Patent application title: AUTOMATIC RETRACTABLE BOAT COVER
Thomas Andrew Bir, Jr. (Raleigh, NC, US)
IPC8 Class: AB63B1702FI
Class name: Ships boats, boat component, or attachment protective cover or shield
Publication date: 2012-07-19
Patent application number: 20120180714
The present invention relates to a boat cover with an automatic boat
protection system for raising and lowering the cover in a balanced
method. The device is utilized to protect a boat when docked.
1. A balanced framework and mechanism assembly for raising and lowering a
boat cover having a top portion positioned over the framework, a side
portion extending over the sides of the framework, and a bottom
peripheral edge having long edges and short edges comprising: a) a
rectangular framework which can be attached to a fixed point having a
center cross member and two equally spaced middle pipe cross members; and
b) a mechanism for raising and lowering the boat cover comprising i. a
rotatable shaft rotated by a motor and attached to the framework near the
center cross member; and ii. a singular winding cord connected at one end
to the shaft for rotation around the shaft the other end connected to a
balanced set of raising cords on each side of the center cross member
which engage the frame set at the middle pipes and are spaced about and
attached to the periphery of the cover bottom edge such when the shaft is
rotated in one direction it will raise the bottom edge and rotating the
shaft in the other direction will lower the bottom edge.
2. The assembly according to claim 1 which further comprises a vertical extending center support attached to the center cross member and each of the middle cross members and a longitudinal center frame member.
3. The assembly according to claim 2 wherein the raising cords engage the middle pipes by passing through pulleys attached to the vertical extending center supports attached to the center cross members.
4. The assembly according to claim 1 wherein there is at least one raising cord attached at each end of the short edges and at least two cords attached to each of the long edges.
5. The assembly according to claim 4 wherein there are at least four cords attached to each of the long edges.
 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 boat cover and, in particular, for an automatic boat protection cover system that is used to protect the boat when at a dock and not otherwise in use.
 2. Description of Related Art
 The protection of a boat while it is moored at a dock and not being used, especially at private docks, has been the subject of many different types of covers. One of the oldest methods is the use of canvas or flexible covers that can be placed over the top of the boat. The cover is held with some type of rope at the edge for retaining the cover on the boat. The main reason for these types of covers is to protect them from the elements and to reduce the accumulation of dirt, moisture, animals, bird contamination, and the like, when the boat is not in use. Hand covering is time consuming, and thus, frequently skipped when an owner is otherwise in a hurry. The art teaches several methods to cover boats.
 In U.S. Pat. No. 6,786,171 there is taught a brief history of boat cover apparatuses, mostly manual type systems. The '171 patent itself teaches a boat cover used with a hoist comprising a rotatable shaft, rotated by a motor with two or more cords wound around the shaft to raise and lower a series of ropes and the cover. The design shown has two ropes, each winding in opposite directions. It also requires the offset mounting from the center of the shaft on the middle pipes, thus causing not only winding problems from wrapping multiple ropes, but also causes problems with level raising and lowering as the multiple ropes wind and unwind and weight distribution issues with an offset rotatable shaft. The disclosed cover also includes a framework to attach to pilings, a fabric boat cover, and appropriately attached ropes to raise and lower (albeit not always evenly) the cover on the boat. The actual design has two ropes winding in opposite directions, thus further complicating precise leveling issues.
 Currently there is nothing better in the art for a rising and lowering mechanism, and the art would find useful a more balanced system without the problems associated with the current raising and lowering mechanisms.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention overcomes the problems of the prior art by utilizing a lifting mechanism where the rotatable shaft is centralized and only a single cord is wound and unwound on the shaft with mirror image left and right cording to raise and lower the cover.
 Accordingly, in one embodiment of the present invention there is described a balanced framework and mechanism assembly for raising and lowering a boat cover having a top portion positioned over the framework, a side portion extending over the sides of the framework, and a bottom peripheral edge having long edges and short edges comprising:  a) a rectangular framework which can be attached to a fixed point having a center cross member and two equally spaced middle pipe cross members; and  b) a mechanism for raising and lowering the boat cover comprising  i. a rotatable shaft rotated by a motor and attached to the framework near the center cross member; and  ii. a singular winding cord connected at one end to the shaft for rotation around the shaft, the other end connected to a balanced set of raising cords on each side of the center cross member which engage the frame set at the middle pipes and are spaced about and attached to the periphery of the cover bottom edge such when the shaft is rotated in one direction it will raise the bottom edge and rotating the shaft in the other direction will lower the bottom edge.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the framework and lifting mechanism of the present invention.
 FIG. 2 is a close-up perspective view of the vertically extending center support.
 FIG. 3 is a close up perspective view of cord links.
 FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a boat cover in the down, covering position.
 FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a boat cover in the up, uncovered position.
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.
 The drawings featured in the figures are for the purpose of illustrating certain convenient embodiments of the present invention, 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 and that one skilled in the art could select from these or their equivalent in view of the disclosure herein and use of the term "means" is not intended to be limiting.
 As used herein the term "framework" refers to a structure for supporting a boat cover wherein the cover is of some fabric material. In general, the framework will be essentially rectangular, that is two short sides and two long sides. The exact size will be such that the long sides and short sides are longer than the length and width of the boat to be covered. While it can be of a flat material, in one embodiment it is a piping material, such as of a metallic or polymeric nature, designed to withstand the rigors of being outside and at a boat dock.
 The framework is of a size and adaptation such that it can be attached to at least four boat pilings hung from above or the like at a boat pier. The rectangular frame has a center cross member, essentially dead center, such that it is at the balance point of the frame. In addition, it has at least one middle pipe cross member, one on each side of the center cross member equally spaced, once again, to balance the frame at the center of the frame.
 In one embodiment of the framework, there are vertical extending center supports attached to the center cross member and each of the middle pipe cross members for attaching pulleys or for guy loops for raising cords utilized in the present invention. Attached to the top of each vertical extending center support is a longitudinal center frame member. All positioned such that they are in the center of the length of the frame and continue to keep the center of gravity in the center of the center cross member.
 The "boat cover", as used herein, refers to a fabric or other flexible material having a top portion positioned over the framework, a side portion extending over the sides of the framework, and a bottom peripheral edge having a rectangular configuration with long and short edges matching the framework. The bottom peripheral edge can be weighted to hold it down and can have piping sewn in the bottom edge or otherwise attached thereto in order to attach the present invention mechanism to for raising and lowering the cover over a boat.
 The "mechanism assembly for raising and lowering the boat cover" refers to a rotatable shaft which is rotated by a motor in both a clockwise and counterclockwise manner. It is positioned essentially at, and parallel to, the center cross member. By positioning the rotatable shaft and motor at the center, once again the whole framework will remain balanced easily and not have weight distributions which would cause the cover or framework to list in any direction.
 A singular winding cord is connected at a first end to the rotatable shaft in such a way that the cord can rotate around the shaft or unwind off the shaft when the shaft is rotated. The other second end is attached to a balanced set (one set on each side of the center cross member) of raising cords. Each of the balanced set of raising cords engages the center cross member by engaging the vertical extending center support attached thereto. Multiple cords controlled through loops or pulleys are then distributed through the framework and attach to the bottom edge of the cover. In one embodiment the cords attach to piping, forming the lower peripheral edge as embodied in the figures. In one embodiment, there is at least one raising cord attached to the short edge of the bottom edge of the cover and at least four cords attached on each of the long sides with two on each side positioned on opposite sides of the middle cross member, once again evenly positioned so not to coast the bottom peripheral edge to list in any direction, and thus raise and lower evenly during shaft rotation and cord winding of the invention.
 As the shaft rotates one way, the bottom edge is raised and rotation in the other direction lowers the bottom edge. In the lowered position, the cover will be extended and extend over a boat positioned under the frame. As can be seen from this design, the entire framework remains balanced, and thus, operates more smoothly with less operational problems than a multi-cord system wrapped around a rotatable shaft.
 The construction of the frame by use of piping and the like is within the skill of the art. Cords and other cabling suitable for use in the invention can be balanced in selection with the weight of the cover size and the like. In general the construction of each piece is clear from the description and as aided by the drawings herein.
 Now referring to the drawings, FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the present invention with the boat cover removed for easy viewing. The present invention consists of the rectangular framework 1 having short sides 2 and long sides 3. In this embodiment the frame is made of piping and assembled with connectors 4 for ease of packing and assembly and for the ability to adjust size by connecting different lengths of piping.
 The frame 1 has a center cross member 7 which is positioned in the center of the frame 1 across the short side. It can be seen in essentially dead center position, and thus, with the rectangular construction and centered cross member balanced. Also, additional middle cross members 11 and 12 are positioned one on each side of the center cross member 7. They could be positioned equal distance from the center cross member 7 and each of the short ends 2 as long as each middle cross member 11 and 12 are the same distance from the center cross member 7, then the unit remains balanced.
 Attached to the center point of each of the cross members 7, 11, and 12 are vertical extending center supports 15a, 15b, and 15c. Longitudinal center frame member 20 connects the opposite short ends 2 and the tops of each of the vertical extending center supports 15a, 15b and 15c. The framework 1 can be hung during use to a beam support 22 if desired, but also the long edges can just be lashed to four or more pillars at the pier during use. In general, any fixed point that stably attaches the framework over the boat at the pier will be sufficient.
 The entire raising and lowering mechanism consists of several parts. The rotatable shaft 25 is shown positioned right next to or just under the center cross member 7 in a manner that keeps the frame balanced. The rotatable shaft 25 is rotated by motor 26. Once again, in the construction of the present invention is such that choice of positioning is to keep the invention balanced. Singular winding cord 30 is attached to the rotatable shaft 25. The other end is connected to a pair of distance cables 32a and 32b at pulley 33. The length of the distance cables will depend on the distance between the middle cross members. The distance cables are each attached to a plurality of lifting cables 35a and 35b through link 36. Each of the pulling cords 35a and 35b are guided by pulleys 37 though other guiding means may be used and is within the skill of the art. The pulling cords are then attached to bottom peripheral edge 40 of the cover. As the rotatable shaft is rotated in one direction, it pulls on the distance cables and on the pulling cables and raises the peripheral edge and rotation of the shaft in the opposite direction lowers the edge (and of course the cover).
 FIG. 2 is a close-up of the vertical extending center support 15a showing running cords 35a (steel cords) running through pulleys 45 attached to eyelets 46. This embodiment of the present invention allows cords to travel smoothly during the raising and lowering operation.
 FIG. 3 shows how link 36 is utilized to attach pulling cables 35a to a similar system that is utilized for link 33 and this figure demonstrates such method of attachment.
 FIG. 4 shows the boat cover 50 over the device of the present invention in the down or covered position. The top of the cover 52 is positioned on the frame and in this version is resting by gravity but a physical attachment could be made as well. FIG. 5 shows when the rotatable shaft has lifted the peripheral edge, and thus, lifted the cover 50.
 Those skilled in the art to which the present invention pertains may make modifications resulting in other embodiments employing principles of the present invention without departing from its spirit or characteristics, particularly upon considering the foregoing teachings. Accordingly, the described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative, and not restrictive, and the scope of the present invention is, therefore, indicated by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description or drawings. Consequently, while the present invention has been described with reference to particular embodiments, modifications of structure, sequence, materials, and the like, apparent to those skilled in the art still fall within the scope of the invention as claimed by the applicant.
Patent applications in class Protective cover or shield
Patent applications in all subclasses Protective cover or shield