Title:
Retractable boat ladder having intermediate locking position
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A retractable boat ladder, having: a first support; a pair of second supports; a step frame connected to the first support and the pair of second supports such that the step frame rotates from a retracted position through an intermediate locking position to a fully extended position; and a locking mechanism on at least one of the second supports, the locking mechanism holding the second support is an intermediate locked position when the second support has been rotated from a retracted position to the intermediate locked position, and releasing the second support from the intermediate locked position when the second support has been rotated from the intermediate locked position to a fully extended position.



Inventors:
Thomas, Richard E. (Alta Loma, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/903303
Publication Date:
03/26/2009
Filing Date:
09/21/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
182/91
International Classes:
B63B27/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
AVILA, STEPHEN P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GORDON & REES LLP (101 WEST BROADWAY SUITE 1600, SAN DIEGO, CA, 92101, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. A retractable boat ladder, comprising: a first support; a pair of second supports; a step frame connected to the first support and the pair of second supports such that the step frame rotates from a retracted position through an intermediate locking position to a fully extended position; and a locking mechanism on at least one of the second supports, the locking mechanism holding the second support is an intermediate locked position when the second support has been rotated from a retracted position to the intermediate locked position, and releasing the second support from the intermediate locked position when the second support has been rotated from the intermediate locked position to a fully extended position.

2. The retractable boat ladder of claim 1, wherein the step frame is connected to the pair of second supports by at least one biasing mechanism that urges the retractable boat ladder into the retracted position.

3. The retractable boat ladder of claim 2, wherein the biasing mechanism is disposed between the step frame and at least one of the second supports, and wherein the biasing mechanism causes the step frame to rotate with respect to the pair of second supports.

4. The retractable boat ladder of claim 3, wherein the biasing mechanism comprises a spring that is isolated from water when the biasing mechanism is submerged.

5. The retractable boat ladder of claim 1, wherein the retractable boat ladder further comprises: a bracket at the end of each of the first and second members, and wherein the first and second supports rotate with respect to the brackets.

6. The retractable boat ladder of claim 1, wherein the locking mechanism comprises: a rotatable lug dimensioned to mate with an end of the second support such that the rotatable lug can be rotated from a neutral position into a position to hold the second support in the locked intermediate position; and a lug biasing mechanism for rotating the lug to the neutral position.

7. The retractable boat ladder of claim 6, wherein the rotatable lug is dimensioned to return to the neutral position and release the end of the second support when the step frame has been rotated from the intermediate locking position to the fully extended position.

8. The retractable boat ladder of claim 6, wherein the rotatable lug is dimensioned to rotate from the neutral position to a position to permit the step frame to be rotated from the fully extended position to the retracted position.

9. The retractable boat ladder of claim 5, wherein the locking mechanism comprises: a rotatable lug connected to the bracket at the end of the second member, the rotatable lug being dimensioned to mate with an end of the second support such that the rotatable lug can be rotated from a neutral position into a position to hold the second support in the locked intermediate position; and a lug biasing mechanism for rotating the lug to the neutral position.

10. The retractable boat ladder of claim 9, wherein the lug biasing mechanism comprises: a magnet in the rotatable lug; and a magnet in the bracket at the end of the second support, wherein the magnets in the rotatable lug and the bracket tend to cause the rotatable lug to rotate to the neutral position.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to ladders that swimmers use to get into and out of small pleasure boats.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A variety of boat ladders are now currently on the market to assist swimmers, waterskiiers and divers getting into, and out of, the water. Unfortunately, these existing boat ladders all suffer from various disadvantages.

Generally speaking, the two biggest problems are that current boat ladder designs tend to be difficult to operate, or flimsy in their construction.

A number of existing designs involve ladders that fold up out of the water when not in use. Unfortunately, current retractable or folding ladder designs all require the swimmer to stand on them to keep them in the water. When the swimmer is not standing on the ladder (or otherwise holding its step end down in the water), the ladder will tend to fold up out of the water. Therefore, a swimmer in the water mush both reach up and pull down the ladder, and (while keeping its bottom step end in the water), stand upon the step and then climb into the boat. Moreover, these ladders fold upwards as the swimmer steps into the boat. As such, the swimmer is stepping off of a moving ladder. This has proven to be a rather awkward solution to the problem of a swimmer getting easily getting into or out of a boat.

What is instead desired is a boat ladder that can easily be positioned into or our of the water, without requiring the swimmer to forcefully hold onto the ladder and then stand on it to keep it submerged when stepping onto or off of the ladder.

It is also especially important to provide a ladder having a solid construction. Flimsy ladders that move around or shake when being deployed (or after they have been deployed) and are thus real safety hazards. Moreover, swimmers/boaters feet are typically wet and slippery when using a boat ladder. Therefore, flimsy ladders are especially undesirable as boat ladders.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a boat ladder that is easy for a swimmer or boater to deploy. When deployed for use, a bottom step end of the ladder remains submerged in the water. This permits easy access into and out of the boat. When retracted, the bottom step end of the ladder is positioned out of the water, and can thus be conveniently folded under the back or side of the boat.

A first advantage of the present retractable ladder is that it does not require a swimmer to hold down its bottom end into the water during use. As such, the present ladder will not tend to spring up out of the water as the swimmer steps off of it and into the boat.

Another advantage of the present ladder is that it is made of a solid and rugged construction.

In preferred embodiments, the present invention comprises a retractable boat ladder, comprising: a first support; a pair of second supports; a step frame connected to the first support and the pair of second supports such that the step frame rotates from a retracted position through an intermediate locking position to a fully extended position; and a locking mechanism on at least one of the second supports, the locking mechanism holding the second support is an intermediate locked position when the second support has been rotated from a retracted position to the intermediate locked position, and releasing the second support from the intermediate locked position when the second support has been rotated from the intermediate locked position to a fully extended position.

In various preferred embodiments, another advantage of the present retractable ladder is that the mechanism that locks the ladder at its intermediate position is protected from the water. In one particular embodiment, magnets are used to move the parts of the invention into both locked and unlocked positions.

Another advantage of the present retractable ladder is that it is very easy for a user to retract the ladder. To retract the ladder, the swimmer need only apply more downward force on the step than would be applied when the swimmer is standing on the bottom of the ladder. This is easy to do since a swimmer weighs more out of the water than (s)he does in the water. As such, it is easy for the swimmer to apply more downward force when leaving the water.

In various embodiments, the step frame is connected to the pair of second supports by at least one biasing mechanism that urges the retractable boat ladder into the retracted position. Preferably, biasing mechanisms connect each of the pair of second supports to the step frame; however, the present invention is not so limited.

Preferably, the biasing mechanism comprises a spring that is isolated from water when the biasing mechanism is submerged. This has the advantage of protected the biasing mechanism (e.g.: a spring) from rusting.

In optional embodiments, the locking mechanism comprises: a rotatable lug dimensioned to mate with an end of the second support. As such, the rotatable lug can be rotated from a neutral position into a position to hold the second support in the locked intermediate position; and a lug biasing mechanism for rotating the lug to the neutral position.

In addition, the rotatable lug can be dimensioned to return to the neutral position and release the end of the second support when the step frame has been rotated from the intermediate locking position to the fully extended position.

In various preferred embodiments, the lug biasing mechanism comprises: a magnet in the rotatable lug; and a magnet in a bracket at the end of the second support, wherein the magnets in the rotatable lug and the bracket tend to cause the rotatable lug to rotate to the neutral position. The use of magnets in the lug biasing mechanism has the advantage of not requiring springs that would otherwise be exposed to the water when submerged. Such exposed springs could rust, and/or weaken rover time. In addition, there is much less potential for a swimmer to pinch his/her fingers and toes when using the present retractable ladder.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the present ladder in an intermediate locked position.

FIG. 2 is side elevation view of the present ladder in a retracted position.

FIG. 3 is a partial cut away view corresponding to FIG. 2, showing the position of the locking mechanism.

FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of the ladder in the intermediate position of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a side elevation view of the ladder in the fully extended position.

FIG. 6 is a front elevation view corresponding to FIGS. 1 and 4.

FIG. 7A is close up cut away view of the rotatable lug and lug biasing mechanism when the ladder is in the retracted position of FIG. 2.

FIG. 7B is close up cut away view of the rotatable lug and lug biasing mechanism when the ladder is in the intermediate locked position of FIGS. 1, 4 and 6.

FIG. 7C is close up cut away view of the rotatable lug and lug biasing mechanism when the ladder is in the fully extended position of FIG. 5.

FIG. 7D is close up cut away view of the rotatable lug and lug biasing mechanism when the ladder has been unlocked and is rotating back towards its retracted position after use.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention provides a retractable boat ladder having an intermediate locking position.

FIGS. 1, 4 and 6 show the boat ladder in intermediate locking position. FIGS. 2, 3 and 7A show the ladder in its retracted position. FIG. 5 shows the ladder it its fully extended position.

FIGS. 3 and 7A to 7D show the operation of the novel locking mechanism as the boat ladder moves through its retracted, intermediate locking, fully extended and then back to its retracted positions, respectively.

As seen in FIGS. 1 to 6, a retractable boat ladder 10 is provided. Boat ladder 10 comprises a first support 20; a pair of second supports 30; a step frame 40 and a pair of locking mechanisms 50. In preferred embodiments, each second support 30 has its own locking mechanism 50. However, the present invention is not so limited since the present invention also covers embodiments in which a single locking mechanism 50 is used on only one of the second supports 30.

Step frame 40 is connected to first support 20 and the pair of second supports 30 such that step frame 40 rotates from the retracted position (FIGS. 2 and 3) through an intermediate locking position (FIGS. 4 and 6) to a fully extended position (FIG. 5).

Locking mechanisms 50 hold second supports 30 is the intermediate locked position (FIGS. 4 and 6) when second supports 30 have been rotated from a retracted position (FIGS. 2 and 3) to the intermediate locked position (FIGS. 4 and 6). In addition, locking mechanisms 50 also releases second supports 30 from the intermediate locked position when second supports 30 have been rotated from the intermediate locked position to a fully extended position (FIG. 5). As will be explained fully herein, a novel system for locking mechanisms 50 is described. It is to be understood, however, that the described embodiment for locking mechanisms 50 is merely exemplary. As such, the present invention is not limited to any particular embodiment for locking mechanism(s) 50.

Step frame 40 is connected to the pair of second supports 30 by at least one biasing mechanism 60 that urges retractable boat ladder 10 into its retracted position (FIG. 1). In various preferred embodiments, biasing mechanism 60 may optionally comprise springs (that cause frame 42 to rotate with respect to second supports 30), thereby causing ladder 10 to move towards its retracted position. In preferred embodiments, biasing mechanism 60 may comprise a spring that is isolated from water when biasing mechanism 60 is submerged (e.g.: when in the positions of FIGS. 4 and 5). It is to be understood, however, that the described embodiment for biasing mechanisms 60 is merely exemplary. As such, the present invention is not limited to any particular embodiment for biasing mechanism(s) 60. A can be seen, biasing mechanisms 60 may be disposed between step frame 40 and one, or both, of second supports 30. Biasing mechanism 60 causes step frame 40 to rotate with respect to the pair of second supports 30 (thereby moving ladder 10 towards its retracted position).

As can also be seen in FIGS. 1 to 6, retractable boat ladder 10 may also comprise brackets 22 and 32 at the end of first support 20 and second supports 30, respectively. Supports 20 and 30 are rotatably connected to brackets 22 and 32.

An exemplary embodiment for locking mechanism 50 is shown in the cut away view of FIG. 3, and is described in FIGS. 7A to 7D, as follows.

Locking mechanism 50 may comprise a rotatable lug 60, and a lug biasing mechanism 70. Lug 60 is dimensioned to mate with an end of second support 30. As will be shown, lug 60 can be rotated from a neutral position (FIG. 7A) into a position to hold the second support in the locked intermediate position (FIG. 7B), and then rotated back to the neutral position (FIG. 7C) to release support 30 from its intermediate locked position after support 30 has been rotated to its fully extended position. Lastly, lug 60 is rotated around the end of support 30 as the ladder returns to the retracted position (FIG. 7D).

As will also be explained, lug biasing mechanism 70 urges lug 60 to rotate to its neutral position.

Referring first to FIG. 7A, support 30 is in its retracted position (i.e.: the same position as in FIGS. 2 and 3). Next, a user pulls/pushes down on step frame 40 (e.g.: on step 42 of step frame 40), causing support 30 to rotate in direction R1 into the position shown in FIGS. 1, 4 and 6. At this time, the end of support 30 causes end 62 of lug 60 to rotate in direction R2.

In one novel aspect of the present invention, lug biasing mechanism 70 comprises a pair of magnets that are attracted to one another. Specifically, lug biasing mechanism 70 comprises a magnet 72 mounted in lug 60, and a magnet 74 mounted in bracket 32.

When lug 60 has been rotated to the position shown in FIG. 7B, (stationary) magnet 74 will attract (moving) magnet 72. This will move end 62 of lug 60 into notch 34 on the end of support 30, as shown. As such, support 30 will be locked in position (thereby holding step frame in the orientation shown in FIGS. 1, 4 and 6).

To release step frame 40 from its intermediate position, the user need only move support 30 further in direction R1 (to the fully extended position shown in FIG. 5) to the position shown in FIG. 7C. This may be done by pushing down on step 42. At this time, notch 34 will be rotated to a position at which end 62 of lug 60 is released. At this time, magnet 74 will pull on magnet 72, causing lug 60 to rotate in direction R3 back to the “neutral” position, where magnet 72 and 74 will be as close as possible to one another.

Next, as shown in FIG. 7D, support 30 will be rotated in direction R4 (due to biasing mechanisms 60), thereby returning towards the fully retracted position (FIGS. 2 and 3). FIG. 7D illustrates the position of the various system components immediately prior to returning the fully retracted position of FIGS. 2 and 3. As can be seen, the movement of notch 34 pushes end 62 of lug 60 further in direction R3 (i.e.: away from the neutral position of FIG. 7C).

Eventually, when support 30 has rotated from the position shown in FIG. 7D back to the position shown in FIG. 7A, lug 60 will again rotate to its “neutral” position (with magnets 72 and 74 again being positioned one over top of the other).

As can be seen, lug 60 is thus dimensioned to return to the neutral position and release the end of second support 30 when step frame 40 has been rotated from the intermediate locking position (FIGS. 1, 6 and 7B) to the fully extended position (FIGS. 5 and 7C). As can also be seen, lug 60 is dimensioned to rotate from the neutral position to a position (FIG. 7D) to permit step frame 40 to be rotated from the fully extended position (FIGS. 5 and 7C) to the retracted position (FIGS. 2 and 3).





 
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