Every boatie’s dream: hands-free boat launch and retrieval

  • 3
  • June 13, 2014

BalexBusinessPlusJune2014

By Mary MacKinven

How does this sound trailer boaties? You guide your boat to touch the hydraulic rollers on the rear end of the trailer, press a button on a remote control and your boat automatically works its way up onto the trailer using powerful drive rollers connected to the trailer’s front-end rollers.

Then you hook the bowline onto the front end of the trailer and drive away.

No wet feet. Not even another helping hand needed.

Likewise, for launching, in reverse. No swinging around the ramp in rough weather, because launch and retrieval is so quick.

Such a thing exists. The patent-pending Automatic Boat Loader (ABL) was launched by Tauranga company Balex Marine at the ‘Hutchwilco Boat Show’ in Auckland last month.

Managing director Paul Symes says the result was beyond his expectations. Not only did Balex Marine manage to deliver the commercialised design on time but they spoke to thousands of enthusiastic show visitors.

The show was also an opportunity to do market research: Balex Marine asked questions about boat and trailer use in a competition they ran.

“The level of support was fantastic. We always thought the idea was good and 95% reinforced that it was innovative and had a place in the market.”

The price is $4,500-5,500 for a base unit of rollers and control box, plus installation of around $3-500, depending on the configuration.

The loader comes with two remotes (one for the boat, one for on land) and a manual switch on the control box at the vehicle end of the trailer.

The innovative mechanism is demonstrated in a video on www.BalexMarine.com

The ABL was designed by Lex Bacon, realtor and long-time boatie.

“I would see people struggling to get out of the water, huge queues forming, and often boats getting completely stuck,” he says.

“With enough power to pull up to five tonnes of boat, the system operates quickly and smoothly in all weather conditions.

“And because you’re not relying on gravity to pull the boat into the water, launching on the beach or on shallow ramps is effortless.”

Experienced businessman Paul Symes, who founded steel detailing company 4D Global Group, joined Balex last year after spotting Mr Bacon’s novel product, to bring it to market.

International patents are pending and the initial market focus will be New Zealand, Australia and North America.

A further international trend in Balex Marine’s favour is the banning of power loading at boat ramps: the ABL does not require boats to be powered onto trailers.

Balex will also be exhibiting at the ‘Auckland on Water Boat Show’ in September and the ‘Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show’ in the US this November. The product will be on the market from October.

In the meantime Balex Marine is keen to engage with interested resellers and installers. The distribution model will be combination of online sales directing customers to pre-approved installers, and retailing.

A capital injection is also needed to fully commercialise. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, ExportNZ, EMA and other Priority One partners in the Bay of Plenty have been extremely helpful and easy to access, he says.

Article by Mary MacKinven, originally published in Business Plus, June 2014 issue