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Invention makes moving personal watercraft easier


05/11/07 By Howard Meyerson Press Outdoors Editor [email protected]

HOLLAND -- As an avid Jetskier who grew up along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Ryan Fogg had a chance to see the problems that plague personal watercraft owners.

Where Jetskis once were relatively light and mobile, easily moved by one person, the machines increasingly were sitting idle because they were too heavy to move.

Or they might float away on a storm surge because they were too heavy for the owner to manhandle up the beach when they were done riding.

As consumer demand drove the industry to build larger machines, upsizing them from one-person capacity to two persons and then to three, the problems seemed to get worse.

Manufacturers also shifted to four-stroke motors in order to meet environmental standards. The shift often meant adding 100 pounds, bringing the weight of personal watercraft up to 1,000 pounds.

"I could see that the SeaDoos were only getting much harder to move, so I decided to build something to try to solve that problem," Fogg, owner of Shoreline Manufacturing in Hudsonville, said. His company makes the Beach Rover, a unique device for moving personal watercraft and inflatables.

"The typical scenario these days is a person with a cottage buys them for the grandkids and then they can't use them because they can't move them," Fogg said. "With one of these, a 60-year-old person can buy one and actually go out themselves and use what they own."

The 29-year-old home inspector built his first Beach Rover a year ago. It was then called the Strat-a-Vette, a name he has since dropped. The device debuted in February at the Grand Rapids Boat Show. The invention he developed with high school friends Stuart Terpstra and Derek Prins drew plenty of interest. Fogg has sold 25 of the devices at $5,800 each.

"He hit a home run," said Ken Blackport, sales manager of Shawmut Hills, which handles the Beach Rover. "There is an unbelievable need for something like this.

"You get people who can't pull them up over the hump (at waters edge) created by the wave and wind action, so they resort to cementing a six-by-six into the ground and attaching a winch to it to pull the unit up, but this is way more convenient."

The Beach Rover's cost is equivalent to a shore station or dock arrangement used on inland waters, according to Blackport. But it allows owners to move PWCs between the cottage and beach or to and from the boathouse at season's start and end. Those who visit on weekends easily can move their PWCs back and forth between the beach and garage.

With the price of PWCs now running $8,000 to $10,000 it is not unusual to have $25,000 invested, according to Blackport, once a trailer and appropriate covers are purchased. The Beach Rover, he said, is an accessory that allows PWC owners to get more out of their investment.

Using the Beach Rover is easy. As Fogg demonstrated on the Lake Michigan beach at Holland last week, the motor starts with a gentle tug. Two joysticks control its progress forward and back, left and right. It travels at a gentle walking speed whether loaded or not.

Being four-wheel drive and equipped with large, knobby tires, it moves easily over loose or packed sand and can climb an embankment without difficulty. A simple overhead pulley arrangement and hand crank makes lifting and lowering the PWC a snap.

Fogg, who grew up in a family of engineers and built go-karts as a kid, said the idea for the Beach Rover grew out of the lessons he learned while working with his father, Michael, on an earlier device.

His father had designed an electric-powered submersible trailer that could power itself across the sand and be guided into and out of the water. But Fogg, who likes to ride by himself, found that it and other nonpowered commercial designs, were hard to load when the water was rough.

Using them required backing down deep into the water. Loading got dicey and dangerous when the waves were high.

The Beach Rover, he said, can be driven into deeper water but rarely needs to be more than axle deep. PWCs driven up on the beach at water's edge are easily lifted with the overhead design.

"The design was crucial. It had to be universal. I didn't want to go out into the water that far when it was rough," he said.

It is also nearly $2,000 less expensive than his father's design, which is no longer being manufactured"

Fogg said the Beach Rover began as a sideline project but is starting to take on a life of its own. There is not only the lakeshore market, where neighbors and associations have been known to go in on them and share costs, but what he calls "the saltwater market" those waterfront property owners along the oceans and Gulf of Mexico.

"The future of this project looks very good," he said. "On the oceans they have tides and they have to be moved during the day."
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