan Rapide 

 

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Thanks for the photo NorfolkNog - tricky to find good photos of the upper helm!

deebee29 - I've read your holiday blog a couple if times - a good little read that I enjoyed. Sounds like you had a great time aboard her. Any advice about the helm?

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I think I just used a cushion (when it was dry) but I didn’t have too many problems. Yes, not the most comfortable seat but at 5’10 I managed ok

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I've also hired Grecian Girl, Contessa and a few other dual steers. It's true, the upper helm position is odd, particularly the ultra low wheel but the fun and advantages of a low level dual steer outweigh that in my view. There were 5 of us in Grecian and we had no issues with outdoor space.  Air draft is brilliant at 6 foot 9 so Wroxham Bridge is doable some of the time and we cruised under Beccles also. On the down side, the cabins are small and when the crew were down below the helm seat felt lonely. 

Later in the year I've booked Alpha Phantom of the same design. 

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Like yourself I was obsessed with lowliners when I was a kid although my preference was the aquafiber style. I finally started hiring them a few years back and be honest there a few things on that mould that weren't great like bathroons. However my complete bias towards the style meant I've never enjoyed a boat more.

I'm sure you'll enjoy Rapide and see past any faults. I've been on board a few and the upper helm there is plenty of space for a good few people and if the seat breaks your **** just stand up for a bit and enjoy the view. They probably did try to fit one too many cabins onboard and although the beds may be a little snug the living space should make up for it.

Look forward to how you get on and plenty pictures please as I'd still love to hire this boat regardless if how many people dislike the design.

Sent from the Norfolk Broads Network mobile app

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On 10/03/2020 at 20:27, catcouk said:

I loved the Aquafibre Crystal 37 we hired a few years ago (Contessa of Richardson). Thinking that they may be one of the great boat builders...

I love the Crystal 37 - A very cleverly-packaged boat I think, and excellent space everywhere.

I'd struggle to think of a 37 foot boat with more room inside. Also, because Aquafibre liked to reuse what they already had, it's basically the Broom 37 hull with the height cut down a bit and so they handle amazingly.

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Never hired this boat, but I did hire Blue Horizon which had a moulded stool as a upper helm seat, a cushion placed on top did the trick, I'm 6ft didn't have a problem

I'm sure you'll have a great time, also as there are a few of you, you can helm in shifts while the others look after the toddlers (I know which one I'd rather do)

We've got our 26 year old daughter with us this year, the biggest problem I've got is keeping her away from my wallet!   :default_biggrin:

 

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Thanks for all the feedback. I'm going to try a cushion as well as a camping chair and a smaller folding chair - see if any of those work.

I'll let you all know in a month's time!

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if like me you are tall, a lot of boats have issues, short beds, seats too close to the helm, lack of headroom etc, my favorite boat has 2 of these problems, a lack of headroom inside the boat, and to be comfortable i have to remove the cusion at the back of the seat to be able to fit behind the helm, however the bonus is the bed, that is more than long enough for my 6 ft 4"

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1 hour ago, grendel said:

if like me you are tall, a lot of boats have issues, short beds, seats too close to the helm, lack of headroom etc,

As proven numerous times by you bumping and cutting your head 

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As has already been noted in other areas, our holiday is very sadly cancelled. As such, I won't be able to keep you updated. On to trying to book next year...

 

Keep healthy everyone. Stay at home and save lives.

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