For many putting boat away for the winter means shrink wrapping the boat to protect it from the elements until the next season. Shrink wrapping if you have never seen it done is a process whereby the boat, usually the super structure is enclosed in a thick plastic which is heated with a special propane torch to 'shrink' it to fit so that it is tight and cannot become detached from the boat during the off season, a bit like a pack of pork chops that you buy in the supermarket
Unfortunately there are some boat owners who simply take their boats out of the water prop them up in the yard and shrink wrap them and leave it at that. This is a mistake as shrink wrapping should be seen as the final part of the winter layup process and not an end in itself. Basically the boat should be decommissioned properly for the winter and this includes winterizing the engine, removing all the soft furnishings,draining the water system, removing the batteries and so forth, all the things that you would do anytime the boat will be laid up for an extended period. One of the most important things is to make sure that the inside of the boat is as dry as possible before it is shrink wrapped. This is a very important step and often overlooked; covering the boat with plastic basically creates a green house environment which even on the coldest day when the mid west when the sun is out will cause any moisture in the boat to turn to vapor. As the temperature drops at night that same vapor then condenses on the inside of the shrink wrapping where it will drip back onto the boat and everything in and on it. Ensuring the boat is as dry as you can make it before it is wrapped will go far to mitigate this problem but the best advice that I can give anyone who wraps their boat each winter is to instal some sort of ventilation. Boats like to breathe and any good shrink wrapper should be able to install vents for a modest extra cost. These run the gamut of slits covered with flaps to stop the rain and snow from getting in to hard plastic affairs with small solar powered fans. In fact the solar powered fans are my favorite and I like to see at least two in the cover one designed to pull air in and and another at the opposite end of the boat to duct air out. This ensures a good through put of air which will keep the boat smelling fresh, will discourage mold and will stop the sweating that happens on the insides of a wrapped cover without vents.
Most shrink wrapping firms wrap boat down to the water line but this is unnecessary and in many cases does more harm than good. Dirt and moisture can become trapped especially around the lower edge and this can mar the finish and if the boat is painted with awlgrip or other similar paint trapped moisture will lift the finish from the hull. It is far better to stop the shrink wrap just below the rub rail, this will prevent these problems from occurring. Shrink wrap is tough stuff but not indestructible, sharp corners such as tops of stanchions, antenna mounts, lights and such like can puncture the plastic. This problem can be avoided by wrapping such problem areas with pieces of closed cell foam or other material that will not absorb and retain moisture. Bear in mind also that if the boat is large some sort of temporary wood frame is often needed to prevent the wrapping from sagging under the weight of snow and wind.
Finding a reliable contractor to shrink wrap your boat is important, after all any boat represents a serious investment. It may be that the yard that your store your boat at may have a preferred contractor or they may do the work themselves at lay up time. Talk to other boat owners and try to have a look at boats that have already been shrunk wrapped. Shrink wrapping also involves some risk as the main tool of the trade involves a pretty serious amount of heat from a torch so make sure that whomever is working on your boat carries adequate insurance. It is also possible to shrink wrap your own boat as it is possible to buy all the supplies either on line or from a retailer in your area. The expensive item is the previously mentioned blow torch but it is possible to forgo this as buying this is not cost effective for just one boat and use a paint stripping hot air gun. Having gone down this route myself I can tell you that it is slower than using the proper torch but it does work providing you are careful. There is plenty of information online about how apply the shrink wrap but the one bit of advice I will offer which I only found out at a later date is to start at the bottom and work your way up this ensures that the wrap is tight around the rub rail and is held securely in position.