Make Sure Your Boat is Stored Properly

Weathering the storm: Preparing boat lifts for hurricanes, storm surge

Weather changes quickly, and boat lifts are subject to the wrath of hurricanes and tropical storms.

However, a well-engineered, custom boat lift can withstand much of nature’s fury.

IMM Quality Boat Lifts designs, engineers and manufactures custom boat lifts for all climates – tropical, subtropical, temperate and continental. Across the world, no matter the climate, people love to spend time on the water.

Boat owners should be aware of the impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms, as well as storm surge, on their boat lifts.

High Winds

Hurricanes and tropical storms pack powerful winds, storm surge flooding and torrential rains. These weather systems pose a trifecta of concerns for boat owners in coastal regions.

Powerful winds damage structures of all types, even reinforced concrete block buildings. IMM Quality Boat Lifts recommends two safe options for boat storage during a storm: (1) Move a boat out of a storm’s projected path, or (2) Move the boat onto dry land, either in a secure, indoor storage facility or up on keel blocks with boat jacks and strapped to the ground using helical anchors. Although IMM Quality Boat Lifts builds its lifts with thick aluminum beams and stainless steel, a lift is only as strong as the supporting structure (the wood piles and dock).  To minimize the risk for potential damage, we Do Not recommend keeping your boat on a lift.

During a storm, waves can smash boats repeatedly against a dock or pilings.  High winds will cause boats secured on a four-post cradle lift to swing violently from front to back, or side to side.  Meanwhile, boats secured on elevator lifts often fare no better, with their carriages bouncing from the wind gusts.  Ultimately, the boat lift may fail with snapped cables being the most common cause.

If left with no option, many boat owners have prepared cradle lifts by completing the following steps:

  • With the boat in place, attach lines between cleats on the boat and dock.
  • Raise the cradle beams to their maximum height so lines become taut. Lines that are too loose can allow boats to float away; lines that are too taut create pressure that can crush a boat.
  • Boat owners with mechanical and electrical know-how can remove the boat lift’s motor and gear box, and store them in a dry place.
  • To minimize the amount of cradle swing, strap each of the four corners of the lift cradle to the closest pile.
  • To prevent the boat from dropping after lift cables snap, brace the cradle with aluminum I-beams beneath the cradle beams, and secure the I-beams to the piles.

Boat owners with elevator lifts have done the following:

  • With the boat in place, attach lines between cleats on the boat and dock.
  • Raise the elevator carriage to its maximum height so the lines become taut to prevent wind gusts from blowing the boat off the bunks.
  • Secure box clamps around the I-beam tracks, just below the upper wheels of the carriage. This makes sure a boat cannot slide down to the water if the lift cables snap.
  • As an alternative to box clamps, mechanically minded individuals can drill a hole through the I-beam track just below the upper wheels of the carriage. Bolt a 4 x 4 block of wood through this hole to prevent the carriage from sliding down to the water if the cables snap.
  • Boat owners with mechanical and electrical know-how can remove the boat lift’s motor and gear box, and store them in a dry place.
  • Place straps around the dock and elevator carriage to stop any potential swinging or bouncing.

With both types of lifts, turn off power to the dock and boat lift. Power outages are common during hurricanes, and when it’s restored, live wires damaged in the storm can present safety hazards.

Storm Surge and Heavy Rain

Water is another concern during hurricanes and tropical storms.

Rising water from tropical systems, called storm surge, affects both coastal and inland waterways. Larger storms can cause water levels to rise 5 or 10 feet, or higher. Engineers design most boat lifts to keep vessels safely elevated a few feet above the high tide water level. Storm surge can easily surpass the high tide water level, lifting a boat up and off its bunks, even if it appears to be fairly secured. Again, this is why IMM Quality Boat Lifts recommends dry storage if possible.

Torrential rains pose a different issue. Hurricanes and tropical storms can produce rainfall rates as high as 6 inches per hour. One gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, so imagine how much water an uncovered boat can collect during a heavy rainstorm. Prior to a storm, make sure scuppers are free of debris and drain plugs are open. Tilting the boat lift bunks slightly ensures that water will drain toward the plug. Check that the bilge pumps are functional and that their batteries have a good charge. Added weight from storm water can cause the boat to exceed the lifts’ capacity and may result in catastrophic failure of the lift.

READ MORE: Boat lift capacity: Myths vs. facts

Are you looking for an engineering expert to design a custom boat lift that matches weather conditions in your environment? Complete our CONTACT FORM or REQUEST A QUOTE and we’ll give you a call!