Home | How-To Shrink Wrap | How to Shrink Wrap a Sailboat

How to Shrink Wrap a Sailboat


Note: Standard boat shrink wrap does not contain any flame retardant compounds. It is possible for the shrink wrap to burn. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby at all times. If desired, you can order Flame retardant shrink wrap. When covering a sailing vessel, mast down, the following steps must be followed.


Shrink wrapping a sailboat with the mast down uses many of the same principles explained on the shrink wrap video. Before beginning the shrink wrap covering process, please view the video at least twice to familiarize yourself with all steps.
  1. Run strapping fore and aft on the boat from the highest point on the bow (pulpit) to the highest point on the stern (stern rails). Tighten this strap with a buckle by using the included buckle installation instructions.
  2. Once the strap is tightened you may begin measuring the 2” X 4” wooden uprights that will form your support structure. These wooden uprights are forced under the fore and aft strapping and will give the shrink wrap cover the necessary pitch to allow snow and rain to run off. One upright will be needed in the cockpit and then every 5’-6’ until the bow is reached. If possible the upright should be lined up between stanchions so a woven cord strap can be run laterally from the top of the stanchion across the top of the upright to the top of the opposing stanchion (this strap will give additional support to the cover and also help keep your upright from falling down). The height of the uprights will vary with different boats, but when complete, the center strap must be at least 18 inches higher than the top of the stanchions. Again, this will give the shrink wrap cover enough slope to allow snow and rain to run off.
  3. Now, staple the strapping onto the top of the upright where it crosses the fore and aft strap (An Arrow T-50 stapler works great). Pad the tops of the uprights as shown on the shrink wrap training video.
  4. Once this is completed the rest of the covering process can be done by following the steps on the shrink wrap training video.

Covering a sailboat mast up can seem like a very daunting proposition at first, but it takes only a couple of more steps than shrink wrapping a mast down boat. Follow the directions below and watching the shrink wrap training video at least twice will minimize any problems.
  1. Install your strapping fore and aft on the boat from the highest points at the bow and stern. The strapping will be tied around the mast from the stern, and then around the mast from the bow (if the boom is left on it can become part of the support structure aft of the mast, but you must put a 2” X 4” upright under the rear of the boom to give it strength). Pull the strapping tight as you normally would, measure and install your wooden uprights as on a mast down boat, put your lateral straps over the wooden uprights, or boom, and pad them.
  2. Install the perimeter band following directions on the shrink wrap training video.
  3. Go aboard the boat with a 25’ tape measure. Measure from the mast, back to the farthest point aft (top of the stern rail). To this figure, add 2 feet which will be forward of the mast, and 4 feet that will drape over the stern (a total of 6 extra feet).
  4. Now measure from the mast forward (top of the bow rail or pulpit). To this figure add on 2 feet which will extend aft of the mast, and 4 feet that will drape over the bow (a total of 6 extra feet).
  5. Next, cut your roll of shrink wrap the measurement length from the mast back. Roll it up and take it onto the boat. Lay the roll on your support structure or boom and open it enough to measure and find the center of the shrink wrap. Make a 2’ lengthwise slit in the shrink wrap at the center of the material. This slit area will be wrapped around the mast to form a collar. Once you have a collar formed, take a roll of shrink wrap tape and go around the collar twice very tightly (do not tape the shrink wrap directly to the mast as there might be an adhesive residue in the spring).
  6. Unroll the aft section of shrink wrap towards the stern (do not unfold its entire width yet, as the wind might catch it). Go aft as far as possible, until you run into the aft stays. Now you can unfold the shrink wrap and have it lay as straight fore and aft, and side to side, as possible. Using your shrink wrap knife, make slits in the shrink wrap up to the stays and halyards. They should be neat. Use strips of shrink wrap tape to seal them (press the tape down firmly to remove all air bubbles).
  7. Trim and tuck the shrink wrap under the perimeter band on the boat so that wind doesn’t catch it.
  8. Now the shrink wrap piece at the bow can be attached. It is done in a similar fashion as the aft piece. Put the measured piece of shrink wrap just forward of the mast, find the center of the shrink wrap, slice into it 2 feet, make a collar around the mast and tightly tape around it. Unroll the shrink wrap towards the bow up to the forestay. Slice the shrink wrap to the forestay and roll it over the bow. Tape the slit together and unfold the shrink wrap.
  9. Run a strip of tape from the mast down to each side of the shrink wrap where the forward and aft pieces meet. Use the Shrink wrap heat gun to warm the adhesives in the tape and actually heat weld the pieces of shrink wrap together.
  10. Trim and tuck the forward piece under the perimeter band. Complete the shrink wrap job as shown on the shrink wrap video. Remember to do a complete “Hole Patrol” on the shrink wrap cover when you are done shrink wrapping, and also install enough shrink wrap vents to give you cross-flow ventilation throughout the entire boat.