Shrink wrap or tarpaulin for winter boat storage?

Shrink wrap or tarpaulinShrink Wrap or tarpaulin?

Unless you store your boat in a shed or building of some sort, you probably use, or have considered using, a cover to protect your investment against damage from weather, air pollution and bird droppings. Tarpaulins or custom made covers of plastic or canvas have traditionally been used for this, but recently shrink wrap boat covers have been gaining in popularity amongst UK boat owners.

Shrink wrap should not be confused with ‘pallet wrap’ or ‘cling film’ that is stretched around an object and gives minimal protection. Heavy duty shrink wrap is draped over the boat before shrinking tight. Unlike a tarpaulin, because shrink wrap is heat shrunk around the boat, it becomes tight and therefore cannot flap and ‘self destruct’. This is the secret of it’s durability.

However, whilst a tarpaulin or custom cover is simply thrown over the boat and tied down, fitting a shrink wrap cover can be a lengthier process. First, a ‘perimeter’ band of tough strapping or rope is run around the waterline of the boat. The shrink wrap is then placed over the boat and flipped around this perimeter band and and heat welded back on to itself. Once the shrink wrap is anchored in this way it can be ‘shrunk off’ using a hot air tool.

This ‘shrink to fit’ characteristic makes shrink wrap particularly good at protecting awkwardly shaped products such as boats. Because sheets of shrink film can be easily heat fused together there are no limitations as to the size of boat which can be protected. In addition, unlike a tarpaulin a shrink wrap cover can be fitted with a zipped access door and self adhesive air vents according to requirements.

At the end of the winter season the shrink wrap cover is simply removed and recycled as shrink wrap cannot be re-used. The ability to re-use a tarpaulin or custom fitted cover is often considered the main advantage of using a tarpaulin compared with shrink wrap. Whilst this may be true, the additional expenditure on periodic maintenance and the time need to clean and store tarpaulins and fitted covers when not in use should also be considered.

Although shrink wrapping is a fairly simple process, it is not normally considered a ‘DIY’ job for boat owners. Shrink wrapping services are provided throughout the UK by a number of specialist shrink wrap company’s who operate mobile shrink wrapping operations or by boat dealers, marinas and boatyards. Tufcoat offer: Shrink wrap materials and accessories on wholesale supply, a full installation service and marine shrink wrap training.