Among the various boat shipping options available at A-1 Auto Transport, boat cradle shipping is one of the most commonly used. It is a cheaper alternative to enclosed containers and Flat racks. In a way, this method mirrors flat rack boat shipping, with a few minor differences in the technicalities.
The background of ship cradles
Ship cradles are rigs that are designed to hold a boat in place in an upright position on dry land. It looks like a boat trailer, only this one is not meant to leave the floor of the dock. Cradles are made up of either stainless steel or hard wood timber. The main reason for this is since they are exclusively used on the harbor on dry docks and in ships for transporting boats, they are exposed to the seashore atmosphere. The salty water and high humid conditions expose the cradles to rust-prone situations. Such material is rust proof.
Traditionally, cradles were meant for holding boats, yachts and even entire ships on dry land in an elevated position when the vessel is undergoing repairs, servicing, and maintenance. The boats are held in place using restraining material like ropes, cables, and wooden chocks. The cradle has small wheels for moving the elevated vessel around the dock. This is where it differs from a boat trailer. The wheels on it are not suitable for long distance travels. In fact, some wheels on specific boat cradles are “rail wheels”. The dock is fitted with train rails that the rail wheels on the cradle move along. The rail wheel fitted cradles are used to handle large yachts and ships while the tire wheel fitted ones are used to support small and middle-sized boats.
The cradle has “resting pads” on each corner of it, onto which the boat is held in place. These resting pads are made of the same material as the entire cradle, but they are covered with rubber so that your boat is not scratched or dented during loading and off-loading.
How it works
As the boat moving industry advanced and discovered different ways of shipping boats by ocean freight, ship cradles proved to be one way of doing this. Boat Cradle shipping works almost the same way as flat rack, only here, the cradle doesn’t have the walls as seen on the flat rack. They are used to deliver your boat along an extended dock length that leads to deep waters where the shipping vessels have anchored.
The boat is transported to the harbor on its trailer. Upon reaching the dock, the boat is brought close enough to the cradles. This is because the cradles with rail wheels are restricted to movement in one direction. The rails are designed to allow the cradle support boats transversely or longitudinally. For this reason, the driver drives the boat trailer just next to the cradle. The boat is then secured by straps with hooks onto which a crane uses to lift the boat off from the boat trailer and load it safely onto the boat cradle.
The cradle also has hooks and nooses onto which the straps are secured to ensure that the boat doesn’t fall off or wobble during transportation. From here, the entire cradle moves along the rails (for rail wheels) or the dock (for tire wheels). It delivers the boat to the shipping vessel waiting at the end of the dock.
At this point, depending on whether the dock is the destination or the point of origin, a crane lifts the boat from the cradle directly into the water; “submersion”, or lifts the entire cradle onto the shipping vessel, respectively.
Special personnel working on the harbor are responsible for doing this. A-1 auto transport has alliances with ports in the U.S and around the world. We always oversee the loading and offloading process, so rest assured your boat is in the safest hands possible. We care for it as if it is ours. The cranes too are inspected regularly as a harbor safety precaution routine.
Due to the open nature of the boat cradle shipping, it is advised that you invest in a proper high-quality shrink wrapper. This is to protect your boat from dust and other elements such as possible debris, oil spills, dirt, and damage. Poor quality shrink wrappers tear easily, wasting your cash. Also, torn shrink wrappers are blown by the wind and flap against your boat consistently. This can cause tiny scratches on your boat and especially the windows and wind screen areas.
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.