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Big boats require big machinery

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You like big machinery? Then you’re going to like this video.

The 500-metric-ton mobile boat hoist being assembled and operated in this video by photographer Billy Black was transported in pieces to the Newport (R.I.) Shipyard in late May. It took 17 trucks to haul the Marine Travelift hoist — with a total shipping weight of about 300 tons — into the oldest yard in Newport.

The Travelift that the new one replaced left the yard on seven trucks, says Eli Dana, the general manager and dockmaster of Newport Shipyard, which caters to boats from 20 feet to more than 300 feet.

After that, the new hoist — the largest in the Northeast — was assembled in about two weeks by a team that included two workers from the Sturgeon Bay, Wis., manufacturer; a couple from the Travelift dealer; and two to four workers from the yard. A week or so to put together the frame, another week for the hydraulics, slings, controls and so forth.

“This is going to get us into the next size of boats,” says Dana. With a capacity of 500 metric tons, the new hoist can haul powerboats to about 170 feet and sailboats from about 180 to 200 feet. And the larger capacity gives the yard a nice safety cushion on most haulouts, too, he notes.

“A few years ago, we were getting between four and six inquires a year for boats over 300 tons,” says Dana. “Last year, we got 15. Definitely, it was time. The demand was there.”

When it comes to hauling large yachts and commercial vessels, size matters. Among the vessels shown on the video is the three-masted, 196-foot, 420-ton Oliver Hazard Perry, which is Rhode Island’s tall ship. “That was a pretty good test,” Dana says.

Dana says the new lift should help attract larger yachts to New England and to Newport Shipyard when they need to be hauled for repair or maintenance. The yard in 2010 purchased a 100 BFM II from Travelift to boats up to about 100 feet, especially long-keeled racing sailboats, according to the yard.

Since the hoist became operational, Dana says the yard has hauled four vessels larger than 300 tons, and it already has six others in that range scheduled to be pulled this fall. “So it’s working out,” he says.

The granddaddy of mobile hoists in terms of size is the 1,000-metric ton Travelift at Colonna’s Shipyard in Norfolk, Va. Click here to check out some photos of this big boy, especially the one showing a man standing next to the hoist’s wheels for sense of scale. It’s impressively large. The 1,000-ton lift has been in operation for a little over three years.

In New England, Fairhaven Shipyard in Fairhaven, Mass., has a 400-metric-ton Travelift hoist, and Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, Maine, has purchased a new 440-metric-ton lift from Italian manufacturer Cimolai Technology.

In Florida, North Florida Shipyards in Jacksonville uses a 600-metric-ton Travelift; Rybovich in West Palm Beach has a 660-ton Travelift; and the Derecktor of Florida yard in Dania has a 820-metric-ton Cimolai hoist.

Boatyards and marinas are capital-intensive businesses. The price tag on a 500-ton mobile hoist, including delivery? About $3.5 million.

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