Why do Wiggins marina lifts have the reputation as the safest and most stable in the world?
Over the next few posts, we’ll take a brief look at the history of lift capacity and the differences between lifting a boat and lifting other loads.

From Lifting Pallets to Lifting Boats

easy_visibilityAbout 35-years ago, the first modern “marina forklifts” were built. Like today, they designed like regular forklifts, modified to pick up boats. Those “regular” lifts worked with loads that usually had a center of gravity near the physical center. That center of gravity is the “load center,” and became the standard way of discussing capacity.

Imagine a pallet of bricks on a forklift, set back against the carriage. If the pallet is 48” x 48” and weights 5,000 lbs, then the load center 24” out from the carriage. So you need a forklift that can lift 5,000 lbs at 24” load center. (How high out can lift the pallet is another consideration—the higher you raise a load, the more capacity is needed. More on that later.)

Regular forklift capacities became standardized at 24” or 36” load centers.  For larger loads, this was increased by building bigger lifts with heavier counterweights. Still, most loads had their load centers somewhere near the center, and were usually easy to calculate.

There are other factors to be considered. A forklift is not a teeter-totter (or see-saw) which simply lifts a load up and then puts it down. It accelerates, moves, brakes, turns, and goes up and down slopes. This all affects the center of gravity. If you want a forklift to be stable, it has to be built beyond the stated capacity. Specifications are one thing—stable and safe operation in the field is another.

Wiggins Lift has always designed and manufactured our lifts far beyond our competitors’ ratings. Safety and performance in the field are a matter of pride for us. A non-Wiggins lift may be cheaper, but it will not be safer or perform as well.

Designing to Lift Boats

2014 07 29 Marina Bull at Sydney Boat Show 2014When the first marina lifts were manufactured, the same capacity terminology was used. But boats are quite different from other loads. Their centers of gravity are often not anywhere near the center of the boat. They are far longer than most normal loads. Every boat is different, not only in OEM options, but owner additions (larger tanks, generators, appliances, etc.) Boat manufacturer are concerned about displacement, overall-length, beam, and so on. The center of gravity of a boat is not as important to them as to us, and not always easy to calculate for marina lift operations.

Early manufacturers found that to design a forklift for a 20’ boat, the forklift had to be rated 96” load centers! Moreover, longer boats placed more stress on the lift through additional leverage, resulting in bent forks, broken mast bearings, and other damage. Not only did the capacity at load center need to be moved out, but the lifting mechanisms needed to be beefed up. Wiggins Lift has always been at the forefront of these developments, and that why we have the reputation for the toughest and safest marina lifts in the world.

As marinas needed to move larger and larger boats, the forklift capacities had to increase: 6,000 lbs at 96” load center, then 8,000 lbs, 10,000 lbs, and even 12,000 lbs.

You might be thinking that a 96” load center doesn’t make a lot of sense with boats beyond 20 feet long. And you would be right. If a marina owner want to lift 25,000-pound boats which are 35’ to 45’ long, along with a strong enough mast and carriage, the capacity would need to be 25,000 lbs at a 96” load center. That’s an 8’ load center, which makes little sense for a 40’ boat. (We are not aware of any 20’ boats that weigh 25,000 lbs!).

Another Way of Determining Capacity

Still, these are the terms we are stuck with after such long usage. However, Wiggins has used an additional capacity measurement, specifically designed for boats, for about ten years. Along with the standard capacity rating of 96”, this rating gives you a leverage rating and gives you a more accurate measurement to determine what lift you need for your marina, and what boat you can safely transport.

We’ll discuss this capacity measurement in our next post.