Boat lifts come in many shapes and sizes. Each type has a different purpose with pros and cons about them. The important thing is to choose the best design for you and then customize it to make it as user friendly as your budget allows. Before deciding on a boat lift it is important that you gather some useful information about your boat. Find out how much your boat weighs. It is important when researching this to make sure the weight includes the motor (especially on outboards) and the maximum amount of fuel and water it will store.
This will give you a base amount. You should add some extra weight in for accessories that you might add to your boat and also all the ‘stuff’ that you store in it. From here you can, at minimum choose the boat lift capacity that will handle your capacity. We usually recommend to our clients to strongly consider going one capacity greater. If you decide to upgrade your boat in the future it is a lot less expensive to do it now than later.
One thing to keep in mind about the lift is how high it can possibly lift the boat. The reason you would want to lift the boat higher than 'just out of the water' is that in the event of a storm tide you do not want the boat to float off the lift when you are focusing on more important things like the safety and security of your house and family. All lifts have limitations on how high you can lift your boat, but some are lower than others just by design.
Styles of Boat Lifts
4 and 8 post top beam lifts
These lifts are the best structural design for a boat lift. The top beams sit on the pilings and have a mostly downward load directly on the pilings. The top beam also connects the two pilings to each other so they give more support. The cradle structure supports the vessel from below with the weight distributed to all four corners of the lift. It is important to load the boat properly to try to achieve equal weight distribution. If not, you can cause different kinds of problems. We have seen pilings sink, gear boxes break, cables break, and other sorts of failures.
They lift the boat from below using either an aluminum cradle system or with straps when the water is shallow.
When using straps it is referred to as strap lift. A strap lift has advantages and disadvantages. Getting your boat into the correct position when the lift is down is a little tricky but can be mastered fairly quickly. We install cross bracing beams at the top of the lift. The top of the boat must clear these bars. Some boat designs are difficult to accommodate this style. Also, the bottom of the cables are usually about 12"-18" above the gunwale. This limits how high the boat can come out of the water. The cables on a standard cradle lift are below the bottom of the keel of the boat.
These lift work much like a top beam lift except they do not have a top beam. The main reason to have a lift like this is to not look at the top beams - you can see the clean lines of your boat much more clearly - and also to allow better access between the cable drop because a top beam is not in the way, though Ram Marine's standard installation when allowed is to mount the beams high enough to not get in the way of getting on and off the boat from the midship.
These lifts have an added advantage of having a motor and drive at each corner of the lift. Therefore it makes it very user friendly to adjust how the boat sits port-to-starboard and bow-to-stern. This lift requires a remote control unit so that all 4 motors are operating at the same time.
A disadvantage of this lift is that the manufacture recommends the piling height not extend too far above the deck height. This limits the ability to lift the boat higher.
Elevator Boat Lifts
The elevator lift is a cantilevered lift that has no outside structure. These lifts are preferred when the width of the waterway is narrow.
The advantage of these lifts is that the boat is the most waterward portion of the structure. Therefore, when the width of the waterway becomes an issue you do not have to worry about an outside set of pilings that protrude further out than the boat.
The disadvantage of these lifts is that it requires the metal tracks of the structure to be left in the water at all times. Therefore it will get barnacle and other crustacean growth. This will need to be cleaned periodically. If you leave for the summer and return in the winter they will be very crudded up with growth and it will be difficult to lower the boat down. Another disadvantage of the metal being in the water all the time is that electrolysis will happen if it isn't properly protected. It is very important that the user follows the proper procedures to ensure that no connection between the lift and any wires exists when the lift is not in use. The best two ways to create this situation is to have plugs or a 4-way disconnect.
Davits are cantilevered lifts like an elevator lift. But instead of lifting the boat from below with cradle arms they lift the boat from above. They are used in areas where either the waterway width is narrow or where the vessel owner wants to swing their boat over the shore or dock. This is the type of device used when lowering lifeboats from a large ship. We use davits when the waterway width is so restrictive that even elevator lifts won't work.
These are used almost as a last resort for lifting a boat. You must make sure your boat has the capacity to be lifted from above. You cannot assume that the eye or cleat at the bow of the boat or the rings behind your transom are designed for lifting the boat.
Davits are a bit cumbersome to use but are better than not having any lift at all.
Personal Watercraft Lifts
Personal Watercraft and small light boats can be kept out of the water through two types of methods. One type lifts the vessel out of the water on a cantilevered arm. This brings the vessel up high out of the water. These lifts can also sometimes be rotated over the dock so that you can have better access for cleaning and working on the vessel.
The other type is a float-on where you run the boat onto the floating lift. It will rise up and down with the tide.
Boathouse lifts can be installed during the original construction of a boathouse or can be modified to be added to the structure afterwards. These work just like a four post lift but are unique in that they have another structure on top of them. It is important to keep in mind that you don't want to lift the boat too high and crash it through the roof.
DECO Boat Lifts
We are a dealer for Deco Boat Lift. We put a lot of thought and consideration into the decision to carry their line of products. We interviewed many boat lift manufacturers who wanted us to be their dealer. We looked at the different features, accessories, structural strength, and level of service and they easily stood out among their competition. We know you will be as impressed with their product line as we are.
After figuring out the best style and model of boat lift that works for you, you should review the different accessories and determine if their purpose would add the needed value to your boat lift.
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