Last year, I moved to a new home where, for the first time, I have a garage. The extra sheltered space got me thinking about buying a small skiff for rowing and sailing, but my new one-and-a-half-car garage posed some storage limitations. The overhead door would prevent me from hanging a boat directly above the car. There is floor space off to the side of the parking area, but my family needs that for bicycles and storage. I began to scheme about a way to lift the boat off the car and slide it sideways to hang over the storage area. What came to mind was a scaled-down version of the overhead bridge cranes used in factories to move heavy materials around.

Photographs by the author

The lifting mechanism is attached to a beam that has a pair of ball-bearing trolleys attached on top. The trolleys run within the slot of the Unistrut channel fixed to the ceiling joists. Once the boat is raised to the desired height, the ball-bearing wheels allow it to be manually pushed sideways along the channel.

Having purchased a 14′ wherry that would fit the overhead space, I looked for lift hardware. There are several boat lifts designed for garage storage, but nothing that could move a boat both up and over. I considered barn-door hardware and stumbled across similar rolling hardware made by Unistrut for its slotted-steel channels, which are commonly used in construction projects for structural supports. The company offers ball-bearing trolleys that run inside the strut.

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