You’re away from the Lake home for the winter, and the boat lift goes down. What do you do? And more importantly: do you even know it happened?
It does happen: every year, boat owners on Lake of the Ozarks get a phone call with really bad news about their boat lift, and depending on how long it takes to discover, the results can be disastrous. But thanks to some brilliant engineering, there’s a new boat lift control system helping boaters avoid it.
Tim Wright, cofounder of WP Controls, has a background in electronics and software engineering, having worked with Intel, Motorola, and Samsung throughout his career. His friend and business partner Bob Peters has a mechanical background with an Electronics degree. They saw an opportunity to solve a problem for boat owners when they realized the things they didn’t like about their own boat lift’s control system.
“One of the things I always had to do in the winter was make a special trip down to check on the boats,” Tim said, “or bug a neighbor that isn’t a weekender.”
They began sketching a concept that would eventually launch as WP Controls, with the goal of solving the following pain points:
• Problem: Docking the boat is a pain. Most boaters need to put the lift up after they launch, so returning to the dock means pulling alongside, hopping off, lowering the lift, hopping back on the boat, and docking it. Solution: WP Controls allows owners to control their lift remotely, via an app.
• Problem: Boat owners can’t see what’s happening to their lift while they’re away. Solution: WP Controls have a built-in camera that users can check through the app, any time.
• Problem: If the lift goes down, second homeowners’ only hope is a neighbor who notices and will let them know. Solution: If the lift goes down, WP Controls sends a notification through the app, so the boat owner knows right away. It also sends notifications if the boat lift undergoes significant movement, if the dock loses power, or even if the Internet connection goes down (solving the “If I haven’t gotten a notification, it must be okay” problem)
• Problem: Boat lift controls are easy to use… once you know how to use them. But for new boaters (who might be the ones hopping onto the dock to lower the lift), the control levers can seem almost deliberately confusing. Solution: The lift control box uses a touchscreen interface, with icons and labels that make sense even to a novice. Of course, with the ability to lower and raise the lift via the app, many WP Controls owners rarely open the control box anymore.
• Problem: Boat lift control boxes can be intrusively large… and not for any apparent reason. Solution: WP Controls’ lift control boxes are significantly more compact, and since they’re 3D printed, they even include custom shapes, like a lighthouse, and a wide variety of color options.
• Problem: Cold winter temperatures reduce the air pressure in the lift tanks, which can result in an unexpected downing of the lift. Solution: WP Controls’ lift control has an auto-maintainer that will detect if water conditions or the tank pressure changes and it’ll automatically add air as needed.
Wright and Peters spent three years developing their proprietary boat lift control box, with Peters doing the CAD work and Wright designing the software and electronics. They’ve avoided supply chain woes of recent years by keeping the manufacturing inside the U.S., and even inside Missouri if possible: the aluminum parts of the control box are made in Lebanon, Mo. and the wiring harnesses are manufactured in St. Louis. The control boxes finally hit the retail market in 2021, and Wright says boaters are loving them.
The most popular feature is the app control, which allows a captain to go ahead and drop the lift when the bow is pointed home, so there’s no waiting and bumping around the dock when they arrive. Boaters also love the “Board” position, which can be customized in the lift controls. That allows the operator to bring the boat down to ideal boarding height with the push of a button. Many boating related injuries actually occur during boarding and disembarking: the height difference from the dock to the boat has resulted in many a fall. With WP Controls, the boat can be lowered to the ideal boarding height and then, once everyone is aboard, another tap on the app lowers the lift the rest of the way.
Another built-in feature: two programmable receptacles (electrical outlets). They can be manually controlled remotely with the app or can be programmed to be on or off based on day(s) and time(s), temperature or even light (dusk to dawn). Wright points out this is ideal for plugging in dock lighting or a deicer.
It’s that kind of attention to detail and focus on problem-solving that’s already made WP Controls so popular with boaters. WP Controls actually makes boating better, and that’s an easy pitch.
Learn more, and order your WP Controls boat lift controller online, at www.WPControlsLLC.com.