Finding the Right Winch to Get Your Boat or Dock Out this Fall

silver boat winch

It’s that time of year. Temperatures are falling and you know you need to take your boat and dock out for the season and put them into storage.

For those of you in the northern half of the country, the ice has either already begun to form or is coming soon. To prevent costly ice damage, it’s critical to get your boat and dock (if you have a mobile one) safely up onto the shore.

Since both are quite heavy, boaters typically seek out the strong leverage of a trailer winch to help get the job done.

A winch uses a series of gears to amplify torque on a strap or cable attached to your dock or boat to powerfully pull it in a controlled manner.

boat winch mounted to post outside with white boat in background
Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

To launch or trailer boats, the winch is typically mounted on a dedicated winch stand attached to the trailer tongue.

If you want to use a winch to remove a dock, mount the winch to a sturdy post (similar to what you see here above) and remove heavy wooden panels (if you have them) before you begin. Unlike what you see in this picture, keep your winches maintained and don’t leave them out in the elements.

There are a variety of factors that should be considered when finding the right winch for your specific needs. Let’s go over how to find the right winch to get your boat and dock out this fall.

How Heavy is Your Boat or Dock?

Black and silver boat winch
Image by Overton’s

Winches and their cables or straps are rated for different maximum load capacities. If you don’t have enough brawn to stand up to the needs of the job, you are putting your safety at risk.

When figuring out the weight of your boat, make sure you take into account the additional weight of the motor, fuel, and any other items on board.

For most standard inland fishing boats, a load capacity of 2,500 pounds should be adequate. Overton’s offers a high-quality, basic winch; an excellent value at under $80 (pictured above).

For larger fiberglass cabin cruisers, speedboats, or sailboats, winches that can handle 10,000 pounds are available.

For docks, it really depends on the materials and length. Aluminum docks are lightweight whereas steel docks with wooden panels are very heavy. You can contact your manufacturer with your dock specifications to get an accurate estimate.

Manual or Electric?

black electric boat trailer winch and accessories
Image by Overton’s

This decision comes down to cost and convenience. Electric winches are significantly more expensive than manual winches, but their powerful motors take on all the work, keeping you from having to do all of the cranking, yourself.

In all honesty, a properly-sized winch isn’t all that difficult to turn, even with a heavy load. But if you have shoulder or back problems, or a particularly heavy job, an electric winch may be the best option for your safety.

The electric winch I like is the Powerwinch Model 712 (pictured above). With a maximum load capacity of 7,500 pounds and a 40 foot cable, most boats and docks will pose no problems for this winch. It comes with a one-year warranty and everything you need to get it installed.

One thing you need to keep in mind for electric winches is your power source. You can either connect the system to a dedicated battery (which is heavy to haul around), or you can install wires that connect directly to your vehicle battery.

This can be a little tricky so carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions. Either way, there will be some additional tinkering involved in getting an electric winch set up.

Which Material Do I Need?

Assorted metal gears
Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

The components of winches can be made of a variety of metals. Depending on whether you’re on salt or freshwater, this choice is very important.

Saltwater easily corrodes zinc-coated steel, but powder-coated versions and aluminum options are available to help combat this issue. Bear in mind that different materials have different strength ratings so be sure to check that your particular winch will still be able to handle the load.

Which Gear Ratio is Right for Me?

black and silver two speed boat winch
Image by Overton’s

This is really an important matter to consider for manual winch-users. More basic winches use lower gear ratios, such as 5:1. This means that it takes five turns of the handle to turn the drum once. The lower the gear ratio, the harder you will have to work to move your boat or dock.

Two-speed winches are available so you can shift from a low gear ratio (e.g. 5:1) to a much higher one (e.g. 17:1) when the job gets more difficult. A two-speed winch, therefore, gives you the flexibility and confidence to move a variety of different-sized objects.

If you’re thinking a multi-speed winch is right for you, check out the Fulton F2. Its aluminum body and internal components are resistant to corrosion, making it an excellent choice for salt or freshwater. The closed face design also protects it from the elements, allowing for added years of dependable service.

Are you prepared to remove your boat and dock this fall? Check out our selection of quality winches and accessories to get the job done right.


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