by Joyce Deaton
With a variety of styles and materials hitting the market, floating docks are becoming a popular choice with many Cape Fear area waterfront homeowners.
Floating docks perform well in areas where extremely deep water makes it difficult to drive pilings, where a soft, mucky bottom threatens the stability of a fixed dock, and where there are significant fluctuations in water level. In areas subject to constant changes from tidal effects, floating docks seem to hold up better, say their manufacturers, some of whose web sites show the floaters surviving coastal storms while nearby fixed docks go under.
“Some people in coastal areas think the water is too rough for floating docks,” explains Jerry McEntire, territory manager for EZ Dock in Shelby. “In the Intracoastal Waterway, you can easily get waves of 4 to 5 feet. Most people think they’d rather have a fixed dock, but the truth is the EZ Dock actually can handle rougher water. Storms lift up a fixed pier, but the floating dock sits on top of the water, so it actually does better.”
Most manufacturers recommend floating docks with a T or L shape for stability – except for areas with heavy waves or wakes, where a U-shape works best. Floating docks are now available in styles with wood or aluminum decking, as well as those made entirely from polyethylene, which require the least maintenance.
Floating docks can be anchored with deadweight anchors, galvanized pipe or pilings in the water or with cables, chains or stiff-arm pipes on land.
Here’s a brief look at a couple of brands of floating docks available in the Cape Fear area:
These beige-colored floating dock sections are made of slip-resistant rotomolded polyethylene with hollow flotation chambers that create pressure and suction to keep them stable in the water. Foam filling is not required, so they’re environmentally friendly. Dock sections are attached in modular fashion so you can design your own shape and easily add sections or change the layout later. A half-hexagon module adds to the design possibilities. Connection couplers are made of recycled composite materials, so there’s nothing to rust, and sections can move independently under stress. Self-floating modules are easy to connect; so two people can install a typical dock in a day.
The Floating PolyDock, made of non-slip rotomolded polyethylene, is similar in style to the EZ Dock, but with a brick-patterned deck surface. Modular sections can be attached at any point along their perimeter, so they can be quickly and easily reconfigured if requirements change. The PolyDock’s slip-resistant surface requires virtually no maintenance.
The GalvaFoam steel floating dock is built with galvanized steel members, braces and reinforcements and sits on high-density polyethylene flotation chambers filled with encapsulated foam. It offers a heavy-duty, permanent structure and can be completed with any type of wood or synthetic decking. Available in kit form, it can be assembled by knowledgeable do-it-yourselfers, though ShoreMaster’s marketing manager Gary Johnson says dealers do most installations.
The FTS-9 floating dock is made of lightweight aluminum. It’s a good choice in areas where docks must be removed in winter, and it requires very little maintenance, even in salt water. Decking options include aluminum, wood and synthetic materials. All decking is recessed slightly below the frame’s edges to add durability. Rotomolded polyethylene chambers filled with encapsulated foam provide flotation.
Floating Ports for PWCs and Small Craft
Along with their floating docks, both EZ Dock and ShoreMaster have introduced drive-on floating lifts for PWCs. These use a system of rollers that allow PWC riders to idle up to the lift, ease into throttle and roll on. To launch the PWC, they simply hop aboard and roll backwards into the water. With modular extensions, some of these ports can even accommodate small boats.
EZ Dock’s EZ Port models range from the EZ Port II, for PWCs up to 800 pounds, to the EZ Port IV Boat Lift, which can hold a 23-foot boat. The EZ Port MAX offers tandem installation and inline parking for multiple PWCs, and there’s also a specially designed Sea Doo Port.
ShoreMaster’s ShorePort, with three adjustable polyurethane rollers and a cupped front, can adjust to any hull design and accommodate both two- and three-seater PWCs weighing up to 1,150 pounds.
The Glide-N-Ride floating PWC lift, manufactured by Jet-Port, offers an economical alternative with its drive-on port that uses greased rails instead of rollers. Users simply apply a specifically formulated marine grease to the lift a few times a season.
The company’s companion product, the Roll-N-Ride lift, uses more conventional rollers and can accommodate PWCs up to 1,100 pounds and small boats up to 12 feet. An extension hitting the market in late spring will enable either Jet-Port product to handle boats up to 18 feet.
More information on floating docks and lifts is available from these area dealers: Alpha Marine Contractors (EZ Dock) and West Docks (Jet-Port), both in Wilmington. For ShoreMaster products, contact Atlantis Underwater Service in Stokesdale, The Lumber Depot in Mooresville, or Dock Masters Marine Construction in Lake Wylie. Glide-N-Ride products are available online at www.carolinadocks.com.