Title:
Surface vessel with submersible passenger compartment
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A surface vessel capable of lowering a sealed passenger hull into the water and moving the passenger hull through the water for the purpose of conducting an underwater tour. The vessel is equipped with the means to lower and raise the passenger hull vertically such that the center of buoyancy of the vessel and the center of gravity of the vessel remain aligned relative to the force of gravity. The passenger hull is supplied with fresh air from the surface and expels spent air back to the surface thereby maintaining normal atmospheric pressure within the passenger hull. The vessel contains ballast tanks capable of taking on seawater, when the passenger hull is in a raised position. The water ballast being used to offset the buoyancy of the passenger hull as well as increasing the stability of the vessel, when the passenger hull is in its lowered position. Before resuming normal surface operation seawater is discharged from the ballast tanks, utilizing the buoyancy of the passenger hull, while the passenger hull is still below the water surface and not yet in the fully raised position.



Inventors:
Wilson, Colin Roy (Toronto, CA)
Application Number:
10/829958
Publication Date:
02/24/2005
Filing Date:
04/23/2004
Assignee:
WILSON COLIN ROY
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B1/12; B63C11/38; (IPC1-7): B63B1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SWINEHART, EDWIN L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
COLIN ROY WILSON (48 ST. DUNSTAN DR., SCARBOROUGH, ON, MIL 2V5, CA)
Claims:
1. A surface vessel with propulsion means and power means comprising: (a) two hulls horizontally and vertically divided forming sealed air chambers in their upper sections and water ballast tanks in their lower sections, said water ballast tanks having water valves located in their bottoms and air vents located at their tops and; (b) a ridged framework connecting said hulls together and; (c) a lowering and raising means located between the said hulls and connected to the ridged framework and; (d) an enclosed passenger compartment, in communication with the atmosphere, connected to the lowering and raising means and; (e) a pilothouse connected to the ridged framework.

2. The vessel of claim 1 where the enclosed passenger compartment has greater buoyancy when submerged than the total displacement of the vessel when the water valves are in their open position.

3. The vessel of claim 1 where the water valves can be independently controlled such that the water ballast tanks fill and drain in a uniform manner.

4. The vessel of claim 1 where the enclosed passenger compartment can be raised to a position above being coplanar with the outer two hulls such that the water ballast tanks will fill when the water valves are opened.

5. The vessel of claim 1 where the enclosed passenger compartment can be positioned below the surface of the water such that the buoyancy of said enclosed passenger compartment will cause the water ballast tanks to drain when the water valves are opened.

6. The vessel of claim 1 where the enclosed passenger compartment can be submerged to a depth equal to or greater than the beam of the vessel.

7. The vessel of claim 1 where the vessel can operate as a normal surface vessel when the enclosed passenger compartment is fully raised and the water ballast tanks are empty.

8. The vessel of claim 1 where the vessel can be operated and propelled with equal ease in either direction.

9. The vessel of claim 1 where the lowering and raising means consists of two vertically mounted hydraulic rams the cylinders of said hydraulic rams being connected to the framework and the piston rods of said hydraulic rams protruding below the framework and connecting to the enclosed passenger compartment.

10. The vessel of claim 9 where the vertically mounted hydraulic rams are pivotally connected to the framework and the piston rods of said hydraulic rams are connected to the enclosed passenger compartment using a hinge type connections with two or more compensating hydraulic cylinders per said hydraulic rams connected at their one end to the said hydraulic rams at a point above the pivotal mount with hinge type connections and at their other ends to the ridged framework with hinge type connections said compensating hydraulic cylinders being connected at an angle and having control means such that they can exert force on the said hydraulic rams such that the said hydraulic rams maintain a vertical alignment relative to the force of gravity.

11. The vessel of claim 10 where the said hydraulic rams are hydraulically connected with pumping means and control means such that hydraulic fluid can be transferred back and forth between the said hydraulic rams.

Description:

I claim the benefits of an earlier U.S. provisional application No. 60/464,633

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Currently there are two general types of underwater observation vessels in operation; firstly there are surface vessels with underwater viewing ports, some of the vessels of this type have additional ballast to further lower the viewing ports, and secondly there are tourist submarines capable of fully submerged underwater operation. The surface vessel has the advantage of being able to get to and from the observation sight at a reasonable speed under its own power, the submarine lacks this mobility due to the need for permanent ballast and a limited power supply. The surface vessel is also considerably less expensive to construct, operate and maintain. The surface vessel however can not afford the same viewing experience as the submarine since the passengers are positioned only a small distance below the water surface. In addition to the two types of vessels mentioned above there have been patents issued for vessels that rotate a passenger compartment below the surface of the water such as U.S. Pat. No. 5,117,774 and U.S. Pat. No. 3,129,681. These vessels share the disadvantage of separating the center of gravity from the center of buoyancy, in the horizontal plane, during their operation thus limiting their stability. U.S. Pat. No. 4,718,368 shows an articulated vessel requiring many moving parts and being incapable of lowering its passenger compartment beyond a certain point, this point being directly related to the beam of the vessel. This configuration would also constantly reduce the beam of the vessel and therefore the stability of the vessel as the passenger compartment is lowered beyond the point where the articulated connecting arms are in a horizontal position. U.S. Pat. No. 4,276,851 shows a diving bell type compartment rigidly connected to a surface vessel. The present invention combines the advantages of a surface vessel with the ability of the submarine to position its passengers at a greater depth than can be achieved by the above mentioned surface vessels.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a partially submersible vessel, said vessel comprising a passenger hull and a pair of outer hulls mounted one to each side of the passenger hull. A rigid framework connects the outer hulls into a catamaran type configuration. A pair of hydraulic cylinders vertically mounted at each end and on the centerline of the framework connect the passenger hull to the framework. The passenger hull is movable between a first position somewhat above being coplanar with the outer hulls and a second lower position determined by the stroke of the hydraulic cylinders.

According to a further feature the passenger hull has an air intake and an air exhaust which are connected to the atmosphere.

According to a further feature the outer hulls are divided horizontally between sealed air tanks occupying the upper section of each hull, and water ballast tanks occupying the lower section of each hull.

According to a further feature each water ballast tank is equipped with a water valve located in the bottom of each tank and an opening connecting the top of each tank to the atmosphere.

According to a further feature the combined buoyancy of the sealed air tanks exceeds the vessels displacement.

According to a further feature the passenger hull has positive buoyancy which is somewhat greater than the total displacement of the vessel when the passenger hull is fully submerged and the water ballast tank valves are in their open position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The invention will be more fully understood in the light of the following description of one specific embodiment. The description is made with reference to the accompanying drawings, not necessarily to scale, of which:

FIG. 1 is a front view of the vessel.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the vessel.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the vessel.

FIG. 4 is a front view of the vessel with the passenger hull fully submerged.

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of one of the outer hulls with the water valve in the closed position.

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of one of the outer hulls with the water valve in the open position.

FIG. 7 is a front view of an alternate embodiment of the vessel.

FIG. 8 is a top view of an alternate embodiment of the vessel.

FIG. 9 is an enlarged top view of the compensating means described in an alternate embodiment of the vessel.

FIG. 10 is a front view of the vessel with one outer hull raised out of the water.

FIG. 11 is a front view of the vessel with one outer hull resting on a dock structure.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

In the embodiment shown, and with reference to FIG. 1 through FIG. 6, this semi-submersible vessel consists of two outer hulls 1 connected to a framework 5 thereby forming a catamaran type structure. Hydraulic cylinders 6 are integrated vertically into the framework 5. The piston rods 13, of said main hydraulic cylinders 6, protrude below the framework 5 and connect rigidly to the passenger hull 2. The outer hulls are vertically divided into separate compartments; each compartment is horizontally divided by plates 23 into two separate sections. The upper section, of each compartment, forms a sealed air tank 25. The lower section, of each compartment, forms a water ballast tank 26. Each water ballast tank 26 is equipped with a vent pipe 24 connecting the top of the tank to the outside atmosphere. The bottom of the water ballast tank 26 is equipped with a water valve 21 said valve being formed and positioned in such a way that it is flush with the outer surface of the hull 1. The water valve 21 is connected to a hydraulic actuator 22, which in turn is rigidly connected to a support frame 27. An air supply to the passenger hull 2 is provided through an air supply tower 9. The tower 9 is internally divided between an air intake duct and an air exhaust duct. The lower end of the tower 9 attaches to the passenger hull 2. The upper end of the tower 9 is connected to a sliding block 11 which rides on a guide 12 mounted on the back of the aft-located hydraulic cylinder 6. Flexible pipes, not shown in the drawings, connect the air supply from the top of air supply pipes 10 to one-way valves located at the top of the tower 9. The air supply pipes 10 are in turn supplied with air from blowers located in the engine rooms 3 this air supply being routed through framework 5 to the base of said air supply pipes 10. Further features include engine rooms 3 and thrusters 4 Located on the outer hulls 1, conning tower 8 connected to the passenger hull 2, pilothouse 7 connected to framework 5. In operation the vessel would proceed out to the observation site with the water ballast tanks 26 empty and the water valves 21 in their closed positions and with the passenger hull 2 in its first position. At the observation site the water valves 21 are opened and the ballast tanks 26 begin to fill, the design of the vessel being such that the waterline of the vessel with the water ballast tanks 26 filled will be somewhat above the top of the water ballast tanks 26 themselves. With the water ballast tanks 26 filled the water valves 21 are closed and the hydraulic cylinders 6 move the passenger hull 2 to its second position. The observation tour commences, the vessel being controlled from the pilothouse 7. At the end of the observation tour the hydraulic cylinders 6 move the passenger hull 2 to a third position somewhat below but close to the surface of the water. The water valves 21 are opened and due to the buoyancy of the passenger hull 2 the water ballast tanks 26 start to drain, the position of the passenger hull 2 is adjusted so that the vessel remains level as the tanks empty. With the water ballast tanks 26 empty the water valves 26 are closed and the passenger hull 2 is returned to its first position at which point the vessel can return to port.

The preferred embodiment uses a combination of inertia, flex in the connecting piston rods 13 and water drag resistance on the passenger hull itself to dampen the effects of wave motion being transferred to the passenger hull 2. Therefore an alternate embodiment, to compensate for the effects of surface waves, is herein described with reference to FIG. 7 through FIG. 9. In this embodiment the main hydraulic cylinders 6 are able to maintain a vertical alignment, with respect to the force of gravity, regardless of the roll and pitch of the vessel itself. This vertical alignment is maintained through the use of a pivoting type mount at the base of each main hydraulic cylinder 6 and compensating hydraulic cylinders 30 connecting the main hydraulic cylinders 6 to the framework 5, somewhat above the pivoting type mount. This pivoting assembly comprising of: gimbal ring 33 connected to a pair of opposing pins, not shown, rigidly attached to the base of each main hydraulic cylinder 6. A second pair of opposing pins, arranged perpendicularly to the first pair, connects the gimbal ring 33 to the support ring 32. The support ring 32 being rigidly attached to the framework 5 via a set of support brackets 31. The gimbal ring 33 being able to freely rotate on said pins. The said compensating cylinders consist of: four compensating hydraulic cylinders 30 arranged around each main hydraulic cylinder 6 connected at their top ends to ball joint type mounts rigidly attached to each main hydraulic cylinder 6 and connected at their lower ends to ball joint type mounts rigidly attached to the framework 5. A gravity sensor connected to a control means operates automatic hydraulic valves connected to the compensating hydraulic cylinders 30 said compensating cylinders being able to exert a side force on the main hydraulic cylinders 6 thus maintaining the vertical alignment of the main hydraulic cylinders 6. A further compensating means is provided to maintain the passenger hull 2 in a horizontal plane while the attitude of the surface elements of the vessel vary as the vessel transverses the water surface. This compensating means consisting of a reversible hydraulic pump inline with suitable pipes and flexible hydraulic hoses such that the two main hydraulic cylinders 6 are hydraulically connected together. A gravity sensor connected to a control means determines the direction of fluid flow between the two main hydraulic cylinders 6, in order to maintain the passenger hull 2 in a horizontal plane. In this embodiment the main hydraulic cylinders 6 are not fully extended when the passenger hull 2 is in its lowered position but rather to a mean position which allows the pistons 13 to move up and down from this mean position.

The vessel in all embodiments has the further feature of being able to raise any of its hulls above the water surface by the following means. With reference to FIG. 10 and the waterline 42 as shown, this final position is obtained from a starting position as shown in FIG. 1 by firstly allowing ballast water into the outer hull 1 which will remain in the water and secondly lowering the passenger hull 2 to a point where its buoyancy raises the opposite outer hull 1 to the desired position above the waterline 42. In FIG. 11 the vessel is shown with the raised outer hull 1 resting on a dock structure 40 the raised outer hull 1 being supported on blocks 41 and with the passenger hull 2 in its fully raised position. The position of the passenger hull 2 as shown in FIG. 11 requires that the main hydraulic cylinders 6 be double acting or that a means such as a winch and cable system, between the framework 5 and the passenger hull 2, be utilized to raise the passenger hull 2 against the force of gravity. A deck structure, not shown in the drawing, is also provided in all embodiments. This deck structure being of sufficient size to accommodate all the passengers while moving to and from the observation site.