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Experiences of a first-time boat owner


TicTac

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I used this forum a fair bit during the process of selecting a boat and choosing options. So as a first-time boat owner, I'd like to share a few experiences with my lift setup.

My local lift seller and dock installer had a hard time getting all the pieces and parts in stock due to Covid related supplier issues. So if you are in the process of choosing a boat I'd recommend simultaneously pursuing whatever dock/lift solution you hope to purchase. We placed our boat order in December of 2020. Our lift order was place mid February. The boat was finished a few weeks prior to the lift being available.

After receiving the boat and using the lift for maybe 2 weeks, one corner of the lift settled enough that the tower had to be lowered prior to coming into the lift. If you are considering whether to purchase a lift that requires lowering the tower on each entry, don't. It's not only a hassle, the lowered tower can also really restrict your vision as you enter the lift.

We're on a small, inland lake so we're often coming in and out of the lift to drop off or collect passengers. One of the first busy weekend days of using the boat and lift, the lift stopped functioning mid-evening. Luckily the boat was up and out of the water when the lift motor stopped working. So I left it as is and called it a day. The next morning I returned to the lift, still not functioning. Note that it was cloudy on the day it stopped working and cloudy the next morning as well. I returned to Chicago that Monday and a few days later my Dad stopped by the lift with some electrical testing equipment to verify the solar panel was generating a charge. It was. And the first time he attempted to operate the lift, it worked like a charm. I chalked it up to too many trips up and down on the lift on a cloudy day and promptly forgot about it amidst all the other new worries a virgin boat owner experiences.

Fast forward to July 3, tons of visitors and many up and down trips on the lift. This time, the lift stopped functioning when it was on the bunks, but not quite out of the water enough to not float a bit. Again, it was near the end of the day and suspiciously after a long day of much use. Looking at the trickle charge solar panel, it struck one of my passengers that it should really be oriented differently. Tied a rope from cleat to dock/lift and left it for the night.

Late morning July 4th, I climbed up on the lift and oriented the solar panel from SE toward NW. But despite a few hours of sun, lift motor still didn't budge at all. I had access to a battery from a small fishing boat, so I lugged that to the dock, attached jumper cables and away the lift went! In an "emergency" this worked, but was a bit dodgy dealing with live jumper leads while standing on a rocking boat. A better solution might be a plug in cable cut-off that would replace the solar panel and have jumper connections at the other end. Maybe it's something like this?

Moral of the story, batteries seem to sometimes run out of power. And having a boat exposes you to lots of opportunities to adapt and learn new things.

Another lesson, mind your position fore/aft in the lift when you are floating in the water. I also discovered you can accidentally get too far into a lift due to waves pushing you forward after dropping into the water. This also happened on July 3. At one point while dealing with the 100th, "...forgot something/someone, I'll be right back to the dock..." the stern lifted up and forward over the rear support strut of the lift. When I eased back out, I heard a metal against metal sound that I instantly knew wasn't right. I immediately killed the engine, stripped off my shirt and hat and dropped under the boat to look at the prop. I'd managed to get the rearmost lift strut between the rudder and the prop. And miraculously, the prop was not damaged. How, I don't even understand. But I suspect what I heard was the bolt that holds on the prop bump against the strut. With a little help by emptying passengers from the boat, I was able to get it back up and over without damage.

And last, regarding fireworks and holiday celebrations, beware. We had someone on our lake lighting lanterns to watch them float across the water. Unfortunately, at midnight on July 4th we had strangers pounding on our door alerting us to a fire on the top of our lift. One of the lit lanterns landed on the canopy and began melting and burning the canopy material. Luckily the fire was put out pretty quickly, but our brand new boat is not looking quite so brand new now. We have melted canopy material stuck all over the rear cushion and on the transom of the boat hull.

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Michigan boarder

Ugh.  Lessons I guess on the electrical, I've seen some with two batteries mounted instead of one, that might be an option?

Those lanterns are just a bad idea all the way around.  Like throwing a t-shirt still stuck on a metal hanger out of an airplane window.

I'm guessing that's Diamond Lake?  Beautiful area, welcome to lake life!  The good times should far outweigh the rough start.

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Michigan boarder

Also, on a previous set up I eliminated the end piece on my lift and installed 3" x 12" velcro strips on the end curtain.  So I could detach it and let it flap when coming in or out with the tower up.  Then at the end of the night or weekend I'd put the tower down and crank the boat up tight under the lift.  It worked really well.  Once I forgot to release the velcro and the velcro held so tight that one of the corner seams began to tear before the velcro let loose.

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BlindSquirrel

Brutal. Great looking boat though! Yes, the good times will soon outweigh the bumps in the road.

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1 hour ago, Michigan boarder said:

I'm guessing that's Diamond Lake?  Beautiful area, welcome to lake life!  The good times should far outweigh the rough start.

 

Even smaller than Diamond! Shavehead Lake. And yes, I love the area! Hope to retire here.

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13 hours ago, TicTac said:

 

Even smaller than Diamond! Shavehead Lake. And yes, I love the area! Hope to retire here.

Can't see the pics you posted any longer.  I am actually right down the road from you in Edwardsburg on Eagle Lake.  I know some people on Shavehead as well.  Did you use Pier Perfection?  I had some issues with him and my lift and had to get Shore Station involved to get him to fix my lift.  Without seeing your pictures and not knowing what kind of lift you have, I would keep an eye on the limit switches as well.  I had issues with my lift not going up and found out the upper limit switch would stick in the up  position not allowing my boat to lift up.  It would allow it to go down though.  The Solar Panel should be facing South to maybe even a little SE since that is the direction the panel will absorb the most sun throughout the day,  When they installed mine they had it facing the wrong direction.  If you ever have any questions or need something, feel free to let me know.

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Hemmy- I'm stumped for why you wouldn't be able to see the photos. It's a public, shared iPhoto album. I just checked the perms again. Here's a link to the entire album.

Thanks for the feedback. We are neighbors!

Maybe for as often as it's getting used sometimes now I just need to investigate having a second panel and battery mounted on the other lift support. I've been a bit more likely to put the boat just high enough to avoid bouncing from wakeboat wakes as they pass. Being mindful of the numbers of trips up and down and limiting the travel when I can has worked well.

We didn't use Pier Perfection for our lift, buy I think they may have handled my brother-in-laws pontoon lift. I do not envy the dock/lift businesses. Everyone wants something from them at the same time, twice a year. And I imagine as a seasonal business that it's hard to always have experienced help.

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Wow, that's terrible.  A whole big, wide world to float around in, and the lantern chose your canopy to land on.  I wonder how much other damage those folks did.

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I have not had any issues with the solar charger on my lift, but I still generally keep a jump starter handy in the truck just in case.  Something like this works in a pinch.  

https://www.napaonline.com/en/p/BK_JS1000A?cid=paidsearch_shopping_dcoe_google&campaign=GSC-Tools-Equipment&campaign_id=8553470562&adgroup_id=107047174069&adtype=pla&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgtOO3pHk8QIVQQnnCh3FsghyEAQYAiABEgJzSfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&

 

Those lanterns are a hazard; one of them landed on my cousins roof a few 4th's ago and we had to put it out with a hose through a window up to the roof.  We got it out quickly but it could have been a disaster if nobody had been paying attention to it.  

 

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First off, congrats on an awesome boat!!  It looks great.  

I agree with the comment about batteries as well as what @jjackkrashsaid about a jumper.  I keep one fully charged on my boat at all times, just in case.  

We considered a solar powered lift when we purchased the one we have now a few years ago and decided against solar because we have shore power at the lake.  There are pros and cons to both, but for us the shore power solution works very well.  

With respect to your lift settling, we have always put small 4' x 4' sheets of plywood below our hoist feet.  It makes removal much easier and distributes the load in soft or mucky lake bottoms and mitigates excessive settling.  Perhaps this is something you could try next season.  Another thing we are considering is installing some screwed in dock posts at all 4 corners of the joist to anchor it in the event of high winds when the boat is not on the hoist if we take it on vacation or in the early season before the boat goes in.  A local hoist service company does that on all their installations and it seems like a good practice. 

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Michigan boarder
1 hour ago, Slayer said:

With respect to your lift settling, we have always put small 4' x 4' sheets of plywood below our hoist feet.  It makes removal much easier and distributes the load in soft or mucky lake bottoms and mitigates excessive settling.  Perhaps this is something you could try next season.  Another thing we are considering is installing some screwed in dock posts at all 4 corners of the joist to anchor it in the event of high winds when the boat is not on the hoist if we take it on vacation or in the early season before the boat goes in.  A local hoist service company does that on all their installations and it seems like a good practice. 

Good points on the lift.  I actually bolted 2x2 sheets of 3/4" plywood to the underside of the feet on my lift at our other place.  They lasted 15 years and I unbolted them at our new place (sandy bottom) and they showed very little signs of wear.

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