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How to Shrink Wrap Your Boat

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1. Plan Ahead and Order Supplies
shrink wrap tape

© Tom Lochhaas

Shrink wrapping is a great way to protect your boat outdoors in the winter, but commercial shrink wrapping is very expensive. You can do it yourself for less than a fifth of the cost of most commercial shrink wrapping (after the purchase of the heat gun which you can share with others and amortize over years of use).

Get an early start to measure your boat and order supplies. The first time you shrink wrap your boat, you need to plan carefully.

Plan and Measure

First, you need a frame or support of some sort so that the wrap forms a tent over the boat to allow rain and snow to run off. You don't want it to pool, freeze, and eventually tear through the wrapping. On many small to medium sailboats, positioning the mast horizontally above the deck makes a perfect tent structure.

Before ordering supplies, determine the width of shrink wrap film you need. (Rolls come in variable widths from 12 to 24 feet or more.) At the widest section of the boat, measure from the highest part of the tent frame down, over lifelines or railings, to at least a foot down the hull below the toerail or gunwale. Double this measurement for the full width you'll need.

Order Equipment and Supplies

Here's the minimum you'll need:

  1. Shrink wrap heat gun and propane hose (a one-time purchase)
  2. Propane tank with regulator (you can use the one from a standard outdoors BBQ grill)
  3. Shrink film wide enough for the boat (comes in rolls of variable width and length)
  4. Shrink tape (comes in rolls of variable widths - 4-inch is good for beginners)
  5. Strapping (you can use inexpensive clothesline cord - but woven cord shrinkwrap strapping is cheaper over time)
  6. Knife (box cutter will do)
  7. Heavy gloves (not rubber or plastic)
  8. Fire extinguisher (just in case!)

You may also want these optional supplies:

  • Zippered door (can be reused)
  • Air vents
  • Desiccant or anti-mildew material to absorb moisture inside the boat

Note: Shrink wrap supplies may be available at local stores, but you'll likely find materials much less expensively at online suppliers like Dr. Shrink.

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