Tarping my boat.....

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Well-known member
Feb 27, 2006
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Brooklyn, NY USA
Hey guys. I'm wrapping it up for the winter, and decided against shrink wrap. I don't see the need for it with the pilot house. I still want to put a tarp over it though to keep out snow, pests, and freezing water. I see most of you guys use wood, but do you think I could get away with PVC? Also, what do you use to keep the structure in place?

I was planning on running one long piece from the transom to the top of the pilot house, and another piece from there down to the pulpit. I figure I can use one vertical piece in the center of the deck for support, and maybe some additional pieces or heavy rope across horizontally as ”rib” sections. Any tips or advice? Also, do you think a 25’ x 40’ tarp is big enough for my boat? Thanks. 8)

That's EXACTLY what I do! I make a huge "A"-frame of 1-1/4" tube across the top. It is supported by 1" bars from the front rails, side cabin rails, rocket launchers, and then by using vertical holder from the rod holders. Just buy a big qty of pipe, some 60-degree fittings (used in rod holders) and make up the cage.

I'll also take some light line (parachute cord) and tie the top beam down to the rail. All lines run top to bottom, nothing horizontally, so there is NOTHING to stop the shdding of rain, ice, and snow.

Works great! Cost me but < $50 to make and has lasted 4 years now. This will be my first year buying a new tarp ($60) only because we had a rough winter last year and I got some wear points, but the cover did NOT fail. I will now buy some pipe insulation to protect the main wear points and will put a 6" section every few feet on the main beam.

To clarify my graphic below, when holding up the main beam, 2 T-fittings are used, abutting each other, but only one top piece is used.

See if my "fittings" make sense ... just watch your fingers when cutting them out. It would slick ... they wrap around the SS rail and the main beam, with duct tape holding the fittings in place. If I need to tie a fitting in place left-to-right, I'll use light cord. You can use duct tape, but I usually don't duct-tape directly to the rail, or you WILL need gasoline next Spring to clean the SS rail.


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Also ... look at the 5th post in this thread linked to follow. This is a good friend of mine and he basicially copied my idea and modified it to fit his CC, click here

Note he uses wood for the top beam. I like the PVC pipe and "saddle" idea formed by the 2 T-fittings, one coming up from each side. Wrap tight with duct tape strips torn in half, secure one-side with a ziptie as insurance ... and presto ... you're done!
Wow. He did a great job. Nice and simple.

Does 1-1/4" PVC bend easily like that or did he heat it up first?

Wait a minute, he just uses those ratcheting straps to bend them like that and hold them in place all winter?
96TL":2jal9clo said:
Dale, how are you getting 1" PVC lenghts into 1.25" fittings?
Sorry, put it in the sketch, but didn't make it clear. The "T" fits 1" on the single T-end and 1.25" on the others.
I use the typical wood and tarp setup though the PVC is a good setup and I've seen guys get away with bent strapping supported from a center stronger board.

I put three boards from the hardtop down to the transom, some boards across the bow rails and one down the front to the pulpit. I make some rectangular ones up top on the hardtop to protect antennas and such and the launcher.

Doesn't really matter though as everyone will do it differently. I'm on my fourth year of a tarp. I tie some down with twine and spikes you buy for tents, and some bungie cords to various spots on the trailer. I don't have a photo of everything, just it covered. I store the wood along the back of a shed on hangers.



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Here is my version of the traditional wood ridge-pole-tarp-wrap which includes two distinct features that reflect the long cold New England winters; A High ridge (steep slope to shed snow) and a two-line rubrail-seal (to keep out critters). :shock:

This is the minimalist approach, "barebones". Low cost and simple. The support structure is made of 5 pieces of dimensional lumber; three vertical supports of 1X6, and two horizontal 1X6 ridge beams. They are bolted together with carriage bolts (wing nuts for quick assembly no tools required). Each gunnel has a 2X4 attached to fasten and tension the nylon spreader-lines.


There is rubber padding at the obvious chafing points and a neoprene pipe insulation sleeve along the entire top of the ridge line to prevent tarp wearing.


Spreader lines are evenly spaced to support the tarp and prevent snow buildup.


I put a dual-line cinch-rope around the entire rub-rail, one line above the rubrail, one line just below it. This uses the rubrail itself to form a critter-tight "tupperware" seal. Small nylon twine loops spaced every couple feet keep the two cinch-lines from separating.


The tarp is a heavy duty (Harbor Freight) 28X40 1000 denier nylon thread 11 mil tarp that completely covers the top/sides/underbelly and is twisted to form a "trunk" in the bow to complete the seal. The underbelly is sealed by lacing the grommets together under the keel with nylon twine.


In spite of all the effort to keep the cover tight, the New England Wind can still billow in under the tarp and "puff" her up. Several complete circumferential lines are needed to keep the tarp from "puffing-off" the rubrail seal.


I spent less than $100 on lumber, $60 on the tarp (used three seasons so far), and a few hours to put it together. The only tough part of the installation is "flying" the tarp up on top. This takes a few hands and is best not done on a windy fall day. 8)

So that's it. Usually all wrapped up by Thanksgiving. Unwrapped on St. Patricks Day.

So cool your silver tarp method with the wood framing. Like you, I make sure to orient all lines under the tarp from top to bottom to shed ice. Looks great!
DaleH":3m2epwo4 said:
I make sure to orient all lines under the tarp from top to bottom to shed ice.

This is my biggest fear. With the inevitable New England winter ice storms and all the icicle-missles and broken branches dropping from trees, I figure it's just a matter of time before I get whacked by a big one that rips the tarp. I figure the steeper I keep the cover, the better off I am. :lol:

I guess I either need to find an open field, cut some trees,, or move South. :p
Here is the back view showing sloped cockpit from cabintop where you can see a couple of orange stakes in the ground.

Can also see some duct tape repairs. Also shows my shorepower connection.

Some of the tarp damage was from a worse setup a few years ago. I flip the front to the back every other year.

Like others mentioned, if you do go with a tarp, use an oversized one since anything you add to the height will make it not hang down enough and increase the chance of wind gettting under it.



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Thanks for the pics guys. It really helped me out. I plan on getting this done Saturday. I'll post pics.

for fifteen seasons i have used the RIDGEPOLE approach with quite fine
results.....i took 2x4x16 and scarfed about 3` to join them using west
epoxy and bolts.....this is held about 16" above the cabin top (this is
necessary to both create sharply angled sides to shed snow and water
quickly and surely AND to create storage area or antennae, fenders, etc)
.......the ridgepole is supported by THREE braces

[1] at the transom, a 2x4 runs flat across the transom washboard and
is held at both ends by u-bolts to the stern cleats.....it has carpet under
it all across and bends slightly when the u-bolts are cranked down.....
it has a triangle of 2x4 upon it, both west epoxied and 4" screwed up
from the base into the triangle side pieces...a galvanized piece is also
in place via the home construction industry for extra strength......at
the apex of the triangle, the two side 2x4 are mitered and then rein
forced with a triangular piece of 1/2" ply on each side and then west
epoxied and screwed tight........this creates tremendous rigidity with
the force going all downward......at the very apex, i cut a slot 2 wide
and 4" deep....the ridgepole drops into that slot....a block of 2x4 on
both sides of the ridgepole in front of and behind the a-frame slot
keeps the ridgepole from migrating fore or aft.

[2] in the bow, a smaller but otherwise identical a-frame is set across
the foredeck with attachment via my bow cleats.......again, carpet is
under the wood which makes it both snug once in place and protects
the gelcoat.

[3] on the cabin roof, there is a short block of three 2x4 standing on
a base of 1'x1' x1/2" ply with the center piece 4 inches lower than
the other two to accept the ridgepole, as with the end supports.....

thus, the 2x4 ridgepole is held at the ends and in the center by a slot
it drops into snugly.........the cheek blocks on the ridgepole make it that
neither end can move independently of the other.....finally, both the ends
have a bow eye thru bolted just below the apex with lines leading to the
midship cleats....these have tent-tighteners on them and are brought up
quite taut........neither end can fall away because of the taut lines attached, and neither can move inward because of the four cheek blocks
immediately inboard of each a-frame.....the result is quite rigid.

i use a 40x20 heavy plastic tarp and hold it down with gallon bottles
of (dumpster origin) pink engine winterizing fluid half full with water.....
these are zip tied to grommets at about 2-3` intervals all around the
cover.....before the cover is dropped over, the entire ridgepole is wrapped with carpet using duct tape each foot......the tarp, then, is NOT
help firmly, but can "pant" freely, even "bounce" at times with wind gusts
.......all corners are padded with double thickness of carpet held into place
with zipties to the boat.......lastly, the front end is closed with heavy spring clamps except for a 5 gallon pail at the the top of the front and
held to the underside of the ridgepole........this guarantees flow thru the
cover...the aft is closed except for a 2`x3` opening for flow in the center
.......oh, i always buy BLACK covers ( i am on a new, third cover going
into winter #15) because any amount of sun will heat it and the sleet and
snow will melt and SLIDE OFF readily down the steep sides....my boat will
be free of any/all pooling of water, sleet buildup or snow accumulation
while light colored covers have packed stuff 4-6" thick for weeks......the
interior is also more comfortable, as the black will heat up noticeably with
even modest sunshine......

i use a catalytic heater (origo) out in the cockpit and a ceramic heater
in the cabin full time when i am on the boat for a winter weekend.....it
will be toasty warm, ie work in a tee shirt.........i use both a worklight for
small spaces and a flood light for the whole cockpit......these also produce
warmth as well as a bright, cheerful interior to work in......i look forward
to weekends aboard; they are QUIET and very productive......i am free to
look at every screw, bolt, wire, item aboard with a calm, unhurried look
that is impossible during the season.......I FIND THINGS GOING WRONG..
loosening, corroding, chafing, fracturing; by the end of the winter i will
have found and fixed several things trying to go wrong.....i have to tell
you, i really get off when i find something going south and straighten it
up (or usually, upgrade it to prevent whatever happened from ever
happening again!)........

it is restful and highly productive time for me......the other key,
besides time to just stare at things for a while, is that you can disassemble things and rebuild them...if parts take three weeks to
arrive, or you find you have to send the whole thing to a service center,
no problem......during the season, this would be a disaster.....oh, and
the service people are far nicer and more cooperative in the dead of
winter than in april and may!........that is when everybody wants every
thing DONE NOW.......naaahhtt.....

i see winter as an integral part of a full year of boat ownership.......
far from neglected, one`s boat gets sorely needed attention and mainten
ence simply unavailable during the season.......but the HIGH RIDGEPOLE
and the ample lighting and heating are the key features to permit this
to take place.......lastly, i will state that i am firmly OPPOSED TO HEAT
SHRINK.......it doesnt allow the ROOM one needs to work and be comfort
able, it`s white color holds sleet/snow in large (heavy!) amounts, it does
not provide good VENTILATION, and it is environmentally a (landfill) very
negative practice.......in short , it does a poorer job ( working space and
ventilation) than a rigdepole approach, and it COSTS MORE......

the ultimate goal of the cover (and of the winter, in general) is to
have your boat READY.....i take great pride in being the first in the water
in the spring with a boat that has been checked over and is in the best
shape it can be in......this means more on-water time AND, with some
luck, no breakdowns, failures, or other glitches in your entire boating

in sum, the success of a boating season STARTS in december!....i grew
up just south of ucla, in the heyday of john wooden.......he had a tv show
each week with game films from the preceding week which he analyzed
and showed practice time too......his motto was short and sweet: failing
to prepare is preparing to fail.........to bring his state of mind to boat
covers, i cant see how shrinkwrap allows for preparation; in sharp contrast, the high ridgepole, "floating" black cover, ample lighting and
heating all permit and enable full winter PREPARATIONS.......

P.S. my project today is to go thru all my gps waypoints for accuracy,
as well as purging ones not used and adding some new one that will
be helpful......with the portable (magellan 5000d) gps, this is a job for
a miserable winter day outside while you sit by the fire under a comforter
with hot chocalate......when april 1st comes, and i head out, i want that
gps loaded and RIGHT....oh, and i am spooling new ande classic onto my
FWIW here's some photos of my tarp frame details using PVC pipe:






Ok, just returned from Solomons to cover the boat. Used one 20' x 40' tarp and bungies this year. Took 14 milk jugs with sand in them, but in the end, didn't use them because of the versatility of the bungie cord.

Here are the pics.


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