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labatt 11-04-2007 11:14 PM

Shrink wrap vs. Tarp
OK... wonderful Northeast - we have to cover our boat to keep the snow off of it. I need to cover the entire thing due to the teak decks plus the work we're doing on it. Covering the boat is not a choice (I know it's not good for it, but we have to).

My wife and I are trying to decide on buying a big tarp or two (and tying it down heavily) or getting the boat shrinkwrapped. We already committed to partnering with some boat buddies on shrinkwrapping it, but I believe they may be out of product by the time we get to my boat.

Anyway, is there anything wrong with using a very large tarp or two? I have some concerns, but I figured I'd let people voice their opinions before I put down some of my own. Would shrinkwrapping be better?

On a slightly different but related topic, how much would i expect to pay for a professional shrinkwrap job (if we've already built a frame).

If people think tarps are good, any suggestions on best practices?


Valiente 11-04-2007 11:58 PM

Get a proper frame and a tarp. The shrinkwrap is wasteful and it's difficult to let the boat "breathe".

Some tips I've learned the hard way:

Get the tarp split into two pieces. One 35 foot chunk of waterproofed tarp is well over 100 lbs. and it is difficult to maneuver solo over the frames.

Leave some fenders out to leave an air gap between the hull and the tarp. It can get surprisingly warm in there (which makes deck work and even glassing possible...with ventilation...on cold days), and you don't want to trap condensation or to encourage mildew.

Either drop your stanchions or put tennis balls with a slit in them over their tops as anti-chafe...the wind WILL erode holes in the tarp if it touches anything metal.

Colour-code your frame "spine" and "legs" with electrical tape, number/letter code, or whatever you wish. A real time-saver if you only have a 90 minute window of wintry daylight in which to assemble the thing.

Bring a friend and two identical socket wrenches. After putting the spine in, put the largest set of legs (usually at the mid-point of the beam on, then work your way back.

Check the tarp periodically during the winter for ice-buildup, tears, or loosened ties. Visit the boat just to have a look around: I've had pleasant times under the tarp with pals who just want to hang out having a coffee with a shot in it on a cool...not cold...boat while the winter winds are howling outside. Of course, I run power to my boat all winter, because I like to leave the batteries in, so I can play the stereo!

Lastly, fold it carefully and stow the tarp OFF the floor (like on a rack or in the rafters) to keep it clean and free from mildew. Fold it dry. Lash the frames together in one bundle with short lengths of line or bungees, and you can fly it under the rafters of a garage for the summer.

teshannon 11-05-2007 07:59 AM

Another option is to use the same material as your dodger?(brain dead at the moment). That's what I have and it works just fine and is much lighter than a tarp.

sailingdog 11-05-2007 08:05 AM

In the long run, going with a cover frame and tarps makes more sense, and is probably far less damaging to the boat. Valiente has good info, as does TB, who posted about the frame system he made for his boat in several other threads.

Since you are in Vermont, you will definitely want to make the frame steep enough to shed snow, or the frame work will likely collapse under the weight eventually. You also want to make sure the overlap point is well secured so that snow/wind/ice/rain doesn't find it way through there.

TrueBlue 11-05-2007 08:39 AM

The areas in a winter cover which are most vulnerable to water intrusion and damage are the standing rigging penetrations. The total number of penetrations will of course, impact your method choices for covering.

After considerable research, I had ambitions to fabricate a reusable cover using a cotton/synthetic fabric blend. The plan was to accommodate two masts with up to 14-16 shroud and stay penetrations, utilizing a combination of zippers, laced lashings with sewn flaps and fabric boots.

I constructed the metal frame using EMT and specialized clamps, but have been vacillating over the fabric phase - due to the complexity involved with these penetrations and the time involved to make this thing.

So, this will be the third winter I simply call the shrinkwrap guys to cover the frame. The material cost for the frame was $200 and shrinkwrapping charges for my 36 ft LOA ketch has risen in 3 years from $330 to $400 - (cheap). So, the total expense for covering (frame included) for 3 years will be about $1,300.

In contrast, I received an estimate for a custom fabric cover from Fairclough for over $5,000. Material and accessories to make the fabric cover myself would have been roughly $800 - plus many hours of labor and frustration - assuming my sewing machine is capable - otherwise the 600. cost of a new Sailrite machine would need to be factored in.

Of course, if you choose to unstep the masts each winter, the cover cost will be considerably less by the use of a simple tarp - but seasonal stepping and unstepping rigging fees will offset the savings.

I hope this information was helpful and if you'd like more details, please let me know.

SEMIJim 11-05-2007 09:10 AM

We purchased a heavy-duty tarp from Harbor Freight and we're going to build a frame out of 6" dia. PVC (for the spine) and the heavier-duty sprinkler system pipe tie-wrapped to the stanchions. The advantage to the sprinkler system pipe is it's pre-curved. Saw two other boats doing this yesterday. If you put the spine up high enough, you can get the sprinkler pipe to curve right to the top of the stanchions, thus eliminating them as a trouble spot or having to remove them. Also: If you build the thing high enough, you can work in there in the winter. Or just hang out :).

I haven't decided what I'm going to use to elevate the spine. It seems everybody else uses wood. I'm wondering if using the same PVC as the spine, or maybe 4" dia., slotted into the spine with T-fittings, and with the bases also formed of 4" PVC with T-fittings, might not work better? The only thing is the potential added expense.


AjariBonten 11-05-2007 09:13 AM

Take two peanut butter sandwiches:

Put one in a sealed ziplock bag:

Put one on a plate and lay a paper towel over it:

Leave for two weeks............

Then decide which "boat" you wanna "Eat"

The covered one may be dry and stale.......... But the one in the bag is gonna be moldy and soggy...............:D

christyleigh 11-05-2007 09:25 AM

Here's some stories of the different methods I've used over the last 10 years or so.... I made semi-ridged frames (2" Black Well Pipe $50) for my c28 for a couple years to drape a $100 dollar tarp that worked well. My expansion of the existing frames to cover my c320 failed badly when we got a foot of wet heavy snow...... That's when I coughed up $3000 for a Fairclough 'mast up' cover. I loved it and it worked perfectly with little fuss except the weight of the 2 sections at about 40 and 60 lbs. When I traded in the c320 for the NC I kept the frame & cover. I sold the cover but kept the frame to use on the NC as my guesstimate on the cost was about $5,000.... what TB was actually quoted. So now every year I re-build (yesterday actually) the frame that is partially from the Fairclough and partially custom bent by me 1" galvanized steel tubing ending up with the same type of frame as TB. The difference is I do my own shrink wrapping. Last year I did my first shrink wrap which I will not post pictures of as it was a patchwork quilt mess that barely held together for the winter. I wanted clear instead of white for more solar heating as I'm down there every weekend working on the boat but I have since learned that the clear with its lower melt temp and other properties that make it harder to work with wasn't the best choice for my first attempt. I bought a couple rolls of white this fall so I'll hopefully I'll get better at it over the years. The used wrap gets put in a separate dumpster in the spring - hopefully for re-cycling. I also store in the water now which is Much Warmer for the winter boat work. By the way a properly vented shrink wrap is no more of a problem than any other method.

TrueBlue 11-05-2007 09:27 AM


Originally Posted by AjariBonten (Post 217559)
Take two peanut butter sandwiches:

Put one in a sealed ziplock bag:

Put one on a plate and lay a paper towel over it:

Leave for two weeks............

Then decide which "boat" you wanna "Eat"

The covered one may be dry and stale.......... But the one in the bag is gonna be moldy and soggy...............:D

Take two boats with teak decks and mount them on stands side by side during a long and harsh Northeast winter.

Cover one with vented shrink wrap or a waterproof tarp - sealing all penetrations.

Leave the other one exposed to winter's elements & freeze/thaw conditions (lay paper towels over the decks if you so choose).

Come next Spring, the decks under the vented shrinkwrapped boat will be dry and sound . . . but the decks on the one without a cover will be buckled, frost heaved and most fasteners pulled out of the coring - which will be thoroughly soaked, along with the moldy cabin spaces below.

You decide which boat you wanna sail next season . . . :D

SEMIJim 11-05-2007 09:44 AM


Originally Posted by TrueBlue (Post 217571)
Cover one with vented shrink wrap or a waterproof tarp - sealing all penetrations.

Leave the other one exposed to winter's elements & freeze/thaw conditions (lay paper towels over the decks if you so choose).

I suspect what Ajari was suggesting was the difference between vented and un-vented coverings, not covering vs. no covering.


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