How to Winterize Your Boat Using Winter Boat Covers

September 8th, 2019 by

When winter strikes, you want to make sure you have your pontoon or fishing boat covered and ready to take on Mother Nature. Our handy guide walks you through the process of using winter boat covers to protect your investment.

Not winterizing your boat can easily cost you $6,000 or more. A cracked engine block is an expensive part to replace.

Without a cover, water can get in places, freeze, and expand. This will cause damage to the engine, pipes, and fibreglass. Winter boat covers are an affordable preventative measure.

The first step in winterizing your boat is cleaning and performing required maintenance. Once your boat is ready, follow our guide on how to cover a boat for winter.


Plastic, Shrinkwrap, or Canvas

There are three main options for boat owners when it comes to covering their boat for the winter. Plastic and canvas covers are ones that boat owners can secure themselves. Shrinkwrap is best done by a marina or yard manager.



Plastic tarps are the cheapest option for a DIY boat cover. A boat tarp also has the most potential to cause damage.

These tarps have metal grommets that can chip away at a boat’s gel coat. They are also more challenging to secure tightly.

Any flapping or movement will cause friction. This friction will wear away at your boat’s clear coat.

Expect to get one or maybe two seasons out of a tarp. The winter weather will wreak havoc on them.



Custom canvas tarps are heavy, very heavy. They are also expensive.

You can buy a custom-made or standard-sized version. This means they secure tightly for minimal movement.

Sharp edges and the sun are a canvas cover’s worst enemy. The edges cause friction. The sun’s UV rays make the material weak and brittle.

In the event of a tear in the canvas, you can repair it. The cost of canvas repair is cheaper than buying a new tarp every year.



A marina, boatyard, or mobile service should do the shrink wrapping. This type of cover is what you typically see on new boats during delivery.

Skill is required as it involves using an open flame around highly flammable materials. You can expect to pay $24 to $60 per foot.

If you choose this route, have insurance in case of damage occurs. Check for low spots the same as you would with a tarp or canvas cover.

The sharp points get padded to prevent tearing of the wrap. Vents are added for the fuel tank vent.

Once the boat wrap installation is complete, you cannot get in the boat. The only way in is to cut the wrap, and that ruins it.

The benefit of this method is that there is no movement once installed. The fibreglass won’t wear or chafe.


Securing the Cover

If you are using a shrinkwrap cover, there is no need to secure it. The very nature of the cover makes it secured to the boat.



Buy a tarp rated a marine grade. It will have waterproofing to prevent water and snow from getting in the boat.

The tarp needs to be big enough to cover the entire boat down to the waterline. You can buy a strap kit or use a rope to tie the tarp down.

Some people will attach the straps to the grommets. The danger with this is the grommets may break loose.

The most secure way of tieing the tarp down is to have the tie-downs go over the top of the boat. This will secure the tarp in place even if the wind picks up.



Custom canvas covers come with webbing straps and quick-release buckles. Place the cover on the boat, so the straps are freely hanging.

Start at the bow of the boat and work your way back moving the canvas into place. Having the canvas rolled up before starting makes the process easier.

Once the canvas and telescoping poles are in place, secure the straps. Confirm that the straps are laying flat and not twisted.

Tighten the straps so that they are snug against the boat. Do not try to overtighten the straps.

If the straps are too tight, it will pull on the canvas cause it to stretch or rip. Overtightening also puts extra pressure on specific points of the boat.


Prevent Sagging

Look for the low or unsupported spots in the tarp. These areas will allow water to gather and sit. The weight of the water will cause the tarp to sag and eventually rip.

The most commonplace for this to happen is in the bow of the boat. Your first option is to build a frame to go under the tarp.

This is excessive for most boaters, though. Telescoping poles are most commonly used.

Check to make sure there isn’t too much pressure on the tarp. If you don’t want to use a pole, a step ladder will serve the same purpose.


Avoid Sharp Edges

Look for any place where there is a sharp edge or corner. These pressure points will wear on your tarp faster than everywhere else.

Place a buffer between the boat and your tarp. You can use an old piece of carpet or rags. Make sure to secure the buffer so it will stay in place for the season.

Pay special attention to windshield corners, antenna mounts, and burgee poles. These tend to be the most common areas for creating tears in a tarp.


Winter Boat Covers Bonus Tips

Use a large old t-shirt to protect the outboard cowls. This will prevent the shiny finish from being worn away by the tarp.

Leave the radio on an AM station with constant talking playing. This will help deter animals from taking up shelter in your boat.

Make sure there is plenty of ventilation. Without proper airflow, mold and mildew will become an issue.


Cover Your Boat

When choosing among the winter boat covers, decide how protected your boat needs to be. Then determine what type of cover you can afford.

Shrinkwrap will be the most secure. It is also the most expensive from year to year.

A tarp is the cheapest option. It is the most likely to come loose or cause damage to your boat.

A canvas can be expensive for the initial purchase. However, this option will save you money in the long run. It can also be done yourself.

Schedule your pre-winter boat service today.

Posted in Boating, Parts, Tips, Winter