Getting Floating Boat Docks In and Out of the Water

Getting Floating Boat Docks In and Out of the Water

On many lakes across the U.S. and Canada there are docks that are installed in the Spring and removed in the Fall. Stationary docks that are supported on the bottom of the lake on poles generally come apart in sections that are fairly light and can be carried out by hand. Sometimes large plastic wheels are permanently attached to the bottom of the dock poles. Often the fixed dock is light enough and rigid enough that a 30′ long section can be rolled right out of the lake and stored on the beach for the winter.

Floating docks typically use polyethylene plastic floats and are either made entirely of polyethylene, or have a wood, aluminum, or composite deck that sits on top of the plastic floats. Floating docks weigh significantly more per foot than fixed docks. This extra weight makes it more difficult to create a long rigid structure that is light enough to be carried out by hand. Often the longest floating dock sections are limited to about 10 feet. For long docks, the 10 foot sections are connected with flexible connectors. These docks are typically removed by taking the sections apart and hand carrying them out of the water, one 10 foot section at a time. If you have a smooth beach, you might be able to drag the fully assembled dock up the beach with an ATV or SUV. Sometimes people will use PVC pipe as rollers under the dock so the dock does not have to drag on the sand.

There are manufactures now making floating docks that can have a single rigid section that is up to 32 feet long. These docks are made from structural aluminum bolted together to form a 24″ tall truss running both the length and width of the dock. Polyethylene floats are caged inside the truss system and most common dock materials can be used as the deck. These truss type structures are light enough and strong enough to allow wheels to be mounted under the dock. If the dock is intended to be rolled up the beach, polyethylene wheels can be mounted similarly to those used on stationary docks. If the shoreline is too steep or it is not convenient to store the dock along the shore, a highway rated axle, wheels, and tires can be installed. The axle is galvanized and the bearings are usually protected with a military technology that is designed to maintain positive air pressure in the bearing cavity for one year of continuous submersion. A square or rectangular aluminum tube can be mounted under one end of the dock. This tube acts as a receiver for a 6′ long trailer tongue that will insert about 2′ and then pin into place. There is a trailer coupler on the extended end of the tongue that is designed to connect to a trailer hitch with a standard 2″ ball.

The dock can be towed along the water to a standard boat launch ramp where the tongue is inserted into the receiver turning the dock into a floating trailer. A light duty truck or SUV backs down the launch ramp until the coupler can be floated over the trailer ball. The coupler is locked on and the truck pulls the dock out of the launch ramp just like it was a boat on a trailer. The dock can be towed down the highway two miles or 200 miles. Temporary trailer lights may need to be installed depending on the distance and terrain traveled.

This new “Rolling Floating Dock” technology has dramatically reduced the hassle of installing and removing floating docks. Especially benefited are those waterfront sites that are very steep and have little or no beach. Floating Docks are available that are up to 17′ wide but can be folded up in the launch ramp parking lot to only 8.5′ wide so no special highway permits are needed. Some docks can also include a large second deck. Big docks that are easy to install and remove can make up for the beach that many lake front owners wish they had.

Some manufacturers can even license the dock as a boat allowing it to be motored around the lake with an outboard and tiller handle. These docks become a safe, fun, and mobile platform for swimming and fishing. While technology is racing around us, it is nice to see that some of that technology is giving us safe places to relax on our favorite lake with our minds at ease knowing that the task of closing up for the winter will be quick and simple.