What could be better than cruising along, safely ensconced in a canvas cover keeping you snug and dry from the elements? Well, depending on your point of view, not having a narrowboat pram cover at all! Pram covers for boats are like the marmite of the boating world. Either you love them or hate them. In this article we are going to discuss the pros and cons of canal boat pram covers.
What is a Narrowboat Pram Cover?
A Narrowboat Pram cover essentially applies exactly the same concept as an awning does on a caravan. It is a canvas shelter erected on the rear of the boat that, in theory, allows you to be outside in any weather and protected from the elements.
Some people swear by them and others absolutely loathe them. Let’s go through some pros and cons so that you can decide which camp you sit in.
Pros and Cons of a Narrowboat Pram Cover
You get to stay dry and warm regardless of the conditions. Provided that your pram cover fits well, you’ll be completely sheltered come rain wind or shine (unlikely, thanks UK). This means that on a wet weather day, if you have somewhere to be you don’t have to make the decision between being delayed or soaking wet.
With a narrowboat pram cover you get much more space. We all know that storage space is at a premium on a canal boat. By providing yourself with a covered area you gain just a little more room for things that can now afford to ‘live outside’.
Kick Your Shoes Off
If you relate a pram cover to more familiar surroundings you can view it as a sort of ‘porch’ for your boat. It can be really ideal as an area to remove sopping wet gear if you have been out and about, before you retire to the warm and cosy comfort of your cabin. Also, with a covered area, there is no reason to bring wet and muddy shoes into the main area of your ‘home’.
A Nice Conservatory
Whilst we are on the subject of relating a canal boat pram cover to a traditional house, consider this. You can use a pram cover as a sort of conservatory. It is quite a joy on an evening to sit in the cover with a nice drink and perhaps a good book, much as you would at home. If the sun is shining it can get quite toasty in there, but fortunately there are often zippable sections to ensure adequate ventilation.
Does this all sound great to you? What’s not to love? But, before you rush out to speak to your latest boat yard to enquire about a narrowboat pram cover price you might want to have a think about the following…
You Can Lose Track of the Wind
Part of being a decent helmsman is being able to read the conditions. One thing that canal boats are not is aerodynamic. There are a lot of flat sides, this means that they can be heavily influenced by the wind.
If you have ever tried to manoeuvre a narrowboat in strong winds, you’ll know that being able to gauge the wind is really important. A narrowboat pram cover can be a great hinderance to this. In fact, if you are looking to tie up and the wind is pushing you off a mooring, the first time you realise this might only be when you have cut the engine and are looking to exit your pram cover.
You Can Be Blown Off Course
Didn’t we just mention the wind? Well listen to this. A pram cover should be windproof, but that can mean that it acts a little bit like a sail and increases wind resistance. By using a pram cover you are taking a flat sided vessel and adding a greater surface area to it. You are supposed to be steering a narrowboat, not a sail boat.
Reduced Visibility and Situational Awareness
Think about a normal day where you are up on the helm with your face in the breeze. Now imagine wearing a balaclava with really small eye holes. This is what it can feel like under a pram cover. Especially when the weather is bad, which it will be, otherwise you wouldn’t have the cover up. Reduced visibility can be a real nuisance and sometimes dangerous. It reduces your situational awareness. If you have been holding someone up behind you for the last hour because you were unaware that they are there, you can expect to have a few cutting words thrown at you at best.
In your head you are safely tucked inside your pram cover, pottering up the cut. The heater is going and you are nice and dry. Except… Pram covers are not breathable. Over time you will find that you have drips of moisture fogging your windows and interior, making you cosy space slightly clammy and further reducing visibility. Does this sound appealing to you?
Reduced Vertical Clearance
You may find that a narrowboat pram cover decreases the vertical clearance that your boat has. In fact, there are many tales of boaters who have been unable to pass under bridges without first taking the cover down. If you are going to have to do that every quarter of a mile you will soon become frustrated. If you are really unlucky there is always the possibility of you meeting the perfect storm of poor visibility, low bridges and control issues with wind. You might be saying goodbye to your cover and hello to damaged masonry.
Reduced Access to Lines
Pram covers tend to cover access to lines. Particularly your centre lines. This is inconvenient at best. At worst it may mean your boat drifting off whilst you fumble for a cleat which is normally so easy to reach.
So, there you have it. Narrowboat pram covers aren’t always perfect. That said they are not all bad either. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, ability and perhaps a bit of good luck. For us the jury is still out. What do you think about pram covers?