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Completed new winter cover for my keelboat

Covering the Tanzer 22 for the Winter using PVC Conduit and a tarp.

I finally have a day to go and cover my poor neglected boat. The weather has been terrible, between the winds and torrential rains brought in by Sandy I have not had the chance to cover the boat yet.

pvc framework facing bow

I chose to make a framework for my boat cover using pvc rigid electrical conduit.

Even though it is called rigid the pvc conduit is actually quite bendy. It has one end that is enlarged and sections can be fitted together and glued.

I chose a pipe framework rather than a lumber frame for the boat cover because one of the members in my club had the experience of being in a strong wind storm. His boat was covered with pvc/tarp while his neighbours had more rigid lumber frame for his tarp. Both frames were attached to the boat. After the storm the rigid lumber frame had transferred stress to the boat and had damaged the guardrails where the frame was attached. The floppier plastic pipes had absorbed the stress better and the boat had not been damaged. This made sense to me.

The Materials, PVC pipe, zip ties, a polytarp and some tape.

I went to my local hardware store and bought 16 ten feet length of 1/2 inch rigid pvc conduit. They were slightly more expensive than in the big box stores, but I like having a good hardware store in my hood so I did not mind supporting a local supplier.

I got a can of pvc glue to cement the sections together.

The dollar store had 7 1/2 inch zip ties and black tape.

I had lots of little lengths of rope I had salvaged from my previous boat cover. The tarp itself had worn through last spring after the winter. Last year I placed a tarp over the mast and this worked quite well but I had to come and shake the snow off the cover several times. The tarp also rubbed and frayed against the mast and against the guard rails.

PVC pipe is easy to cut with a hacksaw. I had a pair of scissors, some snips to cut the zip ties and a measuring tape.

I also have a polytarp left over from replacing the house roof. I hope it's large enough.

pvc framework on tanzer facing the stern

I started putting together the frame. I checked that the height of each arch was even using a pipe. If it was too high I cut a bit off the hoop and tried again. I used zip ties to position the hoops against the guard rails.

pvc framework detail

I first attached the pipe using the zip ties. When I was happy with the size and position, I taped the pipe to the rails. I used foam sheet to protect the boat. I hate having to scrape sticky tape glue off the boat.

In the spring I'm hoping to cut the tape and the zip ties and store the frame after marking the different sections. This is where the photos will come in handy.

pvc framework facing bow

Next winter, if this boat cover works out, I will only have to re-assemble it. No measuring or cutting will be necessary. I expect I will have to replace the tarp though.

View facing the front. I extended the pipe about a foot beyond the pulpit. The pipes are attached only with zip ties to fit everything together.

The arches are positioned on the outside of the guard rail to make a smooth dome. Last year the tarp had chafed and worn off the top of the rail posts. This should not happen this year as there is nothing to chafe against.

pvc arches are in place

The arches are in place and I've put in the first long horizontal piece. View looking back. Its cold and windy and getting very dark and menacing.

3 horizontal pipes are tacked on using zip ties

The 3 rows of horizontal pieces are in place. I've started to tape everything securely. I'm not sure it would really be necessary to tape as much as I'm doing but I'm hoping everything stays in position better this way. At this point the framework feels solid but can move. I added the 2 extra horizontal pieces because snow can really accumulate and I'm hoping this will help prevent this.

tarp being unfolded on pvc framework facing bow

I added a couple of supports to the deck, I had the extra pieces of pipe. I taped the pipe at the top and attached the base to the horn cleat at the bow and at the mast plate.

I had this huge tarp left over from house roof repairs. The polytarp is about 30 feet long and 20 wide. It will be a good size I think. I draped it on the framework and gradually spread it. I had to work quickly because there was some wind and such a large tarp is hard to control. I went down and quickly tied the boat cover in a few spots so it would stop billowing. This settled things down and I was able to finish spreading the tarp at my leisure. Not so leisurely really because it was getting dark and quite cold.

2 vertical supports are taped at the top and zipped at the base.

Better view of the supports, facing bow. I added a couple of lines from the support to help keep the covering tight and keep the snow off.

Tarp is in position and I've started tying it down.

tarp is in place

It feels much cosier already out of the wind, and the light is very soft and white. The whole cover moves and will shed snow easily I think.

tying the tarp and fitting the front of the tarp

I'm working against the clock, the sun is setting and the light is fading fast.

I've cut the tarp at the front so I can fit it around the bow and tied it as well as I could. I'm trying to sort out the stern. I want to be able to get in and out from the starboard side. I have some work to do on the boat this winter.

photo of boat cover in the dark.

It's totally dark and I can't see enough to work. I tie the back as best I can in the almost total darkness and call it a day. The boat is now covered. The camera flash makes the cover seem really transparent but it is more white than transparent.

It also makes the cover seem really wrinkly but it is not so bad, at least on the sides and front. I'm happy with the set up and I think it will work well. Next time I come I will retie a few lines and fix the back so I can open it and get in easily.

Altogether the frame has cost 75. dollars. Add to that the cost of the tarp. I'm hoping that the frame will be usable for several years. I'm sure the tarp will be worn out by spring. I went to the club the next day and took a photo from higher up. Its at the top of the page. It looks good, at least to my eyes!

How well did the cover work. Well!! Here are a couple of photos and a report on this boat cover.

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I try to be accurate and check my information, but mistakes happen.

email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine