Adverse weather conditions can have a variety of different effects on boat hulls, regardless of their construction. For something that is designed to spend a great deal of its life partly submerged in water they are remarkably susceptible to damage from rain, frost, and sunlight. If you’ve spent your entire life savings on one you’re going to want to make sure it doesn’t perish at the first sign of a rain cloud and there’s several ways in which you can do this. Most good marinas offer excellent storage options depending on the size of your vessel. For smaller boats, the option of a dry stack is available to you at the right storage facility. This offers protection from rain and damaging ultraviolet light from the sun, not to mention thieves and vandals who will struggle to damage a boat that’s several metres off the ground. Alternatively for larger craft, there’s the option of sheltered marinas which will help protect your investment from high winds. Unfortunately, dry stacks can cost upwards of several thousand pounds a year, and a sheltered marina offers no protection from rain and frost.
So you may consider purchasing a specialised cover, either custom made or one specific to your model. And there’s no doubt that they will do an excellent job, for several hundred pounds. An alternative low cost solution is a good quality heavy duty tarpaulin. There is a mind boggling range of available and hopefully this article will help you purchase the right one for the job.
In terms of the tarpaulins construction, I’d recommend either one of a heavy duty polyethylene construction or one made of PVC, which are strong and puncture resistant, whilst remaining reasonably lightweight; it is also resistant to acid and oil which is perfect if your boat is to be transported by road. Any sort of tarp, regardless of its construction, will deteriorate fairly quickly in strong sunlight, so check for UV stabilisation for extra protection. If it has plastic eyelets then they will be easily damaged under tension, so make sure they’re metal ones and set in a reinforced hem. Your chosen sheet should be around 2 metres longer, and 3 times wider than your vessel. This should allow enough length to protect the entire underside of the hull, the keel and the bow.
To prevent damage from condensation you will need to allow a certain amount of air flow between the cover and the deck. The widely accepted method of allowing this is to construct a frame normally using 2 inch thick PVC piping secured to a wooden structure that will support the tarpaulin from underneath. A great money saving tip is to screw your frame together rather than nailing so it can be reused each winter. Make sure you allow sufficient padding on any sharp edges of the frame, puncturing your cover the first time you use it would not be ideal. I’d recommend securing your tarp using good quality bungee cord and hook ends across the underside of the hull and pull it as tight as possible to prevent wind intrusion, which could damage your sheet, especially during transport. You should never secure a tarpaulin using the eyelets alone, so you may wish to use shock cord over the top surface of the cover as well to reduce the risk of eyelets sustaining damage. Alternatively, you could use metal clamps, although I wouldn’t suggest doing this if your boat is to be transported by road. Regardless of how strong the clamps are there is a chance they could be shaken loose in transit.