Bigger, bigger, bigger. As forklifts have continued to evolve with greater lifting capacities, most marinas have begun to target larger boats. Many of the boats going into dry stack systems are longer, wider, and heavier. This introduces a height factor into the equation as well, since many larger boats have T-tops, Bimini tops, radar units, mini-towers, etc.

When designing any boat rack system for a forklift application, the top shelf height should be 2′-0″ lower than the maximum lift height of the forklift truck. This allows ample room for the boat to clear the timber bunk boards.

The general rule is to store boats as high as possible. This maximizes the income stream. Generally, storage levels range from three levels to five levels high, although many customers will utilize two high systems, especially as portable racks. The profiles of boats will greatly influence how many levels of boats will be stored.

Other factors influencing the height are local building height restrictions and the lift height of the forklift.

Bay spacings are generally double wide (two boats per shelf level) or triple wide (three boats per shelf level), or a combination of both. Triple wide bays up to 30′-0″ clear will accommodate boats that have a 9′-0″ to 9′-6″ beam width. If many of the boats to be racked will have beams over 10′-0″ wide, we recommend that double wide bays be utilized. Generally a combination of double wide and triple wide bays will maximize the cubic volume of boat storage.

All of our shelf beams are vertically adjustable, with independently, horizontally adjustable timber clamps.

With the current trend in boat sizes and forklift sizes, most aisles are at least 60′-0″ clear. This width will comfortably handle boats with an overall length of up to 30′. For boats up to 35′ we recommend a 70′ aisle. Boat lengths greater than 35′ should utilize an aisle up to 70-75′. For boat lengths over 40′, a 75-80′ aisle should be considered.

The aisle slab must be adequately designed to handle the load of the forklift. If there is a minimum of 2500 psf soil bearing pressure, we recommend a concrete slab requiring a minimum of 8″ thick structural slab with two mats of #5 rebar on 12″ c-c. Now that forklifts are capable of handling much larger boats, thicker slabs – from 10″ to 20″ thick – are often required. It is not uncommon to build pile supported structural concrete slabs in areas where the soil conditions are poor. Earlier on in the project planning stages, we strongly recommend that soil borings be taken and a geotechnical report obtained. Underestimating the wear & tear on the slab could result in replacing it in the future…almost impossible when your dry stack building is full of boats.

We recommend that the rack system, or at least a minimum of the shelf beams, timber clamps and ground stands, be galvanized if the facility is in a salt water environment. Boat Racks 101 hot dip galvanizes our structural steel boat racks after all the fabrication is completed. The additional cost for galvanizing a rack system is generally about $100.00 to $125.00 per boat, which is a worthwhile investment based on the life time of the rack system. Try to envision the cost to touch up a painted rack system in future years when the racks are full of expensive, well maintained boats.

There are a few solid reasons. First, since the construction costs are much lower than covered systems, the payback on open racks is substantially more rapid. Second, the permit process for open racks is usually much easier, faster, and far more affordable. Third, the actual construction of open racks is much quicker than covered systems. This puts the dry stack operation into service on a fast track, which jump-starts the revenue stream. Fourth, free-standing rack systems are more flexibly configured, allowing the dry stack to be installed in affordable phases.