Drydocks, Ways, Lifts, Cranes & Hoists: Alaska, USA

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Hauling and Launching of Vessels can be accomplished
at a variety of facilities with equipment including:
Drydocks, Ways, Lifts, Cranes, Hoists and Trailers.
The use of some of these facilities and their equipment
may be dependent heavily on the Weather & Tides.

To Skip this Topic Treatment and go down to the Vendor Directory


Drydocks are of two types: Land based "Graving Docks" and Submersible "Floating Docks".

Graving Dock.

Graving Docks are the traditional form of drydocks. They are narrow basins next to waterways, usually made of earthen berms and concrete, closed by gates.

Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast - RMS Titanic's Drydock today.

Keel blocks as well as the bilge blocks are placed on the floor of the dock in accordance with the "docking plan" of the ship. One or more vessels are floated in with the gates open, then the gates are closed and the water is pumped out, leaving the craft supported on blocks. Routine use of drydocks is for the "graving" i.e. the cleaning, removal of barnacles and rust, and re-painting of ships' hulls. Hull repairs and new construction also takes place within drydocks. The drydock is carefully flooded through ports with valves and the gates opened when it is time to float any vessel out. Large "Graving" docks are the only way to handle very large ships.

RMS Titanic under construction.

The ill-fated British passenger liner RMS Titanic was built in the largest drydock at the time by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast (shown in the two pictures above).

Submersible Floating Drydock.

Submersible Floating Drydocks are technically vessels with a flat deck and a hull fitted with ballast tanks that are filled with water to submerge the dock so that it can receive one or more vessels. The ballast tanks are pumped out enough to raise the dock's deck above the water so the vessel can be worked on while the vessel is supported on blocks. To relaunch the vessel, the ballast tanks are carefully flooded, submerging the dock enough to float the vessel.


Ways include "Slipways" and "Marine Railways".


Slipways have been used for centuries in the construction and launching of vessels, large and small. They consist of a ramp for the vessel to "slip" down into the water, typically via gravity. Winches and cables may be used to haul smaller vessels up a slipway for repair or storage. Vessels may ride on a single cradle as shown above or on multiple cradles, or the vessel's hull may ride directly on the ways. The vessel's hull or the cradle(s) and the ways may be coated with grease to reduce friction. Vessels may slip lengthwise (inline with the keel) as shown above, or sideways (perpendicular to the keel) as shown below. Note the spectacular SPLASH!

The 90 metre long MV Tasman launching sideways at the Royal Bodewes Shipyard in Hoogezand, Netherlands.

The slipway's ramp timbers can be seen to the right amongst the splash water.

Smaller vessels may ride on a cradle that is sometimes fitted with wheels. When the ramp is fitted with tracks for these wheels, the combination is typically called a Marine Railway. 

Marine Railway.

Marine Railways consist of a ramp leading down into the water fitted with tracks and a cradle for the vessel fitted with wheels. A winch and cable are used to haul the cradle up the ramp and let back down the ramp into the water.


Boat Lifts come in a variety of types: Travel Lifts, Fork Lifts, Elevators, and dockside Boat Lifts.

Marine TraveLift.

Travel Lifts are self propelled wheeled overhead cranes fitted with winches, cables and straps to lift the vessel. They are fitted with at least two straps and can have a dozen straps or more especially if they are lifting large wooden vessels. They usually straddle the opening to the water within a "U" shaped pier as seen above. Travel Lifts can travel around the yard and lower a vessel onto blocks, a cradle or a trailer. Travel Lifts can also perform the reverse to launch.

TraveLift going down a ramp into the water.

Travel Lifts may be driven down a ramp into the water, however this can increase the maintenance to the lift especially in salt water environments.

Marine Fork Lift.

Marine Fork Lifts are specially built with long sturdy forks covered in soft padding to protect the vessels hull. They are usually driven to the water's edge on a pier or walled dock where the boat is raised or lowered into the water. Fork Lifts may be driven down a ramp into the water, however this can increase the maintenance to the lift especially in salt water environments. On land the vessel is lowered onto foam blocks, wooden blocks and jack stands, a cradle or a rack, or pigeonholed into a stack as shown below.

Boat Stacks.

Boat Stacks may be covered by a roof or inside a building, or uncovered as shown above. Boat Stacks allow many more boats to be stored on a smaller parcel of land, however they have sustained far more vessel damage in the event of a fire. Covered stacks help protect the boats from the elements, however they have often sustained even more damage in the event of a fire. Boats housed in Stacks that are equipped with fire sprinklers usually sustain much less damage from a fire. See Boat Stacks.

Marine Elevator.

Marine Elevators are flat decked lifts that can lower vessels into the water and lift them out. The elevators shown above are for consumer use, however much larger elevators are in commercial use. Vessels can be inspected or worked on while on an elevator. Some elevators can accommodate multiple vessels. The old three story dry storage Redondo Marina on Puget Sound utilized a two vessel elevator to launch and retrieve boats up to 30' in length. The elevator had transom cradles to support the stern and hoists at the bow to facilitate loading each vessel on a dolly so it could be manually pushed to its designated spot on any of the three floors.

Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift Elevator.

The worlds largest ship elevator is used at the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China  to move vessels in a 120 m × 18 m × 3.5 m (394 ft × 59 ft × 11 ft) flooded lift basin between the two water levels. It can lift ships weighing up to 3,000 tons the vertical distance of up to 113 m (371 ft) in 40 minutes all while the ship is still afloat in the flooded lift's basin. See Wikipedia.

Boat Lifts.

Private Boat Lifts are generally fitted with cradles so that the small vessels can be lifted clear of the water. They are appropriate in waters with little tidal action such as lakes. The vessel must be protected from rain water to prevent accumulation of bilge water that might overload the lift causing it to collapse. See Boat Storage Builders for more about Private Boat Lifts.


Cranes can be Stationary or Mobile. Mobile cranes can be Overland or Waterborne.

Stationary Crane.

Stationary Cranes are fixed to the shore. They are usually adjacent to flat pads where the vessels can be loaded onto cradles, dollies or trailers. Besides lifting vessels, these cranes can be used to lift engines and other equipment.

Mobile (Wheeled) Crane.

Wheeled Cranes are very versatile and can lift boats, engines and other equipment. They are usually fitted with outriggers to support the cranes reach. Caution must be exercised as many mishaps have occurred including cranes tipping over when over-reached and straps slipping, especially when the straps lack 'for to aft' spreaders like the straps above which are too close together on the hull. The 'port to starboard' spreaders visible above help to keep the straps from squeezing the vessel's superstructure. Many automotive tow/recovery trucks are now equipped with boom cranes capable of lifting smaller vessels, engines, equipment, etc.

Crawler Tracked Crane.

Crawler Cranes are also very versatile and can be used on soft, unimproved, or unstable ground, however, they usually lack outriggers and depend entirely on their counterbalance which limits their lifting capacity. They can also be difficult to transport overland from one location to another. A lowboy trailer would be needed for highway travel. They are also regularly transported by rail or barge.

Rail Tracked Crane.

Rail Cranes run on railway tracks. Rail cranes are most often found in shipyards.

Gantry Crane on Rails.

Gantry Cranes have a transverse beam fitted with a trolleyed hoist for lifting. Large Gantry Cranes usually roll on rails as shown above. Small Gantry Cranes usually roll on casters as shown below.

Small Gantry Crane on Casters.

Waterborne Cranes

Vessel Mounted Crane.

Vessel Mounted Cranes come in all sizes, from the small crane shown above that is handy for loading supplies and equipment to the large barge mounted behemoth shown below.

Barge Mounted Crane.

Barge Mounted Cranes like the one above can be used to lift large structures or ships like the yacht pictured at the beginning of this article.

Shipboard knuckleball pedestal Crane.

Shipboard Cranes are very common and are used to handle ship's stores, equipment or cargo.

Tender Crane.

Small Shipboard Cranes can handle the ship's supplies and tender like the PWC above. See Deck Hardware & Equipment for more about Shipboard Cranes.

A Custom Shipboard Crane handling a mega-yacht's high-performance tender.

Shipboard Cranes that exclusively handle the ship's tender are typically called Davits and come in various sizes from the large custom built-in design above to the smaller dingy davits below.

Dingy Davits.

Dingy Davits are simple and easy to use. They save wear and tear on the dingy, the parent vessel and the crew. See Deck Hardware & Equipment for more about Davits.


Overhead Trolley Travelling Hoist with lifting straps.

Overhead Trolley Travelling Hoists are used primarily by commercial trailer-boat launchers and employ winches, cables and straps to lift private boats off their trailers and then move the boat along the overhead beam/track via wheeled trolley(s) to where they are launched. Boats are retrieved by reversing the operation. Some boatyards also use them to lift and launch boats for repair, etc. Overhead Trolley Hoists are more common in areas where they need to achieve considerable lifting elevation due to high banks, high range of tides, etc.

Overhead Trolley Travelling Hoist with suspended boat cradle.

Instead of straps, the hoist may be fitted with a suspended flat deck or boat cradle (like the one above) where the vessel is placed with a fork lift before traveling down the track where the boat and cradle are lowered for the launch. Boats are retrieved by reversing the operation.


Boat Trailers can launch and retrieve boats by using Boat Launch Ramps (which are
technically Ways), or travel lifts, cranes and overhead track hoists with straps.
See Boat Trailers for trailer types, features, maintenance and vendors.
See Recreational Boating Seamanship Training for Trailer Towing.

Self-Propelled Boat Trailer/Carrier.

Self-Propelled Boat Trailers/Carriers are specially built to accommodate boats of various types and sizes. They are typically driven down a ramp into the water to launch and retrieve boats. They are used primarily by yacht brokers, repair yards, and boat storage yards to launch and retrieve boats for sale, repair or storage in their yards, Boats are typically set on blocks while in their yards.

Yard Trailer.

Yard Trailers are custom made to haul and launch vessels of different types and sizes so they can be worked on in the boatyard. They are not typically roadworthy trailers.

Boat Transporter's Trailer.

Some boat transporters have specially built road trailers that can adjust to the various boat bottoms including some sailboats. Some of these trailers can even launch and retrieve boats by going down launch ramps. See Boat Transport Over-Land for Boat Transporters.

Bunk Trailer.

Bunk Trailers are the most popular trailer on the road these days. However, when wet launching, they must be dunked deeper to get the boat to float off the bunks, especially if the ramp has the wrong grade. Boat trailers that are used to wet launch boats especially in salt water require much more maintenance of wheel bearings & brakes. See our webpage on Boat Trailers for more about trailer maintenance, galvanizing and the "Bearing Buddy" secret.

Roller Trailer.

Roller Trailers can wet launch boats much more easily then bunk trailers. However they are more expensive and must have adequate rollers to support the vessel and not damage the hull. Roller trailers require more maintenance then bunk trailers. Take note that the roller supports often wear and sometimes sheer their pivot bolts allowing the boat to settle onto the trailer's framing and damaging the hull, or worse yet, roll off the trailer unto the highway. See our webpage on Boat Trailers for more about trailer maintenance.

The use of some of the above facilities and equipment may be dependent on the
Weather & Tides.

Vendor Directory

⇒ Directory Under Development ⇐

Drydocks, Ways, Lifts, Cranes & Hoists by Locale



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We are currently formatting and polishing the Anchors Aweigh Academy online and hands-on courses. Our Marine Surveying course has proven to be excellent for both the beginner and the seasoned surveyor, and especially helpful to the Do-It-Yourselfer.

Current Academy Members must SIGN IN to gain FULL access to this
website including expanded pages and valuable Academy programs
like our Academy eLibrary and our Ask-An-Expert Program!

If your membership has expired, CLICK HERE to Renew.

CLICK HERE to discover how you can become a Member and gain FULL access to
thousands of expanded pages and articles, and dozens of excellent programs

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General Comments About the Website

FROM Donald: "This is an awesome website. I found the information that I needed right away from one of the over 20,000 free articles that you provide as a public service. I'm surprised that so much if this site is free. But I still signed up so I could access the thousands of expanded pages, interesting articles, and dozens of valuable programs! The member's library of books, magazines and videos that I can view online is really terrific! I understand that you and your staff are all unpaid volunteers. Please keep up the good work. And I commend you for your plans to add another 10,000 free informative articles over the next year. I'm thrilled to support you in this endeavor with my small membership donation. Thanks again for all your hard work."

FROM Huey: "I agree with my Uncle, I too have found the articles to be very enlightening. They say that it will take about 100,000 articles to cover the full scope that they have envisioned for the website. They have over 20,000 articles so far and that's doing pretty well, but it could take several years to get the rest. I also noticed that many of the Main Topic Pages and some of the article pages are still in the rough draft stage. I guess that they will fill in as they can get volunteers to work on them. But what I can't figure out is why anyone would spend the time writing informative in depth articles just to give away free to this website for publication? What's in it for them?"

FROM Dewey: "Well Huey, to me It looks like most of the articles on this website are written by very informed people, like boating instructors, boat designers, boat builders, riggers, electricians, fitters, marine repair technicians and marine surveyors. Writing such articles helps establish them as knowledgeable professionals. After all, this website was originally created by a school for marine technicians and marine surveyors. The website is growing in content every day. They even had to move to a bigger, more powerful server because the website's traffic has been growing exponentially."

FROM Louie: "I agree with everyone above. This site is quickly becoming the ultimate reference resource about every aspect of boats and ships for everyone from the beginning recreational boater to the seasoned professional mariner. I use the topic pages on the right sidebar to browse around the website. It's like a Junior Woodchucks' Guidebook for Boaters. Their Members' Library of over 300 popular and obscure books and over 200 magazine back issues that can be viewed online is fabulous. The Academy's magazine is especially informative. On top of that, there is the "Ask-An-Expert program for members where you can get an expert's answer to any of your boat questions. And a whole years membership is only $25. What a deal! I really love being part of this "Everything About Boats" community and help provide thousands of helpful articles free to the public. I think that I'll sit down right now and write an article about my experiences boating with my uncle."

FROM Scrooge: "You rave about this website like it was the best thing since sliced bread. Well, I think it stinks. Sure, it has a lot of good information for boaters, and they're adding more every day, but it will probably never be finished. Furthermore, I don't even own a boat. And I wouldn't have a boat even if someone gave me one. Boats are a waste of money and time and energy and money! They're just a hole in the water you pour money into. If you gave me a boat, I'd sell it quicker then you could say Baggywrinkle. Then I'd lock up the cash with all my other money so I could keep my eye on it and count it every day. Bah humbug."

FROM Daisy: "I'm just so glad that Donald got the boat so we and the boys could enjoy boating — together. And of course all of the girls, April, May, and June, love to be on the water too, especially when that is where the boys are. Oh poor Scrooge, boating is more fun then you could possibly imagine."

FROM Scrooge: "After seeing how much fun you all have on the water together, I regret that I didn't have that much fun when I was young. I've had a change of heart, and I'm giving each of you a Lifetime Academy Membership."

FROM Editor: "For those of you that have stayed with us this far, many thanks, and we hope that you found this little narrative informative. Your faithful support inspires us to keep working on this phenomenal website. We know that we have a lot more to do. Ultimately, we hope that we can help you enjoy the wonder filled world of boating as much as we do. We are all waiting to see what you have to say about this webpage article. Submit any comments via email To: Comments♣EverythingAboutBoats.org (Replace "♣" with "@"). Be sure to include this page's title in the subject line. Also, your corrections, updates, additions and suggestions are welcomed. Please submit them via email To: Editor♣EverythingAboutBoats.org (Replace "♣" with "@"). It has been truly amazing to see what we have been able to accomplished when we've worked together. Thanks to all those that have donated their valuable time and energy, and a special THANK YOU to all that have supported this cause with their membership donations."

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