How to Use a Boat Lift: The Beginner’s Guide to Operating a Boathouse Lift Safely

How to Use a Boat Lift: The Beginner’s Guide to Operating a Boathouse Lift Safely

You just had your first boat lift installed in your boathouse. Or maybe you bought a house that had one already. Congratulations! There’s just one problem: you’ve never used one before. Sure, it looks easy enough: lift the handle and wait for the splash. How hard can that be?

Actually, there’s more to it than you may think. Boat lifts are considered heavy pieces of machinery with many moving parts. Improper usage can cause injury or do damage to your lift or boat. Lift it too high, and your watercraft crashes into the ceiling of your boathouse; too low, and your lift won’t hang right.

Worried? Don’t be. There’s a difference between healthy respect that allows you to use your lift and boat safely, and then there’s the fear that says, “let’s just keep it on the lift for the year.” The purpose of this article is to get you to the first option, so you can be confident and safe as you begin using and enjoying your lift and watercraft.

Let’s start with some basic terms.

Boathouse Lift 

Vocabulary

Boat Lift: The entire lift, including the cradle, the bunks, the cables, the pipes, the motor, etc.

Cradle: The large aluminum frame that hangs from your lift’s cables and holds your boat. It has two bunks that your boat rests on.

Bunks: The two runners your boat sits on, on the cradle. These can be modified to fit your boat.

Straps: Two large straps that hang from your cables in place of a cradle and bunks.

Cables: The metal cables that attach to your cradle or straps. They are made of galvanized or stainless steel.

Switch: What operates your boat lift. There are two types of switches: spring or maintain.

These terms will help you better understand your lift and how it operates. Being familiar with them will also help when you need to ask questions, schedule repairs, and perform maintenance. Next, we’ll go over how to use your lift.

Usage

Before you lower or raise your lift, make sure no one is on the boat. It may be tempting to want everyone situated before it hits the water, so all you have to do is lower it and head on out. However, this is not safe. 

Boat lifts are not made to lift people (or animals). Where elevators have extra cables and safety systems to prevent injury or damage if a cable snaps, boat lifts do not. Boat lift cables wear out over time and can snap, so there’s nothing to stop passengers from being jolted or hurt. 

Never raise or lower your boat lift with someone inside. It’s not worth the risk.

To operate your lift, you’ll need to find your switch. It should be mounted on your boathouse and look similar to the one pictured below. 

 

Boathouse lifts are operated by either a spring switch or a maintain switch. The spring switch has to be held in place for the boat lift to function. However, the maintain switch can be turned without being manually held in place. 

Do not leave your switch unattended while operating your lift. It can be tempting to step away from your switch and do other things with the manual option. Resist the urge! Leaving your switch unattended can lead to accidentally letting your lift run too far up or down, both of which can cause severe damage.

If your lift goes too far down, your cradle can hit the bottom of the lake and start to unravel the cables, leading to tangles and a lopsided boat lift. If your boat lift goes too high, your cradle or boat can run up into the roof of your boathouse and do tremendous damage.

Either way, it’s best to be safe and stay with your switch while the lift is running. Trust us: it’s worth the wait!

Operation

To lower your boat into the water, turn your switch to the “down” position. Lower your lift just until your boat starts to float. Turn the switch to the "off" position. Then, safely board your boat and back out of your lift.

To raise your boat, float over the cradle until the back of your boat is close to the back of the cradle. There will, and should, be more of the boat hanging off the front of the cradle than the back.

Next, exit the boat. Turn your switch into the “up” position. Again, do not leave your switch unattended for any reason. Raise your lift until your boat is above any potential wave action. In other words, lift it high enough that no waves will hit the lift and cause it to swing. Then turn the switch to the "off" position.

In summary, 

To lower your lift:

  1. Make sure no one is on the boat. 
  2. Turn your switch into the “down” position to lower your boat into the water. Do not leave your switch unattended.
  3. Lower your lift just until your boat starts to float. 
  4. Turn the switch to the "off" position.
  5. Safely board your boat and back out of your lift.

To dock your boat:

  1. Float your boat over the cradle until the back of your boat is close to the back of the cradle. Note: there should be more of the boat hanging off the front of the cradle than the back.
  2. Exit the boat.
  3. Turn your switch into the “up” position to raise your boat out of the water. Do not leave your switch unattended.
  4. Raise your lift until your boat is above any potential wave action; or high enough that no waves will hit the lift and cause it to swing. 
  5. Turn the switch to the "off" position.

Feel better? You should! You’ve safely and successfully learned how to use your boat lift. Refer to our other guides for more information about the different types of cable, how to prepare your lift for a hurricane, and more.

You can call our office with any questions at 352-394-5666 or email us at office@rjsboatlifts.com.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published