I've never (yet) lived aboard over winter, but have a fair bit of experience building winter covers for our boats. Up until recently we lived in the real north (north of Lake Superior) so know a little something about effective winter covers. It took me a few years, but I learned to build a cover that kept the boat dry, and handled the serious winter storms we get on the north shore of Lake Superior
Start with PVC pipe arches. Space them every meter (3-4 feet) along the deck
. Secure them to the toe rail, and link them together with 3/8" line tied from pull to pushpit. The key is to mechanically link everything, but allow for the entire system to flex under the weight of snow and wind
loads. From there, cover the frame with whatever plastic material seems best. Cheap
, thin tarps lasted me three years. Thicker, more expensive ones would add a year or so. The key is to avoid chafe, so add foam patches wherever there are hard points.
The entire cost of my covers ran a few hundred dollars for the initial structure, then perhaps $50/year to account for tarp replacements
. Shrink wrapping looks great, but to my frugal mind, is ridiculously expensive and horribly wasteful.
All this said, for our new (old) boat we had a custom canvas
cover and aluminum
frame built. We designed the cover with liveaboarding in mind, so there are zipped access ports
and plenty of ventilation points. It cost a fair bit, but I expect to get a decade of use out of it.