How to Cover and Protect Your Boat with a Tarp

May 24th 2022

With heavy-duty tarps for boats from Canopies and Tarps, you can keep your watercraft seaworthy season after season. Learn how to cover a boat with a tarp for inexpensive, reliable protection from the elements.

You already know how expensive boats can get. Even a simple watercraft such as a canoe or kayak can carry surprising extra costs. Maybe you have a bigger boat that requires storage on a trailer. Or maybe you have an even bigger boat that requires docking.

In all those cases, it's important to protect your boat for handling the elements when it's not in use, and the best way to do that is with a waterproof boat cover. While it's possible to get custom tarps for boats, they will set you back more than a few dollars, and that extra cost may not be worth it - we've seen a lot of custom covers that sacrifice quality for appearance.

One of the best ways to tarp a boat is with a heavy-duty, waterproof tarp. If you're covering a boat for winter or any other period of prolonged non-use, then you'll want to make sure the boat's components are protected from prolonged exposure to the weather, whether it's extreme heat, rain or snow.

At Canopies and Tarps, we have plenty of heavy-duty tarps of all sizes and colors. This is how to make a boat cover from a tarp.:

Measure Twice, Order Once

Think in three dimensions when you take your measurements. A straight across measurement may not give you enough slack for proper securing. Take into account any protrusions, whether it's a canopy, windshield or outboard engine. Once you have that, add an extra foot to your estimate. As for color, most boat owners go with a shade of blue, but we'd recommend any color that's not black or very dark. You want to reflect sunlight, not absorb it.

Prepare to Pad

Back to those protrusions - are they sharp? If so, they may puncture the tarp once tension is applied. Make sure you can pad anything that has the potential to poke through. Use old T-shirts, towels, carpet remnants or rags, and fasten them with duct tape.

Strap on the Tarp

Stretch it out and lash it down tight enough to resist something you'll find in all forms of weather - wind. (Strong breezes and bodies of water go hand in hand.) There are several ways to do this - and most of them take advantage of the regularly spaced grommets you'll find on our  waterproof tarps. Here's two methods to consider:

  • If your boat is staying on the water, then prepare several gallon-size milk jugs by filling them with sand and attaching a piece of rope to the handle. On the other end of the rope, attach a hook or thread it through the grommet. The more anchors, the better. If you need to get into the boat while it's stored, just remove a couple of the anchors and slip underneath. (This method also works above ground.)
  • If you are keeping it on a trailer, then use bungee cords long enough to stretch all the way underneath the boat and on the opposite side.

Check for Pooling Possibilities

Once you're finished, look for places that might sag, and ensure that water can drain off the sides of the boat instead of collecting on the tarp. A large pool of collected water can cause stretching and tearing.

Let the Air In

The last thing to consider is a bit of ventilation at the sides. While you want a tight fit, you don't want it airtight, because that will lead to damaging mildew. Examine the sides and find a place to prop open small openings that aren't subject to allowing rain in.