Shrink Wrap for Boat Winter Storage…Is Your Bowrider, Pontoon or Fishing Boat Receiving Best Care Practices

Bowrider, pontoon boats and fishing boats are not inexpensive family purchases!  Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent for marine excitement.   How do I best protect that boating investment over the harsh winter months?   After a great summer of family fun and adventure….it is time to place the family boating treasure into winter hibernation….what should we do and what should be done?

There are two basic types of winter storage systems to considerOne is true inside as in inside a suitable building ( not a barn) and secondly the plastic wrap or shrink-wrap option.  There is absolutely no question that true inside boat storage is your best investment to protect your family boat during the winter season and to be the most environmentally responsible.  Sometimes depending on your location and building availability the inside location may not be available to you or you may just want to consider a less expensive alternative also known as shrink-wrap.  In this article we provide you the opportunity to examine best care practices for winter storage utilizing plastic wrap systems.  This knowledge will provide the background information to ask the right shrink-wrap storage questions on included winter care procedures and then you can determine if your shrink wrap provider is utilizing best care practices for your family boating treasure. 

As a matter of disclosure my name is Tom Welsh and I am the General Manager/Owner of Huntsville Marine for the last 3 decades…..yep long time!  Huntsville Marine provides winter storage solutions to some 700 marine units each year.  Huntsville Marine is primarily an inside storage operation with 90 % of our storage customers utilizing  inside storage procedures.  Huntsville Marine does provide both on site and off site winter shrink-wrap services and in fact was one of the original test facilities way back in the early 80’s.  Shrink-wrap was designed and presented as a less financial investment storage solution to the marine centers whereas the marina could significantly reduce capital costs as they could avoid purchasing high value land and buildings to provide storage services.   Shrink wrap allowed many less experienced  and bare bones operations to get into the storage business.  I want to be clear here that shrink warp was not brought to the market for the benefit of the consumer but for the benefit of the marine operator….enough said on this!

What Are Boat Storage Systems designed to Accomplish 

The main purpose of boat storage procedures is to protect the marine investment from winter related structural and cosmetic degrading environmental issues.  These issues are:

  • Snow loading of exterior surfaces, ice buildup, sleet and cold rain exposure.
  • Ultraviolet light exposure damage to fiberglass, plastics, upholstery, stitching and fabrics
  • Corrosion protection due to prevalent moist conditions
  • Low temperature protection of required internal combustion areas in addition to water systems
  • Generally to maintain the boats appearance for extended lifespan
  • Provide a secure monitored environment for those not having suitable space or the ability to constantly monitor the marine investment over the winter months

The Four main problems associated with Shrink Wrap storage systems are:

  • Biological problems commonly mold due to high moisture content levels under the plastic wrap in combination with elevated temperature levels which promote mold growth over an extended period
  • Elevated corrosion rates due to elevated moisture levels throughout the storage period
  • Increased exposure to ultraviolet rays versus inside storage systems
  • Damage to outer hull, decals, deck/deck fittings and wake board surfaces due to vibration of the shrink-wrap against these surfaces due to windage

How Can Best Shrink Wrap Procedures Reduce the Inherent Limiting Protection Factors of This Type of Winter Storage for Boats of All Types

  • Make reasonable efforts to have the boat as dry as possible before enclosing in plastic wrap
  • Utilize good quality biological control agents such as 3M Marine Mildew Block in all areas of the internal portions of the boat including storage locations.  Vinyl areas already demonstrating black mold should be cleaned with a proper mold reducing and disinfecting agent such as Spray Nine.  The boat general should be reasonably clean and have no remaining food stuffs, towels, clothing or life jackets on board.
  • When possible all storage locations should be left open and free of obstructions.
  •  Clear shrink-wrap is not recommended as it provides the least amount of protection from UV radiation.  Blue is recommended in high snow conditions as it provides the best slide action of snow loads from the surface.  White may provide reduced  temperature swings but is only recommended in low snow areas.
  • A very pronounced peak to the shrink-wrap cocoon to limit snow collection on the plastic surface and to allow for higher vent location at the peak which aids in temperature leveling and internal moisture reduction.  Normally a minimum of three vents are required.
  • All structural wood utilized for the peak should be as dry as possible to reduce mold growth
  • Utilization of under wrap plastic protection to limit marking by shrink-wrap on exterior surfaces which may or will come in contact with the outer plastic wrap.  This is because of the time and cost the most common step that is not carried out.  All new boats under 10 years of age or unmarked should have this applied.  If your provider is not completeing this step you are at risk.
  • Placement of the boat is very important.  The wrapped boat should not be too close to any major road for salt protection and should not under any circumstances be left in a field of grass to provide protection from the critters.  Mice and squirrels love shrink wrapped boats.  The application of Bounce dryer sheets or Irish Spring soap shaving seems to help reduce the critters.
  • Shrink-wrapped boats must be monitored throughout the winter months for snow load and to ensure the integity of the plastic film as well as unobstgructed vents.  Operations not offerring this should be avoided.

Unfortunately Shrink Wrap storage no matter how careful the application is cannot and will not provide the same  level of protection as true inside boat storage.  Storage customer should be asking directly what procedure as being used during the application of the wrap not just how much!