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An Air Dock is essentially a glorified balloon, or pontoon – a series of inflatable plastic bags are filled with air and lift a boat out of the water. This is fine until you get a hole in one or more of the balloons, or a wind storm tips the whole construction over. With the boat off balance, parts of it can become submerged in water, or even capsize and sink altogether. This type of hull protection solution is not only unstable and dangerous to your boat, it’s pretty expensive as well. If you’re in the mood for some boating horror stories, ask anyone who works in marine salvage what they think of Air Docks. There are stories of the things actually flipping over and dumping the hapless owner’s boat into the sea for no discernible reason.
Just look at those things. Would you really feel safe putting your beautiful new boat on top of a rubber balloon? What if there’s a rip or tear on the bottom, and it becomes overgrown with barnacles?
Scenario: While your boat is unattended, a fishing hook or sharp-beaked sea bird makes a small hole in one of the inflatables, leading it to slowly lose air. Eventually, the stern of your boat ends up underwater for weeks, and the drive becomes covered in barnacles. Even worse, a storm comes and flips the unstable construction over, and your brand new boat sinks to the bottom of the marina.
The problems with Air Balloon Lifts aren’t just practical, but aesthetic as well. They are ugly enough, as well as unsafe enough, to get banned in many places. South-East Florida actually requires a boat owner to file a permit before allowing an Air Dock at a water front property. The fact that these devices need a dock-mounted control station is another complicating factor in getting a permit. For all the hassle, they’re not even that easy to use – they require the operator to align the boat carefully for balance.
Air Dock systems market themselves as simple alternatives to mechanical boat lifts, but you can see that they haven’t exactly succeeded in the task.