Tampa Dock and Seawall

Boat Lift Options for Your Tampa Bay Dock


Boat Lifts: The right boat lift can literally make or break your dock – and your weekends on the water.

There are 3 great options for boat lift styles and reasons that Tampa Dock & Seawall might recommend for your project. And that recommendation depends on:

  1. Boat Size and Weight
  2. Personal Preference
  3. Rules and Regulations
  4. Budget

Types of Boat Lifts

Tampa Dock uses Davit Master boat lifts and Hurricane boatlifts whenever possible. They’re both incredibly reliable, well made and manufactured locally to the Tampa Bay area. We’ll be using some of their products as examples.

Davit Master Lift Diagram


Boat Lift Type | The Cradle Lift


The cradle lift, like the Premier Direct Drive from Davit Master, is probably what you’re most familiar with. It’s built like a cradle, as the name implies.


The four pile beamed cradle boat lift is currently the most efficient design for a cable-drawn lift. It has been in use for over 20 years and has become the industry standard.


Imagine piloting your boat up next to the dock between 4 pilings. 2 on one side and 2 on the other.


And on top of each piling is a winch with cables that are attached to the cradle. Below your boat is a cradle designed to hold your boat as it’s lifted out of the water.


Once your boat is in position you trigger the winches, they raise the cradle up and your boat is high and dry… in a good way.


Boat Lift Type | The Silhouette

The Silhouette model gives you similar strength and capacity to the Cradle Lift, but minus the beams across the top (as shown in the image above).

When winches here are mounted directly onto the pilings they give the entire lift a less obvious, bulky profile. So YOUR lift looks better, doesn’t obstruct your view as readily, and normally makes HOAs and COAs very happy.

So, the Silhoette style beam-less boat lifts are as effective as the cradle lifts, but are generally considered more aesthetically pleasing.

Boat Lift Type | The Elevator Lift

Tampa Dock will recommend the Elevator Lift when space and intrusion into the waterway is a primary concern.

While both the Cradle Lift and Silhouette Lift use pilings on both sides of the boat to support the cradle, the Elevator lift just uses ONE SIDE.

Think of this lift as your own personal marine forklift!

Rather than 4 winches lifting your boat out of the water, the “cradle” you drive up into is strictly one sided.

The fork rests below the waterline. You pilot your boat over the “fork” and it gently lifts your watercraft out of the water. Just like a forklift lifts a large package off the floor.

For all these reasons we have recommended Elevator Lifts in particular in situations where there’s a rocky or hard bottom where we need to install the lift. 

Below is a clear example image using a custom SeaDo lift.

And a larger scale example. This is a 16,000lb Hurricane Elevator lift.

Hurricane Boat Lift Elevator Lift
16000lb boatlift

Drive Systems to Power Your Lift

With any of these lifts, you can choose a direct drive sealed gear unit or
belt or chain drive (aka flat plate) unit.

Belt or chain drive 

We often use a belt or chain drive boat lift because of the lower cost. But there are trade offs like: slower operation, requires annual maintenance (grease the gears), easier to fix change bearings, replace belt, re-square the lift, loud screaming noises make you aware that the lift is out of alignment.

Direct drive

On the other hand, a direct drive lift is a sealed gear unit. It’s faster than belt drive, usees less
power AND there’s no maintenance needed. They are very reliable, but require a little more effort to repair if there is an issue.  


Of course, there is a range of pricing for each type of boat lift that depends on style, materials and the weight/size of your watercraft.

For example, the motors on the Premier lifts have a direct drive. It’s quieter, more reliable and virtually maintenance free. But you could opt for an older style belt drive because they’re less expensive up front.

You could also choose steel as the material for your lift – but that’s a bad idea in Florida salt water – so we always recommend the aluminum structure. That aluminum is rust resistant and has a longer lift in the Tampa Bay area.

The Elevator Lift has the widest price range depending on the size and weight of you boat. In other words, there’s a real difference in price per pound. But that is sometimes offset by the labor cost in installing the extra pilings in hard to drill areas.

Good news. You do not have to make this decision yourself. Part of Tampa Dock & Seawall’s design consultation includes helping you choose the right boat lift for your specific project.

Schedule that today!