What Boat Lift is the right configuration for me?

The right boat lift can be any of (5) different types of boat and PWC lift generally used in N.E. Wisconsin waters. Different boat lifts are required for different conditions.  They are the cantilever, vertical, hydraulic, floating and elevator boat lifts.

                       Cantilever Lift          

If you are on an inland lake or river where the water depth does not fluctuate more than 12” throughout the boating season, a Cantilever lift is generally suitable for you.

The cantilever lift requires more water depth (usually about 12” of water plus the draft of your boat) to operate because the lifting rack does not go down in the water as much and you still have to allow enough water above the rack to float your boat on it.


                        Vertical Lift

On any large body of water, a vertical lift is recommended to protect your boat from the waves.  Your greatest protection comes from the lifting height and the strength of the lift frame to withstand the waves during a storm.

3’ – 5’ waves are not uncommon during a storm and combine that with a storm surge and you need the extra protection afforded by the vertical Lift.

The vertical lift generally requires about 6” of water plus the draft of the boat in order to operate.  Allow a margin of error for wave action and wind direction which can also lower the water depth.


                         Elevator Lift

Elevator Lifts are used with permanent pier installations (usually concrete piers or piling piers.)  They generally raise the boat sideways, usually above the pier and are common in channels and lakes with large fluctuations in water depth.

                          Hydraulic Boat Lift          

Hydraulic lifts generally lift the highest (up to 6’ high), which along with the wide stance of the base gives you excellent protection for your boat.  This type is excellent for high waves and water surges during storms.  These D.C. operated units are quiet and use solar powered batteries and remote controls.


                             PWC Lift

PWC (Jet Ski lifts) come in 3 styles:  Vertical, Cantilever and Floating.

The PWC vertical lift allows you to get into shallow water and raises your boat higher than the cantilever type.  They operate in the same fashion as a standard vertical boat lift and provide excellent protection for your PWC.

The PWC cantilever lift does not raise the PWC as high and should be used with caution.  It’s great for small lakes and rivers that do not fluctuate in depth.


The floating lifts (ShorePort) are excellent on rivers that fluctuate a lot in depth or inland lakes. These are very simple to use and require very little water to operate.  The floating lift has no maintenance and you simply drive up onto the floating unit.  No wheel cranking involved.

Wave action above 12” is not recommended for this type of “lift”.  Combine a floating dock with the PWC floating lift and you have the perfect combination for a lake or river that fluctuates during the season but does not have large wave action.

Caution – when using any PWC lift – If you have a sand or small rock bottom near the shore use caution when approaching the lift.  Sand and small stones can be sucked into the intake and destroy your motor.

For more information see also: www.wisconsinpws.com/boat-lift-size-correct-one/    and   https://wisconsinpws.com/boat-lift-selection/

Found this article helpful?  Call Jerry at 920-493-4404 or Email Jerry@wisconsinpws.com for more information.  Also go to “NEWS” on any page of our website for a complete list of articles meant to keep you informed on the latest product information and maintenance issues.