I've covered my boats over the years using everything from pool covers, poly tarps, canvas and finally shink wrap. It all comes down to cost and labor. No matter what system you elect to use, a good sturdy frame is essential
The poly tarps (tried both cheap
blue, and silver/black heavy duty) just don't cut it in Michigan. I even tried to cut and install extra grommets and somewhat fit it. Using this method but I could only get about 2 seasons before I had to replace.
Canvas is probably one of the choice of products but is very expensive. I was using ths method until it was time to replace on our current
boat. The bids I got for a custom cover that I expected to last 10 to 15 years was about $3200. I also had the cover cut in half to cut the weight down. Each half weighed about 70lbs and I still needed someone else to help install due to weight. Hint prior to pulling the boat I would put the folded canvas on the deck
so I would not have to carry up a ladder later.
I currently shrink wrap because of the cost mentioned above. As stated previous the trick is to get a couple other boaters together and help each other and spread the cost of the equipment
between yourselfs. Our original capital cost for the equipment
was about $400. This included heat guns
, hose, regulator
, and propane
tank. This was about 4 years ago. I have seen much cheaper units at discount stores like "harbor freight". Note this heat gun and hoses have a differnt thread and do not fit the original set up. Keep in mind this cost does not include shrink wrap, tape, and webbing. For our 37 footer, this will come to about $150. There is several mail order places you can get the wrap from that is much cheeper than your local marine
The down side
of shrink wrapping. Things go much easier with someone else helping you. When you start shrinking you need dead calm wind
with no moisture on plastic. You can install a canvas cover anytime even in the rain if needed. The first time we shink wrapped, we shrunk the plastic to drum tight. Looks great but you will not be able to reuse the next season and we had somone in our group discover his stantions broke at the welds between the tube and the base. If shrunk very tight it will put tremendous strain on anything that is not supported. He now modified his frame to support his stantions. Another issue as stated in a previous post is the possiability of bubbling your finish if you painted the topsides. Note this can happen if you use a canvas cover as well. Most people will put a pool noodle or foam of some sort to hold cover away from the sides. You can also bubble your paint
if you put too much heat in the area against the rail and sides. We use a piece of masonnite under these areas while heating
the plastic and moving it as we shrink as a pre-caution. Again two person job. Another down side is you are using a propane
blast torch to heat the wrap that is similiar to hot air ballons. Some people think you my be crazy to use such a large match to burn your boat up. Which comes up to another issue. I takes some skill to get the hang of using the torch to shrink the wrap without burning a hole through. I would recommend having a bucket of water handy if needed. Fortunately if you do get a hole the wide shrink tape covers all. Just make sure you use the same color otherwise everyone will see all your mistakes
. You need to install vents as close to the highest point of the cover. You can work under the cover but will discover in a short amount of time the moisture from your breath will form condensation
on the inside of the cover. The more vents the better to circulate the air. Which brings up another safety
issue. I have seen people shrinking their plastic from under the cover. As anyone can see this can be a bad thing for the obvious reasons. You use up a tremendous amount of oxygen with the blow torch which will make breathing much harder (pun). The other issue is in case you catch something on fire, including the cover (yes it will burn and probably give off toxic fumes). These seem to be obvious but usally every other year I see someone doing it.
The up side
of things. Usally our group (3 to 4 boats) will install the plastic in a day on all the boats and will shrink on the next avalilable calm day. You can reuse the plastic cover for several seasons, 3rd for us this year. This has taken our cost for material to under $100 each year. The best way to do this is to plan ahead when you install the plastic the first time. We will use 3 pieces to cover ours. 1st to cover from the mast
, including overlap, up to the bow including the anchor
platform. 2nd to cover from the mast
, including overlap, to the stern pulput and 3rd to cover from the stern pulpit over the steren. The overlap should be about 2 ft because when the plastic is shrunk down you will loose about a foot in lengh when you reuse the plastic the next winter. Tape sections together. If you plan to reuse over several seasons, don't shrink down drum tight as many of us have seen. I have found if you spot heat several areas down and tighten up the cover, it will be fine as long as there is enough slope to shed rain and snow off. Keep in mind the plastic is very slippery. I have not seen any accumulation of snow over 1/2 inch on ours. Each year I just tighten it back up by heating
areas again. Other items to consider is the color of the plastic. Clear is not good since it is intended for hot houses you may find at a nursery. Blue is a popular color and usally a little cheaper but if you plan to do any work under it you will find your eyes will be fooled by the color change and everything will look weird. I have found white to be the best. It will let light through and doesn"t get too warm underneath.
Again no matter what you type of cover you use a good frame is essential. Then it comes to what you want to spend and the amount of time to spend. By the way local charges to shrink wrap our boat would be about $1200 each season in our area for labor and material. If you do use plastic it is recycleable.