Boat Lift Selection Made Simple

Martin Flory Group

The benefits of storing a vessel out of water are easy to grasp—a cleaner, faster and more fuel-efficient hull, with increased resale value—but with all the types and options available, selecting a boat lift can be challenging. Golden Boat Lifts provides simple tips to help first-time buyers and old pros alike choose the perfect lift.

The first thing to consider is the location. Will it be permanently mounted on a concrete seawall, floating dock, or steel or wooden pier with piles? Or, will it need to be removed when the water freezes? These, along with tide or river flowage, will determine the optimal style of lift. Local knowledge is priceless and a qualified installer will have insight into which variety will work best for the specific project.

Four and eight-post shafted beam boat lifts are the most common style and quite adaptable. The main selling features of this style are its robust simplicity and ability to hoist almost any size vessel. Even if piles aren’t present in the location, they can typically be installed, but permits may be required. This style of lift will accommodate a wide range of boat sizes and weights, even up to large 250,000 lb. motor yachts.

Elevator lifts are ideal for narrow areas and embankments where piles can’t be installed. They’re a bit like a fork lift and raise and lower from only one side. Because of their unique design, they can be built to accommodate up to a 14′ rise from sea level to vessel storage level, making them ideal for large seawalls.

New styles of lifts are continually being introduced. Deck lifts are one. The boat sits securely on bunks fastened to a large section of grated decking. It allows complete 360 degree access and makes getting on and off much easier. At the touch of a button, the entire deck submerges and the boat simply floats off.

For the boat owner who wants to take advantage of the benefits of using a boat lift, but move slips occasionally, a floating lift might be the answer. One common style has a hydraulic system that pulls foam-filled floats up under the vessel. Another uses bladders that are inflated, lifting the boat out of the water. While convenient and portable, both types are susceptible to float damage.

Freestanding hoist lifts can be removed from the water and stored over the winter. They’re an economical choice as many don’t have motors, and can be raised and lowered by hand.

The next consideration is the boat itself. Better lift manufacturers engineer their products to adapt to a wide variety of hull styles including inboards, outboards, pontoons, catamarans, PWC and sailboats. The installer will calculate a vessel’s complete weight, inclusive of fuel, water, provisions and stowed gear. Then, the lift is designed and built to fit the boat manufacturer’s recommended bunk placement.

The lift should be fully welded to avoid electrolysis-induced corrosion and weakened joints. It’s okay to use bolts for adjustable components, but the load-bearing structures should be as durable and long-lasting as possible. Look for references to high quality, such as 6061 T6 marine-grade aluminum and 300 series stainless steel. It’s not worth skimping on materials when it’s going to support a valuable investment.

The drive and cabling shouldn’t be overlooked either, since it’s what keeps the boat securely suspended. “Equipment that has the potential to break, like an inferior light-duty drive system, is downright dangerous,” notes Ken Felty, Golden Boat Lifts VP. “Something along the lines of our Sea-Drive not only provides peace-of-mind to the owner, but may outlast the boat itself.” These units come with a ten-year warranty, but in 18,000 manufactured, not one has ever failed.

Aesthetics may also factor in. Boat lifts are often in plain view from the house. Today’s lifts emphasize inconspicuous low-profile designs that blend into the surroundings. Many installers leverage this quality when they build an entire outdoor space that perfectly complements the boating lifestyle.

Some boat owners choose a local dock builder and let them make all the decisions. While there’s nothing wrong with that approach, many prefer to research and choose their own lift. Larger manufacturers have extensive networks of certified installers. They also have the resources to provide better warranties, parts and after-purchase service.

While it may take some time deciding on the perfect lift, it’s nothing compared to a day scrubbing a hull that’s left in the water. The reward of extra time boating is well worth the effort.

Contact Golden Boat Lifts, 17611 East St, North Fort Myers, FL 33917. 888-909-5438 or 239-337-4141. [email protected];