Floating boat lift keeps boat clean, accessible

Dave Osmolski

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I retired last September with plans to spend more time at my homemade tropical paradise in Flamingo Bay, Florida. We are right on the water, and I keep my boat in the canal in my backyard. However, because my boat doesn’t have marine bottom paint, within five days, barnacles and small, calcified worm-like creatures will fasten themselves to the hull, trim tabs and all of my boat’s other underwater features.

Last spring, I contacted several different contractors that specialize in installing boatlifts. I don’t have a seawall. At the canal edge of my property, a mangrove forest provides food and shelter for birds, fish and all manner of creatures, including alligators and snakes. Because of a sloping bank and high tide line up into the mangroves, the zoning laws would not allow me to install the lift where I wanted.

I discussed this dilemma with my son, who suggested a drive-on floating boatlift like those he’d seen in South Carolina. After doing some research, I found a company called Dock Blocks of North America in Charleston, South Carolina. I looked at their videos and photos online. Being located in Charleston, Dock Blocks of North America works closely with Scout Boats in Summerville, only a few miles away. Since I have a Scout boat, I decided to explore the company’s products further. I talked to Mike Eastman, who described his product and offered to give me a quote on a floating lift for my specific boat.

I checked the spot where I wanted to put the lift. The water was deep enough, and the floating lift would not extend into the canal farther than my boat did when tied to my permanent wooden dock. The pricing was competitive, considering that I had to supply the construction labor. I went ahead and ordered the materials in June, explaining that I couldn’t take delivery until October. Mike said, “No problem. We’ll store your order without charge until you are ready.”

I paid a 50 percent deposit with the balance due on delivery. A tractor-trailer truck delivered the parts. Fortunately, it was able to back right up to my storage and assembly area.

Construction was straightforward; however, additional written assembly instructions might have lessened my initial anxiety, though when I had questions, I contacted Mike and always got a prompt answer.

I tethered the floating lift to six 10-foot-long, 1-inch-diameter galvanized iron pipes: one on each corner and two in the middle (one on either side). I looped galvanized chain around each pipe and, just in case, tied the lift to a piling on my wooden dock.

If you are wondering how I reached the top of a 10-foot-long iron pipe, I had the pipes cut and threaded so I was only dealing with 5-foot sections. After driving a section into the bottom as far as I could, I put a coupling on the threads and threaded the remaining 5 feet onto that.

To protect the threads while hammering, I threaded a pipe cap onto the end of the pipe. Although not much good afterward, the cap lasted through all six pilings.

Average high tides at my location of Florida’s west coast run around 2 feet. For higher tides, you may need to consider another means of tethering.

Now after a day out on the water, I come in, unload the boat and drive it up on my floating lift. I left three blocks off in the center end of the lift to accommodate my lower unit and depth sounder transducer. I tilt the engine up, wash the boat with fresh water and rest assured that the little marine critters will have to find a new home. Maybe they’ll settle on the bottom of my floating lift. I’ll have to get back to you on that.