Ceiling Storage

Looking for info. regarding an electric ceiling kayak hoist like the Harken or Suspenz manual hoists. My 80+ year paddling buddy needs one.

What would you like to know???

I see no need for an electric winch

– Last Updated: Dec-14-13 4:49 PM EST –

Just get a hand-cranked winch and bolt it to the wall, and run rope via pulleys to the lifting location. Get the smallest hand-cranked winch you can find, like the kind you'd see used for pulling a tiny motorboat onto a trailer. A person can easily generate 500 pounds of pull with such a winch, and you'll only need a small fraction of that to lift a kayak. Most of my ceiling-stored boats are raised and lowered this way. I've gotten them as cheaply as $10. An electric winch will cost hundreds.

You need two lifting lines for the boat, but if you set things up right, only one line needs to be wound onto the winch. The basic system I use is like this: A single line, guided by pulleys, runs from the winch, up the wall, and either along the ceiling or beneath the rafters (depending on if the garage has a ceiling or not). This rope approaches the location of the boat "end-wise" to the boat, so that it can fork into two parallel branches, with each branch going over a separate pulley for lifting the boat (thus, the two parallel lifting lines are operated together by the one line that gets wound onto the winch drum). It helps to "misalign" the approach of the main lifting line relative to the axis of the boat by just a few inches so that the longer of the two parallel branches does not rub the lifting pulley that is used by the shorter branch.

As long as I'm explaining how I make a hoist, I'll mention that you do NOT want the main winch line to approach the boat from an angle that's much different from being in-line with the long axis of the boat. If the line approaches from the side, the "fork" where one main line branches into two will form a wide "Y", and the location in space of that "Y" will shift back and forth as the boat is raised an lowered, causing the two ends of the boat to be raised and lowered at unequal speed. It will be virtually impossible to set things up so that the boat remains level at all elevations within the lifting range. If you find that you must make the main line approach from the side, you'll need to make use of the kind of complex pulley arrangement of a Harken hoist. For that matter, you can buy a Harken hoist and simply connect the free end of the line to a hand-cranked winch (but try it without the winch first - you may find it isn't needed at all).

I use Harken Hoists
and I am very happy with them. You do have to read carefully about how they are installed to be sure that your garage or storage shed is configured in such a way that the overhead hanging idea will work. Sometimes an overhead garage door can cause problems. But if it will work in your space the Harken hoists, while expensive, work very well and there is quite a bit of mechanical advantage. I agree that if you need a winch type affair you could probably rig something up with the Harken system. The Harken system does not require that the lifting line pull in the same direction as the boat alignment. I have three hanging in my garage all returning to the same area on the back wall.

My wife had a great idea
We were talking about the same problem for my friend when he was 82.

Her suggestion was to install two L brackets on the carport wall a few inches above the racks on his 67 Mustang. He can grab the back of the boat and pivot the front on to the roof then slide the stern over. He doesn’t have the strength to get out of a boat by himself but he can still load by himself. It was built out of 2 x 4’s, both bolted to the studs. the first 4" side up, at a 2"upward angle so the boat won’t slide off and the second as a knee brace.

We will be very fortunate if we can still paddle at that age and find friends to help us.

Hope this will work for you.


winch + drill
Get something like one of these.


Power it with a hand drill.

No need for the drill
A winch like that will crank with so little effort when lifting a kayak that there’s no need to look for ways to make it easier. Using that style winch, but a couple sizes smaller, a person can drag a small motorboat weighing several hundred pounds up the skids (no rollers) of a trailer with an easy one-handed operation. If you are considering an electric drill for power, that means hoisting a kayak would would be much easier than you imagine. One thing the drill will do is shorten the lifting time from about 45 seconds to about 5.

Ceiling Hoist Tips
Thanks to everyone for all the great ideas. I am sure we will be able to use them to install a workable system for my friend.

Some photos

– Last Updated: Dec-15-13 4:10 PM EST –

I've posted these shots before, but it's not likely that the original poster has seen them. The hoist shown here is similar to what I described above, except that two lines wind onto the winch drum instead of just one.


The winch shown in this set of photos is much bigger than what's necessary, but it was the smallest one I could buy at a store in town on short notice (if ordering online, Northern Tool normally carries a nice, small model for about $10 to $12).

I agree that there is no need for a drill.

But the request was for an electric powered option, so I offered an electric powered option.