Patent application title: VEHICLE MOUNTED LAUNCH AND RETRIEVAL APPARATUS FOR A PERSONAL WATERCRAFT
George Whaley (Grifton, NC, US)
IPC8 Class: AB63C308FI
Class name: Hydraulic and earth engineering marine vessel portage, launching, or removing rail mounted carrier
Publication date: 2010-02-18
Patent application number: 20100040413
Taught herein is a motor vehicle mounted apparatus for launching and
retrieving a personal watercraft. The watercraft is transported on the
apparatus, which in turn is mounted to the vehicle, to the edge of the
body of water into which the watercraft is to be launched. The apparatus
provides a means of sliding the watercraft down a ramp into the water for
use, and moving it back up the ramp for transport and storage after use.
10. A vehicle mounted launching and retrieving apparatus for launching or retrieving a personal watercraft to or from a water based position comprising:a) a substantially rectangular watercraft supporting transport assembly having two substantially parallel rails, substantially equal in length, separated by a distance so that the two rails provide stable support for the watercraft, and having two or more lateral cross ties affixing the spatial relation of the rails, wherein the supporting transport assembly is designed to be mounted to a vehicle so that its rails are substantially parallel to the plane of the axles of the vehicle and the assembly can support the personal watercraft during transport;b) a substantially rectangular watercraft supporting ramp assembly comprised of a first and second ramp sub-assemblies each sub-assembly having two substantially parallel rails, substantially equal in length, separated by a distance substantially equal to the distance of separation of the transport assembly, and having two or more lateral cross ties affixing the spatial relation of the rails wherein:i. the rails of the first ramp sub-assembly are attached by a pivoting means to the corresponding rails of the transport assembly and, in turn, the second sub-assembly is attached by similar pivoting means to the first ramp sub-assembly;ii. the pivoting means between the transport assembly and the first ramp sub-assembly is at or near the rear of the vehicle so that the first and second sub-assemblies, may be pivoted below the plane of the transport assembly to form a ramp between the supporting transport assembly and the vehicle positioned in the water; andiii. the two pivoting means allow the first and second sub-assemblies to be folded upward to a position wherein the first sub-assembly is positioned essentially upright from the transport assembly and the second sub-assembly is folded downward from the first sub-assembly and secured during transport of a water vehicle.
11. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 10 wherein the pivoting means between the transport and ramp assemblies may be locked in position to affix the relationship of the transport assembly and the ramp assembly with the ramp assembly in an upright folded position.
12. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 10 wherein the pivoting means between the two ramp sub-assemblies may be locked in position to affix the relationship of the first and second ramp sub-assemblies.
13. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 10 wherein the vehicle is a truck having a substantially rectangular, flat bed, and the longitudinal axis of the first supporting assembly coincides with, or is parallel to, the longitudinal axis of the bed of the truck.
14. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 13 wherein the truck is a pick-up truck.
15. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 10 wherein the vehicle is a van.
16. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 10 further equipped with a means of winching a watercraft on and off of the apparatus.
17. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 16 wherein the means of winching is electrically actuated.
18. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 11 wherein when the truck is parked with its rear proximal to the water based position, the first and second ramp sub-assemblies may be pivoted downward and below the surface of the water to allow a watercraft to be winched from the water, up the sub-assemblies, and onto the transport assembly mounted on the bed of the truck.
19. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 10 constructed of metal, metal alloy, wood, fiberglass, polymers, composite material, or any a combination thereof.
20. The launching and retrieving apparatus of claim 10 wherein the ramp sub-assemblies are fastened together by a ramp fastening means when folded for transport.
A portion of the disclosure of this patent contains material that is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a launch and retrieval apparatus for a personal watercraft.
2. Description of Related Art
In the past two decades, personal watercrafts, which are small self-propelled vessels for one or two people, have become common place on lakes and waterways of developed countries. A personal watercraft may be viewed as the water borne equivalent of a motorcycle. The most popular personal watercrafts are propelled by high powered jets of water generated by pumps driven by small engines such as those marketed under the trademark, Jet Ski.
To prolong their life and minimize their maintenance, it is desirable to remove personal watercraft from the water when they are to be stored or not to be used immediately. Often they are stored on a dock at the body of water where they are used or transported to a protected area. However, personal watercrafts typically weigh over 400 pounds and require a lift or specially configured small boat trailer to remove them from the water. Watercraft lifts and trailers are well known in the art as exemplified in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,184,913 and 6,637,975.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The personal watercraft launching and retrieving apparatus taught herein facilitates launching a personal watercraft from a flat bed vehicle, such as a pickup truck, into a body of water for use, and retrieving it back onto the vehicle from the water after use. The apparatus promotes rapid launching and retrieving while avoiding the inconvenience of towing and maneuvering a personal watercraft trailer. The present apparatus comprises: 1) a personal watercraft supporting, rectilinear assembly having two equal length, parallel rails, with two or more lateral cross braces affixing the spatial relation of the rails that are separated by a distance so that the two rails provide stable support for the watercraft, and having; 2) a ramp assembly comprised of one or more additional rectilinear, watercraft supporting subassemblies each having two equal lengths, parallel rails, separated by a distance substantially equal to the distance of separation of the support assembly, and having two or more lateral cross braces affixing the spatial relation of the rails; wherein the rails of the ramp of the watercraft-supporting assembly are attached by a pivoting means to the corresponding rails of the support assembly and, in turn, each ramp subassembly is attached by similar pivoting means to the subsequent ramp subassembly, and wherein the pivoting means may be locked in position to affix the relationship of each subassembly to its adjacent subassembly; and 3) a winching means to facilitate launching and retrieval of the watercraft.
The personal watercraft is typically for one or two people and it is jet powered. One example of such as a personal watercraft for which the present apparatus may be employed is the Jet Ski (trademark) watercraft. However, the apparatus may also be used for substantially any small boat, e.g., sailboats, rowboats, and the like, so long as it can safely fit on the apparatus's support assemble. The apparatus enables one person to launch and retrieve a personal watercraft and transport, store, and maintain that watercraft securely on the bed of a pick-up truck.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1a is a top view of the launch and retrieval apparatus of the invention mounted to the bed of a light truck.
FIG. 1b is a left side elevational view corresponding to the top view of FIG. 1a and showing a personal watercraft on the ramp of the apparatus.
FIG. 2a is a detail, perspective view of one embodiment of an adjustable means of attaching the apparatus's rails to its cross ties.
FIG. 2b is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 2a showing its relation to one of the rails to one of the cross ties of the apparatus.
FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of a personal watercraft resting on the rails of the support assembly of the apparatus.
FIG. 4a is an elevational view illustrating a personal watercraft resting in the apparatus in the transport mode just before launch mode.
FIG. 4b is an elevational view illustrating the ramp being readied for launch of a personal watercraft.
FIG. 4c is an elevational view illustrating a personal watercraft being launched from, or retrieved onto, the apparatus.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
While this invention is susceptible to embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail specific embodiments, with the understanding that the present disclosure of such embodiments is to be considered as an example of the principles and not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiments shown and described. In the description below, like reference numerals are used to describe the same, similar or corresponding parts in the several views of the drawings. This detailed description defines the meaning of the terms used herein and specifically describes embodiments in order for those skilled in the art to practice the invention.
The terms "a" or "an", as used herein, are defined as one or as more than one. The term "plurality", as used herein, is defined as two or as more than two. The term "another", as used herein, is defined as at least a second or more. The terms "including" and/or "having", as used herein, are defined as comprising (i.e., open language). The term "coupled", as used herein, is defined as connected, although not necessarily directly, and not necessarily mechanically.
Reference throughout this document to "one embodiment", "certain embodiments", "and an embodiment" or similar terms means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, the appearances of such phrases or in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment. Furthermore, the particular features, structures, or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more embodiments without limitation.
The term "or" as used herein is to be interpreted as an inclusive or meaning any one or any combination. Therefore, "A, B or C" means "any of the following: A; B; C; A and B; A and C; B and C; A, B and C". An exception to this definition will occur only when a combination of elements, functions, steps or acts are in some way inherently mutually exclusive.
As use herein, small watercraft, watercraft, and personal watercraft are synonymous and mean a small, self propelled boat that typically is ridden by one or two people, and is exemplified by the Jet Ski (trademark) personal watercraft. The term, "body of water," means any lake, pond, river, bay, gulf, sea, etc that can be navigated by a personal watercraft. The term "vehicle" means a land motor vehicle, e.g. a truck, capable of transporting the apparatus taught herein including a small watercraft attached to that apparatus. The term "bed" of a motor vehicle is synonymous with "cargo floor" whereupon cargo being carried by the vehicle is placed. "Launching" is the act of placing a personal watercraft into a body of water for use, and "retrieving" means removing a watercraft from the water.
The drawings featured in the figures are for the purpose of illustrating certain convenient embodiments of the personal watercraft launching and retrieving apparatus, and are not to be considered as limitation thereto. Term "means" preceding a present participle of an operation indicates a desired function for which there is one or more embodiments, i.e., one or more methods, devices, or apparatuses for achieving the desired function.
FIG. 1a is a top elevation view of the present invention, i.e., the personal watercraft launching and retrieving apparatus 2 (hereinafter "apparatus 2"), mounted on the bed (cargo floor) 4 of a truck 6. FIG. 1b is the corresponding left side elevation view. The features and mode of operation of apparatus 2 can best be understood by considering both FIGS. 1a and 1b together. Further, for clarity in FIG. 1b, only newly mentioned items or those useful for orienting FIG. 1b with respect to FIG. 1a have been labeled. For items not explicitly labeled in FIG. 1b, refer to FIG. 1a. While apparatus 2 may be mounted on a dock or static, shore side platform, conveniently it is mounted to the bed of substantially any small or medium size truck. Even more conveniently, it is mounted to the bed of a pick-up truck having nominal bed length of at least about 6 ft (1.8 m) or the floor of a van having sufficient cargo capacity for the small watercraft and apparatus 2.
In FIGS. 1a and 1b, truck 6 is a standard (domestic or imported) pick-up truck with the side panels and tail gate not shown in the figures (but noted by dashed lines in FIG. 1b) to simplify illustration of apparatus 2. As shown in FIGS. 1a and 1b, the bed 4 is substantially flat and rectilinear having a cab end 4a and a rear end 4b, also referred to as a "water end 4b," When viewed from rear end 4b, apparatus 2 also has a left side 4c, a right side 4d, and a longitudinal axis 4e, i.e. a center line, that passes through a point at the center of cab end 4a and extends through a point at the center of rear end 4b and is parallel with sides 4c and 4d. Apparatus 2 includes a watercraft support assembly 8 mounted to bed 4, a ramp assembly 10 attached by a pivotal and locking means 12a to support assembly 8, and a winching means 14 for winching a small watercraft up ramp 10 and onto support assembly 8. In turn, ramp 10 is optionally comprised of two or more ramp subassemblies, e.g. in FIGS. 1a and 1b, 10a and 10b, which are joined to each other by pivotal means 12b. Note that while only two ramp subassemblies are illustrated in the figures, more than two may be used in alternated embodiments of apparatus 2. Pivotal means 12a and 12b are conveniently equipped with a locking provision.
Support assembly 8 is comprised of two rails 16, substantially equal in length, attached by adjustable means 18 to a plurality of perpendicular cross ties 19 to form a
Each ramp subassembly 10a and 10b is constructed in an analogous manner as the support assembly 8. That is, each comprises two rails, 16a and 16b (16, 16a, and 16b are collectively referred to herein as "the rails 16") respectively attached by adjustable means 18 to two or more perpendicular cross ties 19a and 19b that correspond to rails 16a and 16b. Likewise, 19, 19a, and 19b are collectively referred to herein as "the cross ties 19." The subassemblies 10a and 10b are joined by a pivotal and locking means 12b, which is the same or similar to pivotal and locking means 12a to attach subassembly 10a to support assembly 8. Should more than two ramp subassemblies be employed, pivotal and locking means the same as, or similar to, 12b may be installed between each of the ramp subassemblies. The distance between rails 16a and 16b, respectively, corresponds to the distance between the rails 16a and 16b of the support assembly 8. The terminal ramp subassembly, i.e., subassembly 10b in FIGS. 1a and 1b, may optionally be fitted with a protective bumper system 21 at its end that rest on the ground 22 below the water level 24 of body of water 26 (see FIG. 1b) into which personal watercraft 20 is being launch, or out of which, it is being retrieved.
Ramp assembly 10 may be pivoted and locked at pivot means 12a with respect to the plane of the supporting assembly 8 to facilitate launching and retrieving. Likewise, the ramp subassemblies, such as 10a and 10b illustrated in FIG. 1a and FIG. 1b, may be pivoted and locked at the pivotal means 12a so that they are also in a configuration to facilitate launching and retrieving. Pivoting and configuring the support and ramp assemblies are discussed below in description of the operation of apparatus 2.
The winching means 14 (FIGS. 1a and 1b) may by any means known in the art for launching and retrieving small watercraft to and from trailers or dock launches. For example, conveniently a hand cranked, gear facilitated winch system widely used in connection with watercraft trailers may be employed. Even more convenient, are the widely used electrically actuated winch systems that typically operate off a vehicle battery. Both systems typically use a cable, rope, strap, chain, etc., (herein after, "cable 25"), with one end attached to the watercraft and the other end wound around a spool rotated by a hand crank or electric motor to lower or pull the watercraft along the rails of apparatus 2. FIGS. 1a and 1b depict winching means 14 as shown mounted to supporting frame 28, which in turn is mounted to support assembly 8 at the end distal to where ramp 10 is attached, i.e. cab end 4a.
As noted above, cross ties 19, 19a, and 19b are conveniently attached to the rails of support assembly 8 and ramp subassemblies 10a and 10b respectively by an adjustable means 18. Consequently, the distance between the rails may be adjusted to best accommodate the hull of any specific small watercraft as shown in FIG. 3 that depicts a cross section of the apparatus 2 and cross section of a supported watercraft.
Any adjustable means of attachment taught in the art of small watercraft launching and retrieval apparatus may be employed. For example, the adjustable bracket depicted in FIGS. 2a and 2b as bracket 18a is a convenient means of attachment. FIG. 2a is a perspective view of bracket 18a prior to installation, while FIG. 2b shows bracket 18a connecting rail 16 to one of cross tie 19. As illustrated in FIGS. 2a bracket 18a is "L" shaped having a round hole 29 in one leg of the "L" and an elongated, i.e. oval hole 30 in the other leg. Bracket 18a is affixed to rail 16 of support assembly 8 (in a similar manner to rail 16a and 16b of ramp subassemblies 10a and 10b respectively) with a first fastening means 32, e.g., a screw or bolt, through round hole 29 and affixed to a cross tie with a second fasten means 34, e.g., a screw or bolt, through oval hole 30. Such a fastening means is further illustrated in the cross sectional view of FIG. 3.
Conveniently, fastening means 34 is quick adjusting so that it can be quickly adjusted to allow rail 16 (a or b) to move inward or outward to the extent allowed by oval hole 30, and quickly adjusted to lock when one or both of rails 16a or 16b are the desired distance apart as shown in FIG. 3. This teaching also applies to the attachment of the rails of the ramp to their corresponding brackets 18a. For example, fasten means 34 might have a small handle to avoid the need for a screw driver, wrench, or similar tool. Further, fasten means 34 may have a "snap-over-center" lever type widely used in the mechanical arts wherein bracket 18a is free to move in one position but is locked in place when the lever is lifted up and placed in another position.
Turning to the cross sectional view of FIG. 3, cross ties 19 that support rails 16 of the support assembly 8 may be attached to bed 4 by any means of the art for attachment of an object to a truck bed. However, conveniently it can be attached with fastening means 36 running through cross tie 19 and penetrating into bed 4. For example, fastening means 36 may be quick adjusting means similar to fastening means 34b. Referring to FIGS. 1a, 1b, and 3, alternatively or supplementally, the support assembly 8 may be secured to bed 4 by a plurality of linear connectors 38 such as chains, cables, ropes, straps, and the like each of which is attached at one end to apparatus 2 and the other end attached to an anchor bracket (or the like) 40 mounted on bed 4. Conveniently, linear connectors 38 are equipped with quick connect/release means as well as quick adjustment means.
Again referring to FIG. 3, the rails 16 may be beveled to better match the profile of hull 41 of the watercraft. Further, as shown in FIG. 3, the top of the rails may be covered with material that will promote sliding of the watercraft's hull 41 over the rails. For example, waterproof material, e.g., waterproof carpet, may be stretched across the top of the rails to form rail cover 42 that not only facilitates sliding along the rails, but also protects the hull 41 of the watercraft 20. Alternatively, the tops of the rails may be equipped with a system of cylindrical or ball rollers to enhance the movement of hull 41.
Apparatus 2 may be constructed of any materials used in the art for constructing boat and personal watercraft launching and retrieval means, such as metal, metal alloy, wood, polymers, fiberglass, composite materials or any combination thereof. Examples of metals include protected steel or steel alloy, e.g. stainless steel and aluminum. For example, hardware and connecting item might be metal while the rails might be treated wood or polymeric material. The choice of materials is governed by their cost in consideration of their durability in a harsh outdoor environment.
Watercraft launching and retrieving operations using apparatus 2 are illustrated in FIGS. 4a-4c. Note that for clarity, only items relevant to the discussion or needed for orientation are labeled. The reader is directed to previous figures for additional details. Referring to FIG. 4a, while being transported, watercraft 20 rests on rails 16 of support assembly 8 that is, in turn, attached to bed 4 of truck 6. Ramp sub-assemblies 10a and 10b comprising ramp 10 are folded upward, fastened together by ramp fastening means 44, e.g. a cable or strap securing ramp 10 to bed 4, and oriented substantially perpendicular to bed 4 and locked in place using locking provision of pivotal mans 12a and 12b.
Referring now to FIG. 4b in the first step of launching watercraft 20, truck 6 is backed as close as possible to the edge of the body of water 26 into which watercraft 20 is to be launched in keeping with safety considerations. Typically, the rear wheels of truck 6 are backed to within one to six feet (0.3 to 2 meters) from the water's edge, i.e., proximal to the water's edge, depending on the slope at the edge of the body of water 26.
Note that while FIGS. 4a-4c show only two ramp subassemblies, one or more additional such subassemblies are within the scope of the present invention. Further, a means of quickly attaching additional ramp subassemblies, e.g. 10c, 10d, etc., sequentially to the end of ramp subassembly 10b to increase the span of ramp assembly 10 is also contemplated and within the scope of the present invention. For example, one or more ramp subassemblies could be added between ramp subassemblies 10a and 10b connected by appropriate locking and pivoting means 12a.
Prior to launching, after unlocking pivotal means 12a and 12b, ramp sub-assemblies 10a and 10b are folded down, as illustrated in FIG. 4b, and locked at pivotal means 12a into a linear unit, i.e., ramp 10 as shown in FIG. 4c. Ramp 10 is pivoted downward about pivotal and locking means 12 until the end of ramp 10 distal to pivotal and locking means 12 rest on the ground 22 below the water level 24 of body of water 26 as shown in FIG. 4c. The watercraft is launched by pushing it along rails 16 of support assembly 8, down the rails of ramp 10, and into the body of water 26. It is convenient if the land at the water's edge slopes slightly downward with the back wheels of the truck being lower than the front wheels so that watercraft 20 will have a tendency to slide backward along support assembly 8. If ramp 10 is oriented at steep angle with respect to bed 4, descent of watercraft 20 to the water may be controlled by attaching cable 25 to the watercraft's bow and using winch 14 to inhibit its downward motion in the same manner that a boat or watercraft is typically launched from a trailer. As shown in FIG. 4c, watercraft 20 has descended ramp 10 and its stern is floating on the water. Cable 25 is then detached and watercraft 20 may be mounted and enjoyed.
Retrieval is substantially the reverse of the procedure for launching. That is, the watercraft is maneuvered as close as possible to the point that ramp 10 enters the body of water 26 with its bow starting up ramp 10. While it is possible to manually push the watercraft up ramp 10, it is more convenient to attach cable 25 to the bow and pull it up onto support assembly 8 with winch 14 as is it typically done when loading a watercraft onto a trailer. When watercraft 20 is fully on the support assembly, in the transporting position as shown in FIG. 4a, the watercraft is preferably secured in position by ropes, chains, straps, elastic bands or any other means used in the art for securing items to a truck or trailer. When watercraft 20 is properly positioned and secured for transport, ramp 10 is folded upward and secured into its transporting position as shown in FIG. 4a. Winch 14 can be conveniently used to assist in folding up ramp 10.