Boat Lift Styles

   In Wisconsin waters, there are (5) different boat lift styles generally used. The (5) styles include:

  1. Cantilever,
  2. Vertical, 
  3. Hydraulic, 
  4. Floating, and 
  5. Elevator boat lifts.

 Different conditions require different boat lifts.

                                Cantilever Lift          

image of a ShoreMaster Cantilever Lift

    Cantilever Boat Lift                  Style

    If you are on an inland lake or river where the water depth does not fluctuate more than 12″ throughout the boating season and wave action does not exceed 6″, a cantilever lift is generally suitable for you.

    Cantilever lifts requires about 12″ of water plus the draft of your boat to operate. The lifting rack requires that depth of water due to the shape of the frames.

    At first glance, that seems deep enough for most boats, but you still have to allow enough water above the rack to float your boat.

    The real limitation of a cantilever lift is the total lifting height. If a river rises, especially after a heavy rainstorm, a boat can easily float off the lift. The boat is not up high enough to prevent the water from washing it away. Who knows how far it will travel before it hits something?

    The normal lifting range is between 40″ and 48″. Remember, the rack starts at 12″ plus the draft of your boat, so you are usually less than 12″ above the water at its highest point.

                       Vertical Lift

    On any large body of water, a vertical lift is the recommended lift for most people. Vertical lifts do a better job of protecting your boat from waves. 

   Some vertical lifts require about 6″-10″ of water plus the draft of the boat. As an example, ShoreMaster vertical boat lifts require only 6″ of water (plus the draft of your boat). Given the same conditions, you have already gained 6″ with this one feature alone.

                     Vertical Boat Lift Style

    Now, add the total lifting height of 66″ for a ShoreMaster vertical lift, and you gained a minimum of 18 or more inches of protection vs. a cantilever lift.

   Your most significant protection comes from the lifting height. Don’t forget about the strength of the lift frame and the gauge of the material used. ONLY the ShoreMaster boat lift has welded side frames with heavy-duty square or rectangular frames for more strength.

    Other brands require several packages of bolts and nuts to assemble the frames. Eventually, the holes for the bolts enlarge, and the frames begin to sway. The solid welded frame is a real advantage at this time. A minimal number of bolts are needed.

Can a lift raise a boat TOO high?

    Strange as it may seem, it is possible to go too high. How?  When the frames are not strong enough to handle the leverage of the weight from the boat.  

   At least one brand does lift higher than a ShoreMaster lift, but they failed to use welded frames for the additional strength it needs.  

    If you can imagine the forces acting against the frames in a storm when you have thousands of pounds suspended in the air with only simple bolts to hold them together. The higher the boat is, the greater the leverage on the frames. 

    Their leg wall thickness is not heavy enough to handle the forces acting against it.  Green Bay produces more than 4′ high waves, and the waves frequently strike against the bottom of a boat, adding to the leverage problems.


image of a Elevator lift

           Elevator Boat Lift Style

                       Elevator Lift

     Used with permanent pier installations, Elevator Lifts are a great combination. They raise the boat from the side, making access to the lift very easy. 

    Narrow channels and areas experiencing large fluctuations in water depth or hurricanes require elevator lifts.


image of ShoreMaster Hydraulic Lifts

                       Hydraulic Boat Lifts Style

           Hydraulic Boat Lift          

    A hydraulic lift generally lifts the highest – up to 6′ high in some cases. This height, along with the wide stance of the base, gives excellent protection for your boat. The hydraulic lift handles high waves and water surges during storms also. 

These D.C. operated units are:

  1.  Quiet:
  2.  Smooth operating;
  3. Solar-powered; 
  4. Wireless remote-controlled (There are no wheels to contend with.)


Vertical PWC Boat Lift

               Vertical PWC Lift

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

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

    The PWC cantilever lift works fine on small lakes and rivers that do not fluctuate in depth or have high waves.


image of ShorePort PWC Lift

ShorePort PWC Boat Lift Style

    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.


– 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:    and

Where is Pier & Waterfront Solutions?

Located at 7325 St. Hwy 57, it’s 3 miles south of Sturgeon Bay and 1 mile PAST the intersection of Cty MM (heading north). Look on the right at the intersection of Idlewild Road and Hwy 57.


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Pier & Waterfront Solutions remains “open” year-round.

    The virus continues to spread. PWS is conducting as much business as possible by email, text, or phone. 

    Site visits continue as usual. When in-person contacts are necessary, we follow “social distancing” guidelines as closely as possible.


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                                 Red Tag

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