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Marine News from the Great Lakes

"Hoist" Your Boat Properly

Published: Friday, September 8, 2017

Every year boats are lost to storms, storms that should have been anticipated. Some storms are forecast well in advance while others arrive suddenly, borne by high winds. Yet other times, weather forecasts simply go unheard.

A severe storm on Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, Michigan, in August 1997 tossed dozens of boats on to the beach or along the rocky shoreline. My salvage company worked for many days recovering wrecks littering the waterfront.

Boat owners have a false sense of security when they place their hoists in the water. The hoists are a great invention and work well when used as intended, but storms frequently exceed the intended ability of these lift devices. The results are often total losses or severe damage to lifts and the boats they were supporting. Damage may occur to adjacent property as well. In many cases, insurance claims exceed coverage and leave owners not only without a boat, but with unexpected bills for wreck removal and liability.

Losses may be avoided by having a plan in place to remove the boat from the hoist before a storm. The best thing you can do is trailer your boat before a storm approaches. Those who own lake area cottages or weekend homes should always haul their boat and leave it secure on a trailer while they are absent. Taking this action will ensure the boat, and likely the hoist, will not be damaged if a severe storm strikes.

If you must leave your boat in a hoist, there are actions you can take to help avoid a loss.

WEIGHT: Be certain the hoist is firmly seated with weight evenly distributed on all supports. Be sure the hoist is rated to carry the weight of your boat and gear. Loose equipment should be removed before lifting to avoid added weight.

HEIGHT: Be sure the boat can be lifted well above the water’s surface, allowing for wind-driven high water that accompanies severe storms. When placing your boat in a lift, it is far better to do so in a manner that leaves the bow toward the open sea. High water with waves breaking against the flat stern surface of a boat can drive it out of the best hoist.

DRAINING: Once in the hoist, all drain plugs should be removed to allow rain and spray to drain from the boat. Many hoists succumb to excessive water weight during heavy rains. Be sure to adjust the lift to allow the drain area of your boat to be slightly lower than other parts of the hull. Secure any objects that could block drain areas.

BOAT COVER: If you cover your boat, make sure the cover fits tight and can withstand strong winds without coming loose. Be sure the cover is supported in a manner to shed water and otherwise avoid allowing it to sag into the boat as that would collect water and add excess weight.

SECURE: Once lifted, the boat should be secured within the lift to avoid slipping back in the straps or on the supports. Also, be certain the lift mechanism is locked in position and that the support legs will not sink or settle in a soft or sandy bottom. Do not install a cumbersome or heavy cover on the hoist. A large roof or cover can catch the wind or make the hoist top-heavy causing it to potentially tip over and destroy the boat.

INSURANCE: Finally, check with your insurance company to be sure you have adequate coverage for your boat and the lift. Inquire about coverage for wreck removal should you ever need it.

Remember the safest course of action to avoid a total loss is to remove your boat from the lift before storms hit, especially if you leave it unattended. Storing a boat in a hoist requires planning for the worst after every time you use it and frequently checking cables, straps, and all parts that can wear out or bend under constant use.

Most owners of small boats consider them their "pride and joy." Viewing their state after the fury of a storm has done its worst, is indeed a sad event. If you use a portable shore hoist, take the time and put in place a careful plan to protect your boat.


tags: Lifts & Hoists, Safety

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