Q: How do I know if my houseboat will support a PWC Rail?
A: Generally, even relatively small welded aluminum houseboats will handle the weight. Obviously, the smaller it is, the more effect a PWC will have in terms of lowering the rear of your houseboat. But even if the aft end squats in the water quite a bit, that might not matter to you, depending on your goals. If you just want to get your PWC out of the water for storage, then it won’t matter how it affects the level of your houseboat. Some people with small houseboats unload their PWC when they are “living” on their boat, so the beds and counters are more level. They just want their PWC up out of the water when they are away.
Most modern 3-seater PWC’s are just under 1,000 pounds. With our Rail design, almost all of that weight is leveraged (cantilivered) beyond the swim platform, so there is a significant amount of downward weight on your swim platform and the rear of your houseboat. The welded aluminum framing under the swim platform on most standard-construction houseboats is plenty strong to support that force. We define a standard construction houseboat as typically having a full aluminum hull with the swim platform integrally welded on the back with welded aluminum framing supporting it. Examples would be Sumerset, Stardust, Thoroughbred, Lakeview, Horizon, Destination, Sunstar, and some others. If you have a bolt-on swim platform or fiberglass hull, it might not be strong enough to support the weight. You could possibly add triangular aluminum support gussets that mount underneath your swim platform and against your transom wall. That would significantly increase the load-capacity of your swim platform. But we don’t provide kits for that so you would have to have them made locally. We would be glad to help with the design.
Updated February 23, 2018 - As pictured, we are working on a Cross-Mount model for smaller boats with fiberglass or bolt-on swim platforms. Let us know if you are interested in updates on this option.
If you aren't sure your houseboat is strong enough to handle the leveraged down-force using our Rails, please send us some pictures…including the underside of your swim platform and we will be able to provide some informed advice for you. Send pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org
As the houseboat owner, you are ultimately responsible for determining if your houseboat swim platform can handle the weight.
Q: Which side of my houseboat should I install my Rails on?
A: Since our Rails are mounted completely on the swim platform, you don’t need to consider stairs or a/c units. If your houseboat has a little list to one side or the other, then you would want to put your Rails on the higher side. If you refuel your PWC with a pump from your houseboat tanks, then you would probably want the gas cap of your PWC toward the inside to make it easier to reach. If you are installing 2 Rails...one on each side, then you generally want to mount them as far to the outside as possible so that when loaded, the PWC's aren't any wider than your houseboat. A little narrower is even safer when maneuvering around a cove or gas dock.
Q: Can I mount these Rails over the top of my swim ladder or next to my slide?
A: Yes. That is one of the big advantages of the Tilt-Up Rails. If the only place on your swim deck that is available is over your slide, you can mount it right there. With your PWC unloaded and your Rails tilted up, you can use your ladder just like always. You can also mount it next to your slide. Modern 3-seaters are over 4 feet wide but the Rail tubes are only 16.5 inches wide, so you can mount the Rails in such a way that your PWC us partly under your slide. When you are ready to use the slide, just unload your PWC, tilt the Rails up, and start sliding. Click here to see an installation like that.
Q: If I get 2 Rails, can I use just one winch and save some money?
A: The winches are a relatively small portion of the cost, and they bolt to the frame. So it would be a significant hassle to swap the winch back and forth. Also, that would require that you have additional 12-volt wiring lying on the deck so it would reach the other side. It just isn't practical for such a small amount of savings, so we don't recommend it.
Q: How long are the Rails?
A: The flat portion of the standard Rails are 82 inches long and the angled entry-end is 18 inches long for a total of 103 inches. Most modern 3-seater PWC's are about 11 or 12 feet long, so a substantial portion of your PWC will extend beyond the Rails. When loaded, the center of gravity (CG) of your PWC will be securely on the rear of the Rails. The hulls of PWC's are structurally self-supporting, so there is no need for the Rails to extend all the way to their stern.
We also offer extra long 12-Foot Rails for high deck mounting installations such as houseboats and pontoon boats without swim platforms, and decks and pier installations. Click here to read more about these long Rails
This picture shows more dimensions of our Standard 8-Foot Rails. The 12-Foot Rails are the same, except for the overall length is 144 inches.
Q: Is the width of the Rails adjustable?
A: No, the width is fixed. The inside width of the rails is 13", and the outside width is 17". This will accommodate all PWC's. It is possible that the chines along the hull with some models might cause the PWC to rest at a slight angle if one chine is up on one rail and the chine on the opposite side of the PWC is down just inside the rail. But this would be rare, and would not cause any problem at all.
Q: PWC Hulls are V-shaped and the Rails are flat? Is that a problem? Shouldn't they be slanted inward to match the hull?
A: No. Hull shapes of different models vary significantly. But they all have in common a significant initial "V" that will push against the inside of the UHMW-covered rails, and a gradual flattening toward the stern that will rest on more of the surface of the UHMW. Even with round tube rails, or inward-slanted rails, the hull is only touching along a single line against the rail. In fact, very little of the hull is actually engaged with the rails, regardless of their shape, because hulls are rounded from front-to-back in addition to the complex shapes from the keel outward which includes 1 or more chines. We use 2x4 inch rectangular tubing because of its incredible strength and ability to handle the leveraged weight. In addition to the leveraged-length weight, PWC hulls impart a large amount of outward force as they are winched up into the rails. Our railings are unfazed by this force.
Q: How fast is the winch?
A: Our standard winch is made by WARN, the granddaddy of recreational winches. Click here to see the specifications. Line speed varies with the load-resistance (angle of the Rails and size of your PWC) and the number of wraps around the drum. 12-volt winches are not designed to be fast...but to be powerful enough to pull the necessary load. This model is typically used for a 4-wheeler that gets stuck in mud or behind a log. Faster winches are available, but at a significant increase in cost. These Warn winches will easily handle full size 3-seater PWC's.
Q: How easy is it to tilt my Rails up and down?
A: Because of the angle of the gas-shock lift-arm to the Rails, it allows the weight of the Rails to rest firmly on your swim platform when unloaded (the "push" is mostly parallel to the Rails). With just a little bit of one-handed lifting effort, it tilts the Rails up to the upright position where the lift arm will safely hold them in an upright position when you are using your swim platform. The Heavy Duty Rails require more lift, but still an easy task for one-person. You can order a second lift arm if you are getting Heavy Duty Rails (see the order form). In the upright position, the "push" of the lift-arm is at an angle to the Rails, so they are held securely in place. To lower them, you just push them down. As they move away from the upright position, they will reach the point at which the lift arm gas shocks will not have enough leverage to hold them up, so you support them as you lower to the loading position resting on the aft-end of your swim platform. The lift-arm effect is similar to the back door of a min-van or SUV.
Q: When my Rails are Tilted-Up, will they reach my upper deck?
A: Most upper decks extend to the end of the rear deck, but not over the swim platform, so the Rails won't reach the upper deck. Additionally, since the Rails are mounted down a step or two, that gives additional clearance. The Rails are 87 inches long to the beginning of the loading angle, and 103 inches overall. With this configuration, they will not touch the upper deck of most houseboats. But even if they do, and that stops them from going to a full upright position, that is OK as the lift arm will hold them as high as they can go. They will still be out of the way and give you a fully-open swim platform.
Q: Do I need to use a Safety Tether?
A: Yes. There are two kinds of tethering that we STRONGLY recommend:
1) As pictured here, when tilted up, wrap the winch line around the cross member to prevent unintended lowering the Rails.
2) When your PWC is loaded and winched up, we recommend that you add a secondary tether that connects your PWC to the frame or the railing of your houseboat. Then, relax the tension on the winch so that the majority of tension is on the tether. This can be a small rope or a chain-and-hook bolted to the frame. Because of the variables, we do not include a safety tether, but you definitely will want one. Click here to see how to make a simple Loop-Tether
Q: After I place an order, how fast can I get my PWC Rails?
A: We try to keep an inventory so we can ship immediately. But this depends on the current flow of orders. Please ask about the timing based on the current orders.
Q: What are the terms of payment?
A: We ship upon receipt of the payment. If we don't have inventory to ship immediately, you can place the order without payment (unless custom work is needed) and we will let you know when to send the payment. We prefer checks, but will accept Visa, Mastercard or Discover with a 3% additional service fee..
Q: What is the shipping cost and method?
A: The complete Rail Kits are shipped from Dayton Ohio, 45342. You can arrange to pick them up here if you wish.
The packaging of our standard 8-Foot Rails is 103x18x10 inches and 100 pounds. We have a special discount arrangement with a freight consolidator who ships these large packages for $150 per Rail within the Continental USA. .
Note: It cannot be shipped to a residentially-zoned address because it exceeds the 70-pound residential limit. So you will need to provide a commercially-zoned address. Many customers have us ship directly to their marina.
If you are outside the Continental USA, we can get an exact shipping quote when you confirm the quantity you want.
If you are ordering the 12-Foot Rails, please ask about shipping.
Q: Do you provide installation?
A: We don't have installers on staff, but if you are not comfortable with self-installation, we will help you find someone at your marina who will do it for you. Most marina workers are comfortable with a drill and 12-volt wiring. You can read full installation instructions here.
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If you have any other questions about our PWC Rails, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can call me directly at 1-937-384-0003 (Eastern USA), or send us an email.