When Westrec Marinas decided to build Haulover Marine Center, which opened last spring in Miami, management looked at the trend toward bigger boats powered by multiple outboards before designing the dry rack storage facility and, most important, the forklifts that would move those boats.
“We designed the facility around bigger boats, so it was critical that we have fork trucks to work with the building,” says John Louis, regional manager for Westrec Marinas and general manager at Haulover. “Everything is getting longer, bigger and wider, and we had to work with Wiggins to forecast that.”
Wiggins Lift Co.
The Wiggins that Louis refers to is Wiggins Lift Co. in Oxnard, Calif., which builds two specialized vehicles for moving boats over land — the Wiggins Marina Bull LoPRO, which looks more like a typical forklift, and the Wiggins Marina FLX, a machine with all-wheel steering that holds a boat within its framework so it can work in narrow confines. The company recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the original Wiggins Marina Bull.
The director of business development at Wiggins is Bruce Farber. Because Wiggins and Westrec are based on the West Coast, the two had worked together on previous projects, so Louis knew whom to call with his request for the two largest forklifts ever built for moving boats in and out of a rack storage facility.
When it comes to moving boats to and from storage racks, however, Farber not only looks at a boat’s weight, but he also looks for the vessel’s center of mass.
As boat weights increase, the center of mass is moved farther from the forklift’s body. The distance of the center of mass from the face of the forks is called the load center.
When the weight of a boat in pounds is multiplied by the load center in inches, the result is the load moment, or leverage, in inch-pounds that the forklift must counter to stay stable. A forklift must carry enough counterweight at the rear to keep the boat’s weight from tipping the machine forward. The resulting number is millions of inch-pounds, or MIPs.
Each Wiggins model is rated and badged for the leverage it can safely handle. For example, the W3.2 can handle as much as 3.2 million inch-pounds of boat. Putting things in easier-to-understand terms, the W3.2 is rated to handle 19,030 pounds at a 168-inch load center. The Haulover Marina Bulls are rated for 40,800 pounds at a 240-inch load center.
In 1998 Wiggins built a forklift for Gulf Harbor Marina in Fort Myers, Fla. Gulf Harbor was a Sea Ray dealer, and the most popular model at that time was a 370 Express Cruiser. Until that time, Wiggins had used a 96-inch-long load center to calculate the capacity of a forklift. For the 370 Express Cruiser, Farber explains that the forks had to be “30 percent stronger than a boat that has a standard 96-inch load center.”
Farber explained that boats aren’t just getting bigger. Designers are also moving the consoles farther forward. This puts the operator closer to the center of buoyancy, which makes for a more comfortable ride, but it also moves the load center farther away from the forklift. The farther away from the forklift the load center moves, the higher the capacity needs to be.
Haulover Marine Center was an exception rather than the rule when it comes to designing and building forklifts because the buildings were new construction. Most forklifts and hauling equipment must be designed to fit a current building, and that usually means moving today’s larger boats within tighter confines.
To satisfy customers who need new machines, Marine Travelift has invested in its marine forklift line, more than doubling the number of models, says Jason Johnson, the North American director of sales.
In addition to the company’s Travelift mobile hoists, which carry boats suspended on straps within the frame (see sidebar), the Sturgeon Bay, Wis.-based company offers forklifts that range from 15,000 to 52,000 pounds in capacity.
“What’s important as an equipment manufacturer is that we adapt our products to our customer’s needs,” Johnson says. “Tell us what the parameters are, and we’ll design it to fit.”
That includes different wheelbases, mast heights and other specifications.
The Marine Travelift M2000H and M2300H are drawing interest because of their capacity and their ability to work in tight spaces. Each is rated for 20,000 pounds, and the machines are propelled by the company’s Hydro M drive, which is a hydrostatic system instead of a conventional engine and transmission.
In the Hydro M drive, a diesel engine powers a hydraulic pump that provides fluid pressure to a drive motor that is connected to the wheel. By eliminating the need for a conventional engine and transmission Marine Travelift can utilize a shorter chassis, creating a machine with a smaller overall footprint.
The final ingredient in the recipe for accommodating increased weight capacity is the tires. Air-filled tires are being replaced with solid industrial models that can handle more weight and move at a faster pace while doing so. For the Haulover Marina Bulls, there weren’t large enough solid tires, so Farber filled its tires with foam to make them as close to solid as possible.
In addition to having more capacity, modern marine forklifts are more complex, with features such as sensors that tell the operator how close he is to a machine’s capacity with a given boat.
Wiggins uses a color-coded display. Green means the boat is well within the forklift’s capacity. Yellow means an operator might want to take it slow on the way to the launch bay or rack, and if the indicator moves into red, it will actually shut down the forklift by preventing it from picking up a boat.
On the Haulover forklifts, cameras on the top of the forks and the rear of the machine and wireless operation that links to an iPad show the operator the swing of the stern and how far out the boat is extending when he’s working in tight confines.
Marine Travelift forklifts offer similar operating systems, plus remote diagnostics that let the manufacturer access the machine virtually anywhere.
On the Marina Bull LoPRO, Wiggins offers three operator positions — in the center, on the side or offset between the two. The offset is the most popular because it makes the overall mass shorter and provides good visibility.
The company’s most popular model is the 3.2W, which has a retail price that is just under $300,000, depending on the lift height.
The boatyard’s utility player
Forklifts are the workhorses at any dry stack facility, but when it comes to the most versatile piece of equipment for moving boats over land, it’s hard to beat a hydraulic trailer.
Whether a yard needs to go pick up a customer’s boat to prep it for the coming season or move a new model to the local convention center for a boat show, a hydraulic trailer is called upon to get the job done.
A hydraulic trailer is a multi-use trailer with arms and pads that are moved hydraulically to fit virtually any size boat. Hydraulic pressure holds the boat in place while it’s towed over the road. The trailer can later be easily pulled out of the way so the vessel can be launched or stored on the hard with stands and blocks.
Ironically, Massachusetts is something of a hotbed for hydraulic trailer manufacturers. Hostar Marine Transport Systems in Wareham (www.hostarmarine.com) builds five series of over-the-road hydraulic trailers for boats up to 60,000 pounds, with a variety of draft and hull configurations.
Hostar yard trailers come in three product offerings — the Gold Star Series, which is rated up to 40,000 pounds, the HPTY Series, which can handle boats up to 53 feet and 60,000 pounds; and the HSTY Series, which has a maximum length of 100 feet and a weight capacity of 200,000 pounds.
The company also builds self-propelled hydraulic trailers with capacities starting at 45 feet and 40,000 pounds and ranging to 85 feet and 200,000 pounds.
A solo act for Travelift
In much the same way people immediately think “Cigarette” when they hear about a performance boat, they say “Travelift” when they hear the term mobile boat hoist.
That’s for good reason. Marine Travelift is the only company in the United States that builds and services the machines. There are seven hoists in the BFMII series, and they are rated to haul 15 to 100 tons.
The C Series is broken down into seven mid-range models for boats that weigh between 150 and 500 tons; the max-range consists of five heavy-duty hoists for large vessels that tip the scales between 500 and 1,200 tons.
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue.