Shinkwrap or Canvas?

Jun 19, 2015

From Issue 25-5
Cover Up…
Shrinkwrap or Canvas?
By: Darryl Eden
It’s a fairly common desire amongst boaters: an endless summer. I know I would love for the fair weather and long days to last. There is however a time when the days get shorter and the boating season, unfortunately, comes to a close. As much as we all want to avoid thinking about it, the moment the fall winds blow the leaves from the trees, there is a nagging chore ahead of us boat owners.
Large or small, all boats require adequate cover during the winter season to avoid costly repairs due to weather and or wildlife exposure. We’ve all observed the consequences of haphazard storage, whether it be the cracked and fading gel coat, the chewed upholstery or the wet and ruined carpet. In order to prevent costly repairs and to properly protect your investment, a proper winter cover is essential.
OPTION 1: Shrink Wrapping
Wrapping and sealing off a vessel in plastic has been the common way to store a boat for as long as I have been on the water. Anyone driving up to the lake or the marina for the first time in a season will recall the lines of bright blue or white boats sitting and waiting for the water. Although this is a popular way to store your boat for the winter, it has recently come under fire for being a touch wasteful.
Think about it, every year thousands upon thousands of boats are sealed off using plastic.  Then, when spring comes and the boats are put back in the water, the same plastic is discarded. Hopefully your marina has a recycling program of some sort, but the sad truth is that much of the discarded shrink wrap eventually ends up in our landfills.
While convenient in that you don’t have to store the tarp at home between seasons, there are some drawbacks.  First, a shrink wrap’s cover only has a one-use lifespan and you as a boat owner are paying for an entire brand new covering every fall. In light of the recent movement towards a more “green” approach to not only everyday living but recreational boating, innovations in boat storage have come about.  Second, if you want mid-season or early spring access to your boat for repairs or maintenance, costs climb as you elect to add a zippered access door.
OPTION 2: Canvas Tarp
Catering to the larger end of the marine spectrum, custom-made tarps are typically ordered for cruisers, sailboats, powerboats, and even tugs. The idea here is to hand-fit coated polyester or a waterproof canvas to your boat in lieu of plastic shrink-wrap.   While up to now there have been only a few boats in any marina with a custom canvas tarp cover, that trend is changing.
The cost comparison on canvas over shrink wrapping makes canvas tarps more expensive – initially.  However, when compared to a few years of shrink wrap costs (which in the end you have nothing to show for your investment), a canvas tarp easily begins to pay for itself in just a few years.  Tarps have been known to last anywhere from five to ten or more years as they are made of durable, tough material and are easily repaired. Think about it for a moment, and do the mental calculations and it is easy to see that a tarp will have paid for itself in the first few years of ownership and will last for many more. In addition to being fiscally rewarding in the long run, tarps are better for the environment. Canvas is an organic material; therefore it is a renewable resource and much more eco-friendly.
Today, boaters are keeping their boats longer and seeing the logic in investing in a canvas tarp to protect the environment and reduce expenses in the long run.
WHERE TO START?
We spoke to a number of companies that make custom canvas winter tarps for boats of all sizes.  Everyone we spoke with will work with you, even if you are located in another province, to either build a frame and tarp system custom-measured to your boat; or adapt a tarp to fit your own personal existing frame system; or configure a mast-up solution. The benefits of such a setup are plentiful, cost and longevity heading the top of the list.
Dreamcast Marine Canvas, (www.dreamcastcanvas.com) located in Pickering, Ontario is owned and operated by boaters and produces a variety of designs of winter tarps, as well as offering upholstery services to those who’ve had damage due to critters getting inside during a previous winter and damaging the seats, berths and maybe even the headliner.
An innovator of ideas in boat storage, Genco Marine, (www.gencomarine.com ) , a Toronto based  family owned sail maker for many generations, also produces what those in their line of work refer to as “ boat tarps”.   We visited their facility to see how a Genco tarp is made to be very boater-friendly.  The tarps are easily assembled, arriving in three sections accompanied by off-season storage bags. The zippered sections are well thought out and include vents for breathability, reinforced webbing loops, and even doors for easy access. If do-it-yourself mechanics or those who simply prefer to prep and tidy their vessels themselves were to shrink wrap their boats, any winter access requires an expensive and timely rewrap or would be entirely impossible. Given the fact that a tarp is self-assembled and comes off in sections, midwinter repairs or early spring cleaning is completely possible.
CUSTOMERS SPEAK
Plenty of happy customers can attest to a tarp’s durability, value, and versatility.   Audrey and Randy Guzar searched for a winter cover for their 34 American Tug and were led to Genco: “A great fit, durability and weight were considerations of importance to us. Our cover has been in service for 3 years now and we wanted you, and all the gang at Genco to know just one thing; it is not often that when all the staff and the company itself meet or exceed one’s expectations, however, this has been our experience.”
Amongst other marine upholstery and cover specialists that produce storage solutions The  Canvas Shop (www.canvasshop.ca)  is located in Scarborough, ON, in Bluffer’s Park Marina. John Lott told us that the shop gets very few winter tarps in for repair, “One of the services we offer –  besides providing top quality custom made canvas tops and cover for boats – is emergency re-stitching and reinforcing of stress points and corners on short notice at our work dock. Of all the types of covers that we repair, tarps are the best investment, they just last and last,” he told us.
WRAP UP
If you are devoted to your vessel and would love the extra couple weeks on the water and the ability to cover your boat on your schedule then a tarp should be a serious consideration. The fall is a busy time for everyone, school starts up, work starts up again and the marinas book up in record time. If you have ever been one of the boaters scrambling at the last minute to arrange shrink wrapping and storage and feeling the frustration of being hampered by bad weather, it is not a pleasant thing.
Remember when you go to call for storage this fall that there are eco-friendly solutions to shrink wrap, whether your boat be a Catalina 30ft, a Sea Ray 360 or a 21ft Malibu.  A canvas tarp is a quality and innovative way to put your boat away safe for the winter and to give you piece of mind that your investment is protected just as well as your wallet.
Read the rest of the story, published in Powerboating Canada 25-5