Having conducted most of my boating in Europe and the Caribbean I had not come across boat lifts before settling in Wilmington. I quickly realized that they were an essential part of boating life and being able to remove and replace a boat in a controlled and safe manner was crucial. Launching is the more straight forward to the two maneuvers, returning a boat to its lift is in my opinion more difficult and presents more opportunity for boat damage.
Below is a diagram of a standard boat lift set up that I am referring to. Control box, walk plank and stairs may be positioned slightly different on yours.

– 25ft Centre Console.
– 1 kt downstream tide.
– Light wind.
Equipment needed:
– Ideally 2 crew members
– 1/2 fenders
Stage 1. – Preparation
– Approach the dock/lift and stop the boat in open water to assess the effect of the tide and the wind.
– When executing the maneuver position your bow facing into which-ever is stronger, in this case the tide.
– If you don’t have a remote control you will need one person on the dock to operate the lift.
– First crew member or skipper (with remote) to position lift at appropriate height.
– Second crew member to position themselves with a fender on the starboard bow.

Stage 2. – The Approach
– Position the boat with the bow facing the stronger of either the tide or wind. Pull forward into the tide and towards the outer and down stream boat lift pole.
– The aim here is to approach the pole as slowly as possible and rest the stb bow gently against the post with a fender in between to avoid damage.
– I recommend that the second crew member keeps the fender roaming (unsecured), so that he/she can easily reposition as necessary. Initially you may want to use more than one fender.

Stage 3. – The Pivot
– With the stb bow resting against the fender and the pole you will need to take her in and out of fwd to maintain position.
– Next put the helm/wheel hard to starboard.
– Using simply the idle of the engine and full stb lock take the engine gently in and out of forward gear to start the boat pivoting around the fender and outer leeward boat lift pole. The position of the fender may have to be adjusted as the boat slowly moves.
– If you have twin engines, use just the stb engine for the maneuver as this will rotate the boat with greater effect.
– Once the bow finds the lift runners she will move off the post and gently into position.
– As the boat aligns with the lift runners straighten the helm/wheel.

Stage 4. – Rest Position
– Typically I would try to line up the transom of the boat with the end of the lifts runners.
– Once boat is alligned fore and aft start to raise the lift.
– Lift both the boat and the cradle until clear of the high tide mark on the poles.
– If space permits, always leave you engines trimmed down so that hydaulic system is at rest when boat is not in use.

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Opinions stated are that of Tuna’s Marine Services. They by no means represent the finite way to complete this mooring procedure. This document has been produced to act as guide and encourage discussion. Tuna’s Marine Services accepts no responsibility for damages or injuries incurred whilst practicing this manoeuvre.