The first two methods of winter boat storage we are going to explore are shrink wrapping and using a tarp. Both have advantages and disadvantages to their use which you should carefully weigh before choosing which to use.
The advantages of shrink wrapping lie primarily in its convenience and ability to protect your pontoon or boat. Generally a shrink wrapping company will clean and winterize your boat, for an additional cost, before shrink wrapping it. This leaves your boat clean and ready to use in the spring. Shrink wrapping seals your boat from the elements, keeping it in pristine condition over the winter. Oftentimes, the shrink wrapping company will store your boat over the winter as well and even prepare it for use in the spring, furthering the convenience of this option. Although there is generally an additional cost for that service as well.
One of the disadvantages of shrink wrapping lay in the expense of paying a company to winterize your boat, shrink wrap it, and then store it for the winter. While it does save you time, it can become an expensive option, especially as it needs to be done every year because shrink wrap cannot be re-used. Another disadvantage is related to how well the shrink wrap seals your boat. While it is protected from the elements, the vents are too small to allow the necessary airflow to prevent mold growth. Before shrink wrapping was invented we saw very little mold under upholstery after winter storage. Now we see it regularly. However, the biggest disadvantage of shrink wrapping lies in the large amount of plastic waste created every year. While convenient and a great way to protect your boat, it is definitely not a green option when it comes to winter storage of a pontoon boat.
The main advantage of using a tarp to protect your boat while storing it outdoors over the winter is the cost. It is generally fairly cheap to buy a tarp at your local hardware store and you can easily tie it over your boat for the winter. Although it can take a good deal of trial and error to get the tie downs just right in order to provide the best fit possible in order to protect your boat. If the tarp rips, it is generally easy to buy a replacement one at that same hardware store.
Even though tarps are definitely the cheapest short run option for winter storage, you run into several disadvantages when choosing tarps as a method of winter storage. The main disadvantage is the poor quality of most tarps. They are not generally meant to withstand the rigors of winter weather and oftentimes develop leaks and tears, completely ruining their original purpose of protecting your pontoon boat over the winter. The other disadvantage the need to replace your tarp regularly to prevent leakage into the boat. Generally, if you are lucky you will get one to two years out of a tarp before it needs to be replaced. As mentioned above, it can also take quite a bit of trial and error to work out the best way to tie down the tarp over the pontoon and incorrectly tied down tarps can lead to wear and rub marks. It can also promote mold growth due to allowing moisture to collect under the tarp. So, while relatively inexpensive upfront, it is not very green nor is it very effective at actually protecting your pontoon.
In our next post we will explore the options of indoor winter storage and the reusable winter storage cover. Just remember, that no matter which method you choose, any cover is better than nothing at all!