HOIST OR FLOAT?
Hoisting boats extends their life and often their resale price, and means you can forgo anti-fouling paint. However, if you plan to cruise with your boat for extended days or weeks, marine growth can take hold of an unpainted boat bottom in that period of time, and require expensive hauling and acid washing to restore its seaworthy efficiency. Bottom paint will dry out on a hoist, sealing in the ablative biocide. Sanding it to reactivate the biocide is a dirty job that requires protective gear, and sanding accelerates the paint’s ablation, further reducing its useful life.
In fresh water, algae can grow on the boat in a few days. With swim goggles and a brush, you can usually get it off with little effort. Allow it to grow for more than a couple of weeks and it calcifies, requiring a pressure washer and chemicals to remove it. In some parts of the Florida Keys, I’ve known people to leave their boats in for a few weeks without significant marine growth. However, in a brackish area like Punta Gorda, just three summer days will sprout seed barnacles that require an acidic hull cleaner and a brush to remove.
The bottom line is, however you store your boat, be consistent with the process for the good of your bottom. For long-term cruising, hoisting your boat may not be the best plan.
Lifts on pilings or suspended from dock beams are used in the coastal waters and shallow lakes of Florida and the upper Midwest because they get the boat low enough to launch without bottoming out, and they leave nothing in salt water to corrode. When we selected our post lift, we chose a 10,000-pound capacity, even though our boat was only about 6,000 pounds. The incremental cost was low, and it gave us the flexibility to upgrade boats at about 50 cents per additional pound—it was a good buy in our eyes. Like you, we’re always thinking about another boat.
Use two I-beams anchored at the seawall and slanting outward away from the wall as rails for the cradle that rolls up and down the beams. The design saves space in narrow creeks or canals that won’t permit a four-piling lift. However, because the I-beams remain in the water, corrosion becomes a problem in only a few short years, and I-beams may have to be replaced frequently. Only use them where you must.
Floating hoists built on ballast tanks are used on most impoundments with fluctuating lake levels. Ballast tanks are filled to launch or purged to hoist using an electric air pump on the dock. They are fastened to the floating dock, making a secure mooring, and keep your boat safe from wake damage and marine growth.
Poly Lift makes, according to its spokesman, the only hoist guaranteed to remain secure if left lowered in the water, subjecting the dock and hoist to more impact from wakes. Most condo docks require hoists to be raised empty immediately upon launch to avoid that damage. For that reason, an option you should consider is the Captain’s Call, a remote device to automatically lower or raise the lift when you depart or return.
DRIVE-ON FLOATING DOCKS
These docks kill two birds with one stone, and there are a variety of brands available for this design. All involve connecting hollow polyethylene blocks to make a platform 6 to 12 inches above the water. A V-notch meets the stem and cradles the keel, allowing the boat to be powered onto the floating platform. Because they float, some zoning authorities consider them temporary, making them a nice do-it-yourself project that is often permit-free.
On the downside, they will grow oysters and barnacles, and can become ratty-looking, with growth creeping up the sides. For that reason, they aren’t likely to make good swimming platforms in salt water, but are easy to maintain and brush clean in fresh water. We’ve seen the modules damaged by hot landings too, but repairs are a simple matter of replacing a block.