A cradle, pulleys and cables, a winch, an electric motor and pontoons are some of the parts on boat lifts. Boat lifts come in different styles and construction types, so not all of the parts are on every lift design. The specific type of lift that is needed depends on several factors, including water depth and type, seasonal weather, boat type and size, access to electricity and the amount of money that the user wants to spend.
A basic lift operates by using a cradle that conforms to the hull of the boat. When the boat is floating above the cradle, the user can engage the winch with a spinning handle that is connected by cables to the cradle through a series of pulleys. The boat can then be manually lifted straight up out of the water by turning the wheel or automatically if the lift is equipped with an electric motor. This type of lift is good for deep water levels that do not change significantly with tides and can be used in all types of weather.
A cantilever lift operates in a similar manner. However, instead of lifting the boat straight up, the cradle extends out into the water when lowered and cantilevers back towards the dock, lifting the boat out of the water when raised. These lifts are often used when the dock sits in shallow water or the water depth is reduced by tidal flows.
The pontoon lift is very popular on freshwater lakes. It incorporates a set of pontoons under the cradle that can automatically be filled with air from a compressor to lift the boat. When the air is released, the boat lowers down to the water.