By Billy McCue – Aqua Marine Waterfront Products
While no one can deny the fact that boat lifts offer waterfront homeowners numerous conveniences, “protecting my investment” continues to remain the number one reason boaters invest in these aftermarket additions. After all, keeping your most prized possession above tidal fluctuations and well out of harms reach from abuse by wind, waves, marine growth, and corrosion from harsh saltwater contaminants is critical to the longevity and well being of our vessels.
Much like the rest of the marine industry, the last decade has yielded a plethora of innovation to the boat lift market with more yet to come. Options now exist to suit nearly every dock configuration, tidal range and type of craft. While there are a wide range of manufacturers and styles available, if you do your homework you will certainly find the proper boat lift for your particular application.
For waterfront homeowners, it’s obvious that storing your boat on a lift offers a huge convenience factor. For starters you can forget about crowded mornings at the launch ramp as well as the numerous headaches that go along with maintaining a trailer. And while tying up is nice, lifting your boat high and dry when not in use is even nicer! Not only do boat lifts add enjoyment to your overall boating experience, increase the value of your home and help maintain the value of your boat, boat lifts offer anglers the ability to inspect their vessel with great detail, whether it’s for a safety check, routine maintenance or thorough cleaning. The ability to reach all sides of the hull and visually inspect thru-hull fittings, transducers, trim-tabs and props are all a real possibility. While the boat lift you select will be largely dependent on the weight of your craft, all boat lifts make routine maintenance and docking a breeze.
Keeping in mind that manufacturers categorize their products by weight capacity, other important considerations include depth of water at the dock, length of your vessel, and type of hull (deep-V/catamaran) and propulsion (inboard/outboard). It’s also important to remember that the dry weight listed for your boat is not completely accurate.
You must compensate for fuel, water, tackle and gear. Vessels powered with outboard engines do not include the engine(s) weight in the overall displacement either, so that, too, must be factored in. While purchasing a boat lift may sometimes seem like a hefty investment, in reality they actually pay for themselves over time. Go ahead and calculate what it costs to haul-out your boat annually to apply expensive anti-fouling coatings, or the routine maintenance required to keep your trailer functional. It’s an industry fact that applying bottom paint automatically reduces the resale value of your boat by as much as 10-percent. The bottom line is that boat lifts are relatively maintenance free and make your boating and fishing experiences much more enjoyable.
When it’s time to make a final purchasing decision, the congested market of manufacturers will likely overwhelm you. Remember this – there are a few basic types of boat lifts you should consider; standard four point lifts, elevator lifts and custom lifts.
Four point lifts are exactly that. These workhorses provide support on all four sides by way of stainless steel cables running through pulleys on the four corners of the cradle. Four post lifts out-sell all other lifts combined due to the fact they are less expensive and easier to maintain and install. These lifts can be deigned to work with small to medium size boats, as well as larger craft over the 40-foot range.
Elevator style lifts are another popular option and are ideal for use in narrow canals, as they don’t take up too much space and easily allow other boats to pass by. Elevator lifts are specially designed for use where installation with multiple pilings isn’t an option. These lifts are typically mounted directly to the seawall. The only drawback to an elevator lift is a higher price tag than four post lifts.
The final option for homeowners fortunate enough to have a boathouse is the installation of a custom lift, which is nether a four point lift or an elevator lift. Boathouse lifts are popular along the Panhandle and Gulf Coast and are custom designed for each application with supporting rafters and cables that actually lift and support the vessel from above. As a side note, if you are considering building a boathouse, it is important you contact your intended boat lift dealer first to ensure a seamless installation.
For convenient operation most boatlifts are operated by an electrical connection, however a few manufacturers are starting to integrate technologically advanced solar powered options. Once you’ve decided what type of lift will be the best choice for your particular application, now you’ll have to select your options including: aluminum bunk boards, remote controls, higher RPM motors to lift faster, bunk risers for boats with a deep-V hull, anti-theft devices, and whether you want the standard tried-and-true belt drive or a hi-tech gear driven system.
If you’ve done your research and intend on making an online purchase in the hopes of saving a few bucks, be sure the company you’ve selected has verified contact information including a physical mailing address. Should you encounter any problems you want a retailer that you can easily contact. It’s also important that their policies and warranty information are clearly stated and not hidden in fine print. This is where selecting a product from a reputable party comes into play. Golden Boat Lifts stands out as one such company with a reputation that speaks for itself.
Purchasing a boat lift is only one step in the process. Once you’ve decided what’s best for you, you will be faced with the task of selecting and hiring a marine contractor capable of a professional installation. Installing a boat lift is not rocket science, but I have yet to see a “self-installed” lift that compares to the quality of a factory trained contractor installed lift. Never be afraid to ask questions and if the distributor or contractor cannot address your concerns, it might be time to look elsewhere. The most important rule of all is to do your homework. Select a marine contractor with a proven track record and years of boat lift installation experience. This point cannot be stressed enough; an installer that is licensed and insured is critical. References are a benefit as well, and don’t be afraid to ask for brochures, a website address and warranty information.
Another way to ensure you’re considering a reputable contractor is to ask questions about the DEP (Department of Environmental Conservation) and the Army Corps of Engineers. The contractor should be fully up to speed with all regulatory requirements. The permit process is your next hurdle. Even though states do differ, here in Florida no permit is required for a lift that is being installed within the docks original footprint. Piling installation is another matter altogether and usually needs to be permitted. It is better to be safe than sorry, so a quick call to the proper agencies will clear things up. A reputable contractor should take care of all this for you for a small fee and trust me; it’s well worth it.
All in all, boat lifts are extremely valuable. They only account for a small percentage of your overall boating expenses, yet they greatly reduce maintenance while simultaneously increasing safety and the value of your property. According to BoatU.S. insurance claims, for every boat that sinks while making way, four boats sink at the dock. In addition, approximately 50-percent of dockside incidents are the result of failed underwater fittings. If it’s a possibility, stop worrying about the well being of your boat and install a boat lift this season. You’ll be glad you did.