I have 2 home built sea kayaks, one a Chesapeake 17 which is 17 feet long by 24” wide and the other a Sport Tandem which is 21’6” long by 22” wide. As my two car garage is also my wood shop/metal shop/motorcycle shop/bicycle shop/boat building shop/boat storage area I needed a way to store these two boats out of the way yet easily accessible. I kept them on a simple wheeled rack on the floor for a while, thinking it would be easy to wheel them out of the way when I needed the space for other things, then wheel them back in when the other task was done. The rack was an open frame made of 2×4’s, about 30” wide by 60” long and 70” tall, with cross pieces for the boats to rest on, one above the other. In practice I found wheeling the rack outside to be impractical because of my sloped driveway so I often found myself crawling over or around the racked boats. This was less than ideal.
My garage has a fairly low ceiling that slants from left to right but initial measurements indicated that the boats could just barely fit above the open garage door on the left side. So I started thinking about how to make use of that space. I wanted to be able to get the boats up and down from their storage location fairly easily – didn’t want to get into a “too much trouble so let’s go to the movies instead of going paddling” type of situation. I also wanted to be able to load and unload alone as there’s not always help available.
I have in the past used a ceiling mounted storage sling for one boat, installed diagonally across the garage behind the open door but after I built the second boat this method wouldn’t work as there was no room for a second diagonal hoist. That was what led to the wheeled rack described above. The lifting sling I used also left a lot to be desired as it was made rather cheaply so that even with the 2:1 mechanical advantage the friction in the system made it a challenge to lift a 50 pound boat. So I started looking around for a better lifting system, preferably one that could easily lift 2 boats plus whatever rack I built to hold them, a total of about 150-175 pounds. I looked at electric hoists, comealongs, chain falls, homebrew pulley systems and whatever else I could think of but finally homed in on a “Harken Hoister”. Harken makes sailboat hardware mostly but the Hoisters are made to mount to ceilings and hoist and store things. I bought the 200 pound capacity model for about $150. More than many other hoists out there but it’s made with first rate hardware and offers a 4:1 mechanical advantage. The pulleys are all ball bearing types so the friction is minimized.
All I needed then was a means of attaching the boats to the Hoister. After much pondering I decided to build a table with folding legs. The idea was to put the boats on the table, hoist it up, then fold the legs from underneath. It has worked out beautifully. The table top is just a 2×4 framework with 2 longitudinal pieces and 4 cross pieces. I already had a set of folding legs from another project so I used those. The legs determined the spacing of the crosspieces on the table top.
Here’s a picture of the table in the lowered position withe just the tandem on it. Note the carpet on the crosspieces to minimize scratches on the boats.
And here it is with both boats in place, ready to hoist.
This one shows the table lifted partway up – note the folding leg is still down.
At the door end I’ve added extra straps to ensure that the door clears the boats. Once I’ve hoisted the boats it’s very easy to lift the end of each boat into its strap. Without these straps it was too easy to stop before the boats were high enough to clear the door – guess how I know that.
The door partly open – clears the boats by an inch or two.
Once the boats are up I like to run an extra piece of rope as a safety sling – it’s the red/green rope in the photo, just runs from eyescrew to eyescrew in case the hoist slips or breaks or we have an earthquake or something.
I’ve found this arrangement to work very well – I do have keep the area below the boats fairly clear but things like the folding aluminum step in the pictures fit below the table anyway so they can remain where they are. My tablesaw is on casters so it can be easily rolled aside. Once the table is lowered it is very easy to pull out whichever boat I want and load it onto my truck and after paddling it is easy to slide the boat back onto the table. The Harken Hoister makes lifting the whole thing easy too.