Patent application title: Method and Apparatus for Partially Submerged User Operation
Don L. Cray (Beaverton, OR, US)
IPC8 Class: AB63B3574FI
Class name: Buoys, rafts, and aquatic devices body supporting buoyant device with seat
Publication date: 2011-09-08
Patent application number: 20110217891
An "in the water" user experience is provided. A device holds a user
partially submerged in the water, and propels the user and device with
the user partially submerged. The user and device together have a center
of buoyancy, which can be adjusted to accommodate users of different size
and weight. Thus, a user can be propelled through the water.
1. A watercraft for use in water comprising: a riding platform to receive
a user, and positioned to hold the user partially submerged in the water;
a pontoon connected to the riding platform to provide buoyancy to the
watercraft, the user and the watercraft together having a center of
buoyancy in the water; a buoyancy adjustment mechanism to adjust the
center of buoyancy, to adjust for users of different size, to provide a
center of buoyancy that maintains the user partially submerged in the
water, with at least the user's head above the surface of the water, and
at least the user's legs below the surface of the water; and a motor
connected to the pontoon to propel the watercraft through the water with
the user partially submerged.
2. The watercraft of claim 1, wherein the riding platform comprises a seat submerged in the water.
3. The watercraft of claim 2, wherein the seat includes a portion substantially parallel to the surface of the water, and a back against which the user's back is to rest.
4. The watercraft of claim 1, wherein the pontoon comprises a first pontoon, and further comprising: a second pontoon parallel to, and connected to the first pontoon via a crossbar.
5. The watercraft of claim 4, further comprising: a propeller connected to each pontoon, each propeller being separately controllable.
6. The watercraft of claim 1, wherein the buoyancy adjustment mechanism comprises a bar connecting the riding platform to the pontoon, the bar being adjustable to increase or decrease a vertical distance between the riding platform and the pontoon.
7. The watercraft of claim 1, wherein the motor is connected to the pontoon via being connected to the riding platform.
8. The watercraft of claim 1, further comprising: a control switch integrated into the pontoon to control speed and/or direction of the watercraft.
9. The watercraft of claim 1, further comprising: a viewing window connected to the pontoon, shaped to displace the water, having a portion above the water and a portion below the water, the viewing window including at least a portion below the water that is transparent to allow the user to see into the water from above the water's surface.
10. The watercraft of claim 1, further comprising: a water cannon attached to the pontoon, having a pump to draw water from below the surface of the water, and a nozzle above the surface of the water to eject the water.
11. An apparatus for moving a user in the water, comprising: means for riding, the means positioned on the apparatus for holding a user partially submerged in the water while operating the apparatus; means for providing buoyancy, connected to the means for riding, for providing buoyancy to the combination of user and watercraft, where the user and the watercraft together having a center of buoyancy relative to a surface of the water; means for adjusting the center of buoyancy for adjusting the buoyancy of the combination of user and watercraft, to adjust for users of different size, to adjust the center of buoyancy relative to the surface of the water to maintain the user partially submerged in the water, with at least the user's head above the surface of the water, and at least the user's legs below the surface of the water; and means for propelling the combination of user and apparatus with the user partially submerged in the water.
12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the means for riding comprises means for a user sitting partially submerged in the water.
13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the means for sitting includes means for supporting a user's back sitting in a substantially upright position.
14. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the means for providing buoyancy comprises: a pair of parallel buoyancy means connected together via a crossbar.
15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the means for propelling comprises a pair of propulsion means, one in each of the pair of parallel buoyancy means, each propulsion means being separately controllable.
16. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the means for adjusting the center of buoyancy comprises means for adjusting a vertical distance of means for riding relative to the means for providing buoyancy.
17. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising: means for controlling speed of the apparatus integrated into the means for providing buoyancy.
18. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising: means for controlling direction of the apparatus integrated into the means for providing buoyancy.
19. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising: means for underwater viewing connected to the means for providing buoyancy, including at least a portion below the water that is transparent to allow the user to see into the water from above the water's surface.
 This application claims the benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/309,820, filed Mar. 2, 2010.
 Embodiments of the invention are generally related to water-borne devices, and more particularly to a device that propels a user through the water.
 Portions of the disclosure of this patent document may contain 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 file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever. The copyright notice applies to all data as described below, and in the accompanying drawings hereto, as well as to any software described below: Copyright © 2011, Don L. Cray, All Rights Reserved.
 The popularity of water activities can be seen by observing the numerous devices and crafts that have been designed for use in the water. One possibly grouping of water devices is based on functionality, such as carrying a user over the water, or for use in the water. Carry a user over the water refers to generally moving the user over the water without the user getting wet. Devices for use in the water are designed to be fully submerged, in contact with the water.
 Examples of devices for carrying a user over the water may include boats, canoes, paddle-boats, jet-skis, and other similar craft that carry a rider over the water, either for leisure or to arrive to a location. Examples of devices for use in the water may include scuba gear, submersibles (motorized craft that drag or drive a user fully submerged), and other similar devices intend for the user to be fully submerged, in contact with the water. Non-motorized devices may also include boogie boards, surf boards, personal flotation devices, tubes, and other devices. Non-motorized devices rely upon the user or the waves or water movement to propel a user, or otherwise are intended more for stationary enjoyment of the water. Thus, there exist devices for enjoyment above the water as well as for under the water, but not for moving a user in the water.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The following description includes discussion of figures having illustrations given by way of example of implementations of embodiments of the invention. The drawings should be understood by way of example, and not by way of limitation. As used herein, references to one or more "embodiments" are to be understood as describing a particular feature, structure, or characteristic included in at least one implementation of the invention. Thus, phrases such as "in one embodiment" or "in an alternate embodiment" appearing herein describe various embodiments and implementations of the invention, and do not necessarily all refer to the same embodiment. However, they are also not necessarily mutually exclusive.
 FIG. 1 represents an embodiment of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water.
 FIG. 2 represents an embodiment of a flotation portion of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water.
 FIGS. 3A-3B represent an embodiment of a front view of a device that carries a user partially submerged through the water, illustrating the seating portion and the propellers.
 FIGS. 4A-4C represent an embodiment of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water, illustrating more detail with respect to battery mechanisms.
 FIGS. 5A-5B represent an embodiment of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water, and having a water gun attachment.
 FIGS. 6A-6B represent an embodiment of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water, and having an underwater viewing portion.
 Descriptions of certain details and implementations follow, including a description of the figures, which may depict some or all of the embodiments described below, as well as discussing other potential embodiments or implementations of the inventive concepts presented herein. An overview of embodiments of the invention is provided below, followed by a more detailed description with reference to the drawings.
 As described herein, a self-powered device allows for an in-the-water user experience by moving a user partially submerged through the water. Thus, a user can enjoy "fun in the water", being in the water while able to move through the water rather than over the water, but without requiring the equipment, training, or effort of using underwater devices. The device described herein allows the user to be partially submerged, in contact with the water, and propelled along through the water. As shown in more detail below, the device is able to adjust a center of buoyancy of the combination of device-plus-user to adjust to individuals of differing height and weight, while maintaining the functionality.
 Thus, embodiments of the invention relate to devices and methods to carry a user in the water, rather than above the water. The user is partially submerged, rather than fully submerged. Partially submerged, as used herein, refers to a user being in the water with at least the user's head above the surface of the water, and at least the user's legs below the surface of the water, during operation of the device. Thus, the partial submersion is by design, rather than incidentally having some part of the user submerge during use (e.g., such as on a Jet Ski or similar device--all trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners, and are used herein only for purposes of identification). The partial submersion is also achieved in a device that is self-propelled to carry a user along in or through the water, instead of traditional simple boards or tubes.
 The device described herein includes a mechanism to adjust the center of buoyancy of the device and user together. Considering the device and the user together (device+user) to be a "system," the mechanism can adjust how a user sits in the water for using the device. In one embodiment, the adjustment mechanism includes an adjustable, extendable seat portion that can be vertically adjusted with respect to the surface of the water, or with respect to the buoyant portion or portions of the device. Thus, adjustment of the vertical positioning of the seat portion adjusts the center of buoyancy of the system based on how far the user is placed in the water. It will be understood that the adjustment of the center of buoyancy of the "system" is likely to change more significantly for a buoyancy adjustment than a center of buoyancy of the device alone. Thus, the same device can accommodate users of varying weight and height.
 FIG. 1 represents one embodiment of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water. Watercraft 100 represents a device as discussed above, which holds user 110 to propel user 110 through the water. It will be understood that the depictions in the figures are not necessarily representative of actual size or relative dimensions. Rather, the figures are intended to provide examples and illustrate certain features of the invention, and are not intended as specifications for the design of a water device described herein. Those of skill in the art will understand how to implement the descriptions provided herein.
 Watercraft 100 includes at least one pontoon 120, which is a means to provide buoyancy to watercraft 100. While a "pontoon" my suggest a certain shape or placement with respect to watercraft 100, it will be understood that other flotation mechanisms could be used. Generally, a buoyancy means includes a housing that encloses a substance of density less than the density of water, typically much less dense. Examples of a "buoyant" substance include air and foam. Thus, pontoon 120 is one example of a mechanism that could be used to enclose a buoyant substance to provide buoyancy to watercraft 100.
 Pontoon 120 represents a buoyancy mechanism that could be of a variety of different shapes or sizes. The illustration in FIG. 1 provides one example, which could be modified in a variety of ways. For example, a flotation device could be mostly in front of a user, or mostly behind a user, or mostly to the side of a user. A pontoon to the side of the user is illustrated.
 Sitting platform 140 represents one example of a platform or holding means that holds user 110 during operation of watercraft 100. Sitting platform 140 could be alternatively replaced by a resting or lying platform, where a user either reclines, or lays forward on the device. However, for purposes of comfort and ease of use, and for accommodating users of different size as well as age and activity level, a sitting platform provides a good holding mechanism.
 Sitting platform 140 (or an alternative platform, which can be collectively referred to as a platform or a riding platform) is attached to pontoon 120. In one embodiment, the same means or mechanism that attaches the platform to the buoyant portion of watercraft 100 also functions to adjust the position of the platform relative to the buoyant portion. For example, platform height adjuster 150 adjusts at least the vertical positioning of platform 140 with respect to pontoon 120. A simple attachment bar could have a height adjustment mechanism built in, such as is known with poles of different sizes, and securing mechanisms such as tabs, rods, pins, or some other device that can interact with overlapping holes in telescoping poles.
 Water level 160 represents a nominal water level that may be a desired level for operation of watercraft 100. It will be understood that the nominal water level may be made higher or lower depending on a number of factors. For example, certain activities may be more desirable to have the user "higher" in the water (e.g., less of the user submerged), or "lower" in the water (more of the user submerged). Additionally, the expected waving of the body of water may suggest having a user higher or lower in the water (e.g., a user may want to be higher in water that has more wave activity). Different users may also simply prefer to be higher or tower in the water.
 It will be understood that when users of different size and/or weight ride watercraft 100, the size and weight of the user will have an affect on where water level 160 comes on the user. This is because watercraft 100 has a nominal center of buoyancy, and the center of buoyancy of the user plus the device will be different than the center of buoyancy of the device itself. Thus, watercraft 100 will sit higher or lower in the water depending on who rides it. Adjusting the vertical distance of platform 140 relative to pontoon 120 will adjust the center of buoyancy of the device plus user either higher or lower in the water, whichever effect is desired.
 In addition to adjusting the platform height, or alternatively, other buoyancy adjustments could be made, such as adding or removing weight to watercraft 120 (e.g., by adding/removing, objects (weights), sand, water, or some other substance). In certain designs, a bilge pump could take on or evacuate water from a hold in watercraft 100 (not explicitly shown) to adjust the buoyancy.
 However buoyancy adjustments are made, the adjustment to buoyancy changes the overall sitting in the water of the device plus user, sitting either higher or lower, depending on the adjustment, relative to prior to the adjustment. Such adjustments can be made for comfort of the user, and to provide an in-the-water experience for the user.
 Propeller 130 represents a propulsion means or propelling mechanism for watercraft 100. The shape, size, and position of propeller 130 may be different than the example provided in FIG. 1. In one embodiment, a motor is included in pontoon 120, and only a propeller or similar mechanism is where propeller 130 is shown. Alternatively, what is shown as propeller 130 could include the motor and propeller or other propulsion mechanism.
 In one embodiment, propeller 130 is directly connected to pontoon 120. In another embodiment, propeller 130 is connected to the riding platform, which is connected to the buoyancy mechanism.
 FIG. 2 represents one embodiment of a flotation portion of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water. Pontoon 200 is primarily responsible for the buoyancy of the water device. In one embodiment, pontoon 200 is made of plastic, but could also be made of wood, metal, or a composite material or other material that would provide the ability to be buoyant. In one embodiment, pontoon 200 is a simple structure that provides buoyancy and provides a location to keep batteries or fuel to operate the device. In another embodiment, the pontoon itself may be able to adjust its center of buoyancy through the use of a bilge pump or similar device. The pontoon may additionally or alternatively include regions (not shown) where weights can be attached to the body of the pontoon or inserted into the body of the pontoon to adjust its buoyancy.
 The side view illustrates motor mount 210, which could represent one location where the motor may actually be located, or where a motor may be attached to pontoon 200. Mounts 220 illustrate potential connection points to another pontoon, for a device with parallel pontoons, as described in more detail below with reference to FIGS. 3A and 3B. Although two mounts 220 are illustrated, more or fewer may be used, and the location is merely exemplary, rather than restrictive.
 In one embodiment, the "in the water" device uses an electric motor, powered by one or more batteries. Use of battery power prevents certain undesirable effects of gas-powered motors; namely, heat, noise, and exhaust. However, gasoline (or other fuel) may be used instead of battery power. The power source or fuel source needs a location on the watercraft. As illustrated, one possible location is in the pontoon or pontoons, as shown by battery 230. More detail regarding battery power is provided below with respect to FIGS. 4A-4C.
 FIG. 3 represents one embodiment of a front view of a device that carries a user partially submerged through the water, illustrating the seating portion and the propellers. FIG. 3A illustrates a side view or aspect view of one implementation of a watercraft as described herein, while FIG. 3B illustrates a front view of the implementation.
 As illustrated, the device includes a parallel pontoon configuration, where two pontoons 310 are connected together. Although illustrated as having the pontoons parallel or substantially parallel, there could be implementations where two pontoons 310 are connected, but converge at one end or another. Pontoons 310 are connected by a crossbar (shown but not labeled). The crossbar may be positioned somewhere near the nominal water line. It will be understood that larger pontoons 310 may be used to carry additional weight, and even hold gear.
 For example, a watercraft could be designed to carry scuba gear, and could even anchor to allow a user to leave the craft. Thus, in addition to riding for leisure, or for sport (e.g., navigating a regatta or course, which may include navigating a course as well as shooting a target with a water gun), the device could be used to carry scuba divers to a dive location. By riding the device through the water, the divers could avoid having to load and unload gear from a boat, but are not fully submerged, and so can use the full supply of their gear for dive time.
 The device includes a seating portion, shown by seat 320, which is mounted on adjustable bar 330 that extends down from the surface of the water. Thus, the riding platform may be submerged in the water. Bar 330 is shown somewhat angled. Different implementations may include more or less angling from perpendicular (perpendicular with respect to a plane that represents the nominal water level). In one embodiment, seat 320 is considered to include the bar that extends down into the water. In one embodiment, the depth of seat 320 is adjustable, for example, by allowing bar 330 to be adjusted in length. Extending the length of the bar (e.g., by having a telescopic bar, or having an outer structure and at least one inner structure having a smaller size (e.g., diameter) that can extend out) positions seat 320 further into the water, while shortening bar 330 brings seat 320 closer to the surface of the water.
 As shown, seat 320 is substantially parallel to the surface of the water (or a plane that represents the nominal water level). There could be a slight curve up, such as using a type of bucket seat, or seat 320 may include a portion that extends up and provide back support. As illustrated, seat 320 allows a user to sit partially submerged while the craft propels the rider in and through the water. Seat 320 is positioned to allow at least a portion of the user (e.g., head and shoulders) to be above the nominal water line (while it is understood that a wake, wave, or swell could temporarily alter how much of the user is out of the water).
 Adjusting the depth of seat 320 adjusts the center of buoyancy of the system that includes the device and the rider or user. Thus, the device could accommodate persons of various weight and height. Although specific ranges of height and weight would vary by design (e.g., length of the cross bar, size of the pontoon, depth of the seat, and so forth), basic designs are contemplated in the range of accommodating riders of approximately 20-150 kg (approximately 45-300 lbs), and of approximately 1.4-2.2 meters (approximately 4'6''-7''. Other designs can be provided for larger or smaller sizes.
 In one embodiment, the angle of seat 320 may be rotationally adjusted with respect to a plane of the surface of the water allow a user to be inclined further forward or backward (for viewing objects below, such as under, the water, or for viewing objects above, such as trees, clouds, birds, or other things). In one embodiment, a seating portion may include a back to allow the user to recline. The rotational adjustment of seat 320 could be set at the dock, and fixed during operation, or may be adjustable by the user during operation.
 As illustrated in FIGS. 3A and 3B, in one embodiment, a watercraft may include two pontoons 310, where each pontoon includes its own propulsion 340. Thus, separate motors and/or propellers could be attached to each pontoon 310. An alternative system could be configured to have a single motor with multiple pontoons. Power 350 illustrates one possible location for power for the device, which as illustrated may be located in each pontoon.
 Each pontoon 310 is shown have a motor with propeller (propulsion 340) to create the thrust that will carry the user through the water. In one embodiment, each pontoon motor is independently operated, such as by toggles or other control switches 360. As illustrated, control switches 360 may be located near the crossbar. Thus, for example, it is easy for a rider to hold onto the crossbar for stability in operating the craft, and use the toggles to control the craft. Control switches could thus be integrated into pontoons 310 to control speed and/or direction of the device.
 The thrust control could also be provided via knob or sliding knob. Any of the possible mechanisms can allow for slower or faster movement (e.g., pushing a toggle farther forward may provide more thrust than pushing it less). In one embodiment, the controls may allow forward only thrust for each pontoons into which they are integrated. In one embodiment, partial or full reverse thrust may also be possible. Thus, in one embodiment, independent motor control is provided, which allows good control and maneuverability of the device, where thrusting the left pontoon would turn right, thrusting the right pontoon would turn left, and thrusting both would move straight ahead.
 FIGS. 4A-4C represent one embodiment of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water, illustrating more detail with respect to battery mechanisms. The device configuration of these figures is a dual-pontoon design with battery-power. In FIG. 4A, battery compartment 410 is closed. In FIG. 4B, battery compartment 420 is open. FIG. 4C illustrates a closer view of an embodiment of battery compartment 420. Seat 430 and control switches 440 are also seen in FIGS. 4A and 4B.
 Battery compartment 410 is the same as battery compartment 420, except that battery compartment 410 includes covers over the compartments, which battery compartment 420 is open. As mentioned above, other forms of power may be used (e.g., fuel), hut may be less preferred from a safety and usability perspective. In one embodiment, the batteries allow for easy removal and replacement, which can ease in the maintenance of the device. Thus, a device may be operated for a time, and then the battery covers removed, the batteries replaced with fully charged batteries, and the other batteries can be charged while the device is continued to be used. The removal and installation of the batteries can be performed by a trained individual in a matter of minutes.
 FIGS. 5A-5B represent one embodiment of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water, and having a water gun attachment. As mentioned above, in one embodiment, a device that moves a rider through the water can have a water gun or water cannon attachment, which draws water from below the surface of the water 520 and pumps it to a nozzle above the surface of the water to eject the water. FIG. 5A illustrates a side view, and FIG. 5B illustrates a side view.
 As shown in FIG. 5A, water cannon 530 (also referred to as a water gun) may be mounted on crossbar 540 that arches over the water and between two pontoons 510. It may simply be mounted atop a bar or mount in a single pontoon configuration. Water cannon 530 could include a pump attached up near or on the crossbar or at the mounting location of the water gun. In one embodiment, water cannon 530 is attached not on a cross bar, but on pontoon 510, perhaps raised slightly off the top surface of the pontoon. For higher-powered water cannons (e.g., some cannons can fire a stream of water approximately 10 meters (approximately 30 feet)), there may be advantage to having the cannon mounted on a bar or a raised mount to prevent firing on other individuals at close range. The cannon may also be mounted to be positioned at an upward angle to prevent firing at people or animals at close range that may cause injury.
 While the water may be drawn from near the front of pontoon 510, for water cannon 530 near the front of the device, water cannon 530 could alternatively be positioned near the back of the device. The water may not necessarily be drawn from the same half of the device where the cannon is mounted (a cannon in the front could draw water from the back, or a cannon in back could draw water from the front). Water pump 550 shows alternative locations of where a pump may be mounted to provide the pressurization to expel the water from water cannon 530. Namely, pump 550 may be on the rider side of the pontoon (not shown), on the side of the pontoon away from the user (as shown), or mounted near the water cannon. At least some tubing or pipe or other mechanism or the pump itself needs to be in the water to allow pump 550 to draw water up to water cannon 530. The water may be fed to water cannon 530 through a tube or pipe, which may include tubing that runs through a crossbar or mounting bar or stand.
 A water cannon or similar device may be connected to one or both sides of the device, such as one water cannon on each pontoon 510. The water cannon can draw water through a pump or tube from the side of a pontoon, which is then compressed or pressurized to expel out the end or nozzle in a stream. In one embodiment, the device includes a water cannon on each pontoon. In another embodiment, only a single water cannon is provided.
 FIGS. 6A-6B represent one embodiment of a device that carries a user partially submerged in the water, and having an underwater viewing portion. FIG. 6A illustrates a side view of a device with viewer 620 for viewing into the water. FIG. 6B illustrates a side view of the device with viewer 620. It will be understood that any of a great number of configurations for viewer 620 could be used, and one non-limiting example is shown.
 Water level 610 indicates a nominal water level, and viewer 620 includes portions above and below water level 610. Viewer 620 is shaped to displace the water to allow a user to look down on viewer 620 from above the surface of the water to see into the water. It is understood that refraction prevents clear viewing into the water from above it, which is generally even true in locations known for having clear waters. However, by displacing the water at the surface with a transparent or clear viewing device that extends down into the water, a user can generally see much more clearly into the water. Thus, viewer includes a portion above water level 610, and clear portion 630 that extends below the surface of the water.
 Mounts 640 may hold viewer 620 to the device, or other mounting systems will be understood. Clear portion 630 may be, for example, a clear plastic or acrylic device mounted to allow the user to look down into the water while keeping the head and shoulders above the water. Such an experience may provide some of the enjoyment of snorkeling without having to place the individual's face into the water.
 It will be understood that examples and descriptions related to different mechanisms and devices describe means for providing any of the functions described as being associated with them. For example, and sitting or riding means provides functions related to holding a user, adjusting a sitting position (e.g., upright versus reclined), supporting a user, or other functions. Buoyancy means provide functions related to providing flotation. In conjunction with buoyancy adjustment means, functions related to adjusting the center of buoyancy may be provided by buoyancy means and buoyancy adjustment means. There may be motors or propellers as described or any known in the art to provide the functions related to propulsion or moving a user through the water.
 Besides what is described herein, various modifications may be made to the disclosed embodiments and implementations of the invention without departing from their scope. Therefore, the illustrations and examples herein should be construed in an illustrative, and not a restrictive sense. The scope of the invention should be measured solely by reference to the claims that follow.
Patent applications in class With seat
Patent applications in all subclasses With seat