Recently a reader who had just paid big dollars to have his boat completely painted with Awlgrip contacted me with a really good question that I have to share with all of our readers.
"I just had my boat re-painted with Awlgrip and have been getting different stories from my dock mates about how to deal with the paint when covering my boat for the winter. I was planning to have it shrink wrapped by the marina. Is there anything I need to look out for or tell them to be careful of?"
Yes. This is a fairly common question and the answer is pretty simple. Awlgrip specifically recommends that their topcoat paint systems be ventilated to allow the paint to breath. Any boat cover, whether plastic heat shrink or fabric should not be pulled tight against the surface of the paint or installed in such a way that water might get trapped between the cover and the paint. The trapped moisture can cause loss of gloss on the finish, possible paint blistering or total delamination of the paint to the fiberglass surface.
The trick is how to do this effectively. The most effective way I’ve seen to do this is shown in this photo, where the shrink wrap stops right at the deck line and is pulled tight to the toe railing on the boat. A less-than-perfect alternative is to use some foam blocks every 10 or 12 inches around the perimeter to keep the wrap elevated above the surface of the paint. The trouble with that approach is that water can get trapped under the foam blocks and water-stain the paint, so it's not as good a choice, in my opinion.
In this second photo, you can see a shrink wrapped boat that has not been painted and is still running with its original gel coat surface. Wrapping this way is OK for gel-coated surfaces... but not for an Awlgripped surface. [Editor's Note: For more, read "The Right Way to Shrink Wrap a Boat."