Location: my boat
As you know I live on a boat which is on the small side. At only 39 foot long and even less cabin space I have to try to make the best of all that I have. I knew that if I was going to live aboard and travel around the canals then I would need more space.
The answer always was to get a cratch cover, the extra space for storing outside coats and shoes and bags of coal would be essential to living aboard successfully. It would basically be a porch/shed area. I went to Crick boat show and looked at all the people who were offering cratch covers and they all seemed the same. They would be a plank of wood (or plastic) sticking along the top of the well deck and a sheet of perspex as a window in a timbre frame. Then there would be covers from the plank to the sides of the boat which could be unzipped and rolled up to get access.
I didn’t want this, apart from anything else it means that you have to get off the boat every single time you want to access the gas locker. Also it would be triangular, so the only place where there would be full height would be the middle and the sides would be sloping so you would have to duck down just to be in them. Then there was this one guy offering a different type of cratch cover and in a variety of colours.
The cratch cover on my boat
This cratch cover had a metal frame and three windows, one each side and one in the front so you could unzip it and access the gas locker without leaving the boat. It fastened with poppers along the sides of the boat to keep it in place. The shape of the frame was more like a square, the metal frame was a big U-shaped piece between the two sides of the gas locker going up to the level of the top of the boat cabin, and a metal bar from the centre of the boat cabin to the U-shape at the gas locker. The material that the cover was made from stretched from the U-shape to the cabin top and sides making a squarer shape that you could stand up in (if you are small like me).
It seemed like such a good idea that I wanted one. I took the guys card and emailed him about a month later. The lead time was about 4 months to start and when started needed two visits to the boat, one to measure up and one to fit it. They were about two weeks apart as the cover had to be made from the measurements. He was also over £1000 cheaper than the other cratch cover designers. Cheaper and what I wanted, double win!
The inside of my cratch cover, see the metal bars which support it
A nice young fellow, the founders nephew, came to measure up my boat for the cratch cover. He spent a few hours taking measurements, making a template and asking which options I wanted (one window or two for by the gas locker, opening from the top or bottom, and other design questions).
So to not be in his way I was giving the boat a good clean and evicting all the spiders that had tried to make their homes inside the boat. Part way through his template making it started to drizzle and he had to stop so not to destroy the templates (he was using very thin paper), luckily it was lunchtime so he left for lunch hoping that the rain would stop (the forecast said that it would). It did and he was able to finish making the templates. Then he went and took the templates away to start to make up the cover.
A few weeks later, he came back and started fitting the cratch cover, putting up the metal poles and putting on the poppers. The final job was to put the cratch cover over the frame. This was finally accomplished and it looked good. I was so very happy with it, it was perfect.
A week later the weather had taken a turn for the worse and it was very cold, with the cratch cover on the boat it was a lot warmer than it was before. I guess this is because it traps an area of air inside the cratch cover and that area is warmed by contact with the boat so when the air comes through the vents in the front doors it is already pre-warmed.
A few weeks later I took the cratch cover down and stored it in my bedroom to keep it nice for when I am ready to go and start my continuous cruising. That way I can go with a nice shiny boat and a nice clean cratch cover, all ready and prepared for when I set off on my great exciting journey.