Reusing Shrinkwrap

By Bill Toth

Boat shrinkwrap will provide good protection for your boat in storage, but it's not cheap. Bill Toth has found a way to counteract that.

If done correctly with care given for removal, storage, and re-installation, one can get many years out of one wrap job. I am on my sixth year. I'm not sure how the numbers would shake out, and I know boatyards don't want to hear this option, but if each boat reused the shrinkwrap for three years, the positive environmental impact would be substantial.

Here's what I do:

Take pictures in and out of your shrink-wrapped boat and save:

Find the termination point:

  • Normally shrinkwrap is started in the bow and terminated in the stern; Center consoles, around the engine, inboards around the transom. Either way, there should be a point starboard and port aft where the drawstring is exposed.
  • You need four pairs of vice grips. Securely clamp one at each point the drawstring exits the wrap in the stern. There should be a foot or two of exposed line. Cut in the middle. The vice grips are there to ensure that once cut, the drawstring is not pulled back into the wrap (like losing a thermostat wire down the wall!).
  • Now tie four loops (bowline knots preferably), then with two pieces of scrap line tie them to each loop with slack.

Removing Shrinkwrap

Step 1:

At the corners of the transom there will be an exposed tie string. Use a pair of vice grips or hand clamp (I used both in the visual) to ensure when cut, the tension released doesn't shoot the string into the shrinkwrap. If this step is botched it could be game over. Now cut the line in the middle. There will be enough rode to tie a loop on each end preventing it from being pulled inside. Repeat on other side.

Step 2:

A normal outboard wrap job should look something like this. Inboard is similar but can skip this step obviously. With both corners cut and secured by loops, raise the motor all the way up to relieve the tension on the aft portion of the wrap. Get behind the motor, grab the shrink and pull out, mousing it up over the prop or skeg, then up over the outboard. Get on board and carefully start walking it up and forward.

Step 3:

The wrap job should have the length of shrinkwrap twine tied into the skirting and tied to the opposite side of the boat under the hull. Cut those dead middle at the keel. You now have two hanging ends. Tie a loop in each end and repeat on all. As you can see by mine, the loop allows me to re-tie lengths of line each season without cutting any of the original twine used by the wrapper thus avoiding a shelf life to do this.

Step 4:

Walk the shrinkwrap forward, up and over the T Top for example, and any structure in place. Get some help as when it is dropped off the bow one has to avoid tearing it on the trailer hardware. Get it out of the way and roll it up. Store in a dry critter free environment.

Take pictures of the process and take pictures of the structure frame and tie downs.

In the fall, reverse the process. When you get to the motor, it must be UP all the way so that you can get over and down to the prop or skeg by mousing it down. SLOWLY drop the motor to the point it is tight, but not too tight or you will tear it or any access doors zippers/threads. Tie cut lengths of line to each loop, pull tight.

Now you're finished. Good for you and good for the environment!

If You've Have An Inboard

There is probably enough slack now to work the shrinkwrap up gently over the stern. Once over the transom, cut every hull tie down in the middle near the keel, and tie a loop in each end. Get a buddy to help walk it forward, and off of the bow.

If You Have a Center Console

It can be a little harder to do since the shrinkwrap was probably brought tight by the yard going over the motor, and putting the motor down. You will need to have power so if you cannot get access to a battery compartment, or do not have a door, plan ahead for next year with a door. You can always try to mouse it up over the prop and up over the motor. Once over the motor you are home free. Walk it up gently forward to the bow. Also cut at the keel all tie downs and tie a loop on each end.

Use a marker to mark the bow. Roll it up gently and tie off.

If you have a door with zipper, I suggest adding duct tape or shrink wrap tape to where the zipper is sewn in, and with a needle and 20 lb test, stitch up and back through the tape for support. Spray WD40 on the zipper and save whatever wooden support structure was made by the yard and take pictures with the structure up and the wrap off for reference in the fall.

In The Fall

Look at your pictures, reinstall the wooden support structure, add bubble wrap to rocket launchers (these are rod holders set higher and usually attached to the pilot house roof), GPS antennas, or anything potentially protruding. More is better. Lay out the shrinkwrap and begin at the bow. From the bow, pull up the stern portion of the shrinkwrap and start walking it back, up and over. You will see the indentations from the year(s) before. Get in place and using the loops you tied in the spring, use some line to pull the wrap tight (but not too hard!)

If a center console, put your motor all the way up, pull the wrap up and over the prop or skeg, and SLOWLY put the motor down. If you have a door and put the motor down too far, you will rip the zipper apart or the seams. Tie everything off and you are done. 

This article was online extra in the Winter 2013 issue of Trailering Magazine.

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