Title:
Pneumatic boat cover lift
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A pneumatic boat top lift having pneumatic telescoping supports anchored to the deck and to the top of the boat. The number of telescoping supports for pontoon boats will typically be four. A single telescoping support will typically be used for knock down boat tops. Pressurized air is supplied to the telescoping supports by a pressurized air distribution system. The air pressure is raised and lowered respectively by a pressurized air control system, thereby raising and lowering the boat top.



Inventors:
Heckman, Lee R. (Parker, AZ, US)
Application Number:
10/155623
Publication Date:
11/27/2003
Filing Date:
05/23/2002
Assignee:
HECKMAN LEE R.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B17/02; (IPC1-7): B63B17/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
SOTELO, JESUS D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
J. David Nelson (Sandy, UT, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A pneumatic boat top lift comprising: a) a plurality of pneumatic telescoping supports; b) air supply means for controllably supplying pressurized air to each support, thereby providing for controllably extending and retracting the telescoping supports; c) support base anchoring means for anchoring the base of each telescoping support to the boat body; and d) support top anchoring means for anchoring the top of each telescoping support to the boat top.

2. A pneumatic boat top lift as recited in claim 1 wherein the air supply means comprises a pressurized air distribution system and a pressurized air control system.

3. A pneumatic boat top lift as recited in claim 1 wherein the air supply means comprises a compressor, an air storage tank, air distribution lines and a pressurized air control system.

4. A pneumatic boat top lift as recited in claim 1 wherein the support base anchoring means comprises a deck support anchor.

5. A pneumatic boat top lift as recited in claim 1 wherein the support top anchoring means comprises a top support anchor.

6. A pneumatic boat top lift as recited in claim 1 wherein the number of telescoping supports is four.

7. A pneumatic boat top lift as recited in claim 1 further comprising one or more side braces.

8. A pneumatic boat top lift comprising: a) a plurality of pneumatic telescoping supports; b) top support anchor for each telescoping support; c) deck support anchor for each telescoping support; d) pressurized air distribution system; and e) pressurized air control system.

9. A pneumatic boat top lift as recited in claim 8 wherein the air distribution system comprises a compressor, an air storage tank, and air distribution lines.

10. A pneumatic boat top lift as recited in claim 8 wherein the number of telescoping supports is four.

11. A pneumatic boat top lift as recited in claim 8 further comprising one or more side braces.

12. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift comprising: a) one or more pneumatic telescoping supports; b) air supply means for controllably supplying pressurized air to each support, thereby providing for controllably extending and retracting the telescoping supports; c) support base anchoring means for anchoring the base of each telescoping support to the boat body; and d) support top anchoring means for anchoring the top of each telescoping support to the boat top.

13. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 12 wherein the air supply means comprises a pressurized air distribution system and a pressurized air control system.

14. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 12 wherein the air supply means comprises, a compressor, an air storage tank, air distribution lines and a pressurized air control system.

15. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 12 wherein the support base anchoring means comprises a deck attachment bracket.

16. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 1 wherein the support top anchoring means comprises a top attachment bracket.

17. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 1 wherein the number of telescoping supports is one.

18. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 1 further comprising hinged support means.

19. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 18 wherein the hinged support means comprises a plurality of hinged support braces.

20. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift comprising: a) one or more pneumatic telescoping supports; b) top attachment bracket for each telescoping support; c) deck attachment bracket for each telescoping support; d) pressurized air distribution system; and e) pressurized air control system.

21. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 20 wherein the air distribution system comprises a compressor, an air storage tank, and air distribution lines.

22. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 20 wherein the number of telescoping supports is one.

23. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 20 further comprising hinged support means.

24. A pneumatic knock down boat top lift as recited in claim 23 wherein the hinged support means comprises a plurality of hinged support braces.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This invention is in the field of boat tops, and more particularly in the field of lift mechanisms for raising and lowering boat tops.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Raising and lowering the tops of boats, particularly the tops of flat deck pontoon boats which typically cover all or most of the deck and are large and heavy, can be very difficult. This ordinarily requires substantial physical effort from several persons.

[0003] Pontoon boats are flat bottom and flat deck boats which typically have folding or retractable tops. These tops provide shelter from the sun or adverse weather. Tops are made from a variety of materials including canvas and fiberglass. Pontoon boat tops typically may be fixed in one of two positions. During operation of the boat, the top is typically placed in a raised position. This permits the operator and passengers on the boat to move freely about the boat without being obstructed by the top. When the boat is not in operation, the top typically is in a lowered position. This latter position is preferred when transporting the boat by land or when encountering obstacles on a body of water, such as low lying bridges. In addition, when the boat is stored, the top is left in the lowered position to minimize needed storage space, secure the boat from theft, and keep the deck clean.

[0004] The operator is unable to operate the boat when the top is in the lowered position. The top must be raised before launching the boat into a body of water and lowered after the boat is trailered for transport.

[0005] Pontoon boats with vertically moveable canopies principally include two types. One type utilizes a plurality of telescoping masts. These masts are typically located near the four corners of the boat and may be attached to the deck and/or the railing. Additional masts may be located between corners to add rigidity and support to the top. A second type utilizes hinged or folding masts. These tops are typically referred to as knock-down and bimini tops. Masts of this second kind may be further anchored to the boat's railing or deck with ropes and elastic lines. A disadvantage of these two top arrangements is the difficulty associated with raising and lowering the top. Still a third type of top for a pontoon boat is a top positioned in a fixed position that is neither raised nor lowered. This type of top has serious disadvantages because it cannot be disassembled or requires considerable time and effort for disassembly and reassembly.

[0006] One objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which is pneumatically operated, thereby reducing the risk of imparting pollutants to waterways.

[0007] Another objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which will rapidly lower and raise a boat top.

[0008] A further objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which will lower and raise a boat top without manual assistance.

[0009] A further objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which is useable for a variety of boats.

[0010] A further objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which is particularly adaptable for use with flat bottom boats including pontoon boats.

[0011] A further objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which is stable during the lifting operation, thereby enhancing safety and minimizing the likelihood of property damage or injury.

[0012] A further objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which is differentially controllable to enhance the ease of raising and lowering the top.

[0013] A further objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which is environmentally safe in that it does not cause the release of environmentally damaging substances.

[0014] A further objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which allows the vertical lowering of the boat top down to a down cover position on the body of the boat and vertical raising of the boat top to the up position.

[0015] A further objective of the present invention is to provide a boat top lift which allows the vertical lowering of the boat top down to a cover position on the body of the boat with one or more openings in the top allowing the protrusion of seats and other fixtures which are affixed to the boat body to protrude through the top as it is lowered to the cover position, and allows vertical raising of the boat top to the up position.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0016] The apparatus of the present invention addresses the aforementioned needs in the art. The invention provides a pneumatic lift for raising and lowering a pontoon boat top. The invention also allows the use of a boat top with a portal above an operator's station whereby the head of an operator can extend through the opening for operation of the boat with the top is in the retracted down position

[0017] A primary feature of the invention is that the lift system is air operated, thereby safeguarding waterways from risk of contamination by pollutants.

[0018] Another feature of the invention permits an operator to operate the boat on a waterway with obstacles such as a bridge. The top can be lowered without obstructing the operator's field of vision because of an opening in the top. With the top in the lowered position and the operator in operator's chair, the craft may be navigated beneath waterway obstacles.

[0019] Still another feature of the invention with a full length top is to provide a full mooring cover when the top is in the lowered position.

[0020] Another feature of the invention provides a means for securing the boat from theft by locking the top in a lowered position while moored or stored. A switch is provided in the present invention allows operation of pneumatic means for lifting the top and giving access to an operator.

[0021] Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon review of the following detailed description, claims and drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0022] FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention with the boat top in a raised position.

[0023] FIG. 2 is a side elevation view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention with the boat top in a lowered position.

[0024] FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of an embodiment of a deck support anchor of the present invention.

[0025] FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of an embodiment of a top support anchor of the present invention.

[0026] FIG. 5 is a side elevation view of an embodiment of a top support anchor of the present invention.

[0027] FIG. 6 is a top cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a rail support anchor of the present invention.

[0028] FIG. 7 is a rear perspective elevation view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention with the boat top in a raised position.

[0029] FIG. 8 is a schematic of the electrical and pneumatic components of an embodiment of the air supply system of the present invention.

[0030] FIG. 9 is a side elevation view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention for use with a knock down or bimini top with the boat top in a raised position.

[0031] FIG. 10 is a side elevation view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention for use with a knockdown or bimini top with the boat top in a lowered position.

[0032] FIG. 11 is a side cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a deck attachment bracket of the present invention for use with a knockdown or bimini top.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0033] Referring first to FIG. 1, there is shown a typical pontoon boat 2. The boat has a hull 10 which may be made with one flotation device or may alternatively comprise a plurality of parallel longitudinal flotation devices, where a preferred number is two. A railing system 15 may be attached at the perimeter 123 of the deck 13 thereby enclosing the entire deck or may or may partially inclose the deck such that an inside deck area 17 and an outside deck area 19are defined. The railing system may include a fore-end rail 124 and an aft-end rail 125 with parallel side rails 12 on the port and starboard sides of the craft The railing system may also have a gate 4. A control station 22 is located within the inside deck area.

[0034] A typical pontoon boat may have a boat top 50 as shown in FIG. 1. For a preferred embodiment of the boat top lift apparatus 14 of the present invention shown in FIG. 1, the top is supported by a plurality of pneumatic telescoping supports 40. For the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the number of telescoping supports is four, which is a preferred number except for larger boats where a greater number may be desirable for stability and safety. Embodiments will typically require at least three telescoping supports in order to provide stability as the boat top is raised and lowered. Each support is attached to the boat top by a top support anchor 26 and to the deck by a deck support anchor 28. For some preferred embodiments, each support may be further stabilized by a rail support anchor 24 which secures the support to the railing system at side rails 12. Other embodiments may not provide for attaching the telescoping supports to the railing system.

[0035] Referring also to FIG. 2, the telescoping supports are driven to the up position 126 shown in FIG. 1 and lowered to down position 127 shown in FIG. 2 by air supply means which controllably supplies pressurized air to each of the telescoping supports. When an operator desires to raise a boat top 50, air supply means is activated providing pressurized air to the telescoping supports to lift the boat top. When the top has been raised to a desired height, for some preferred embodiments, the operator may secure the boat top in the up position by side braces 30. For certain preferred embodiments, with the boat top in the up position, the side braces are attached to side rails 12 by a brace base anchor 32 and to the boat top by a brace top anchor 34. When the operator desires to lower a boat top, the operator releases each side brace from the respective brace top anchor or from the respective brace base anchor, and air supply means is activated to lower the top to a desired down position. Other embodiments of the side brace have a central locking pivot which provides for the respective ends of the side brace to pivot about a central pivot point for lowering of the top to the down position and provides for the respective ends of the side brace to lock in an aligned configuration when the boat top is in the up position. A control station opening 52 in the boat top accommodates the control station with the boat top in the lowered position. It also allows an operator to continue to operate the boat as the boat top is lowered and with the boat top in the lowered position as the boat passes under an obstruction on the water way.

[0036] Referring to FIG. 3, an elevation view detail of an embodiment of a deck support anchor 28 is shown which is comprised of a pair of opposing L-shaped deck anchor brackets 29 which are secured to the deck 13 by a plurality of tapping screws 43 or other fasteners and the deck anchor brackets are secured to the base 128 of the telescoping support with a deck anchor bolt 42 or other fastener.

[0037] Referring to FIG. 4, an elevation view detail of an embodiment of a top support anchor 26 is shown. The top 129 of the telescoping support 40 is affixed between two L-shaped top anchor brackets 131 by a top anchor bolt 41 or other fastener. The top anchor brackets are secured to the boat top 50 with a plurality of tapping screws 43 or other fasteners.

[0038] Referring to FIG. 5 and FIG. 6, an elevation view detail and a vertical cross-section detail of an embodiment of a rail support anchor 24 are shown. The rail support anchor comprises a U-shaped rail support bracket 31 and a pair of rail anchor bolts 132 which secure the rail support bracket to the side rail 12, thereby holding the telescoping support firmly against the side rail.

[0039] Referring to FIG. 7, a perspective view of the aft section of a typical pontoon boat 2 is shown which corresponds to the boat shown in FIG. 1. The boat shown has two parallel longitudinal flotation devices 133 which constitute the hull 10 of the boat. A control station 22, typically comprising a helm 23 and an operator's chair 16, is mounted to the deck under the boat top 50. The control station opening 52 permits the operator to remain seated or standing at control station while the top is raised and lowered through use of the present invention. The operator may accomplish this without leaving the control station, to avoid obstacles that are encountered on a body of water.

[0040] Referring to FIG. 8, a schematic representation of a preferred embodiment of an air supply means 134 of the present invention is shown. For preferred embodiments, the air supply means includes a pressurized air distribution system 136 and a pressurized air control system 137. Prior to launching the boat or removing the boat from mooring, activation switch 70 is operated to allow current to flow to main control switch 72. When the main control switch is held to the up position 76, current opens supply solenoid 80 allowing air to pass from an air source 88 to supply valve 82. In a preferred embodiment, the air source may be an on-board reserve tank charged from an air-compressor, the air compressor being powered by the boat battery or mechanically powered by the boat's engine or motor. Alternatively, the on-board reserve tank can be periodically charged by an off-board supply. Also, the air source can be off-board, limiting the raising of the boat top to times of access to an off-board pressurized air supply. Other embodiments may use a compressor or air pump without the use of an air tank. Other means of controllably providing pressurized air to the air supply means of the present invention will be known to persons skilled in the art.

[0041] Adjustment of the supply valve allows the operator to affect the speed at which the invention lifts a boat top. As air passes through the supply valve, it pressurizes the telescoping supports 40. In a preferred embodiment, telescoping supports may be linked to main air supply line 86 in parallel fashion by support supply lines 45 as shown in FIG. 8, thereby providing for the uniform pressurization of each of the telescoping supports. For this embodiment, it is advantageous for the telescoping supports to be attached to the boat top at positions that cause the load on each of the telescoping supports to be the same so that the boat top will be raised and lowered uniformly as the pressure to each of the telescoping supports is increased or decreased uniformly. Alternatively, the size of the telescoping supports may be varied depending on the load, thereby providing for uniform raising and lowering despite the uneven loading In alternative embodiments, the main air supply line may be divided into a plurality of air supply branches, each with a solenoid controlling one or more telescoping supports. In these alternative embodiments, a boat top is raised or lowered uniformly through manual or automatic operation of the solenoids. When the boat top is at the up position, the main control switch is released to return to its off position 75 and side braces 30 are secured to the boat top by attaching the top brace anchor 34 to the boat top as shown in FIG. 1. Power is supplied to the activation switch by air supply battery 89, which may be the main boat battery or may be a separate battery.

[0042] Because the top cannot be raised without operating the activation switch, theft of the boat is deterred. A preferred type of activation switch is a typical key switch like such as those employed for ignition and starting of boat engines and motors. Referring also to FIG. 1, the activation switch may be positioned at a number of locations such as the outside deck area 19.

[0043] Referring again to FIG. 8, preferred embodiments may also provide a second control switch 71 located at the helm 23 in the control station for ease of operation when the boat encounters obstacles while afloat. In alternative embodiments, the second control switch may also be located in areas not encumbered by the top such as the outside deck area. The main control switch 72 may be located with the activation switch 70 where it is readily accessible with the boat top in the down or up position, such as in the outside deck area, and may be mounted on a railing.

[0044] The boat top is lowered by releasing each side brace 30 from the top brace anchor 34. The operator may then operate the main control switch or the second control switch to the down position 74, allowing current flow through solenoid 81, passing air to restriction valve 53. The restriction valve may be manipulated to govern the speed at which air is released to exhaust 138, thus regulating the speed at which the boat top is lowered. As air is released from the restriction valve, the air supply means lowers the boat top until the operator returns the switch to the open position 75.

[0045] Thus during operation of a boat on a body of water, the air supply means allows the operator to raise and lower the boat top when obstacles are encountered. This is particularly convenient when the boat top has an opening above the control station. Obstacles such as bridges, low tree limbs, and the like may prevent a fixed top boat from passing beneath. The present invention permits boat operators to successfully navigate beyond such obstacles.

[0046] Now referring to FIG. 9, a second embodiment of the present invention is displayed. A pontoon boat 2 may have a knock-down top 135, also referred to as a bimini top. Such tops typically have a hinged support means which will typically comprise a plurality of hinged support braces 105, the number typically being four or more, with each support brace being pivotally attached to the knock-down top by a top hinged brace anchor 106. Each support brace is also pivotally attached to the railing system 15 by a base hinged brace anchor 107. The hinged support braces rotate downward 108 from the up position 126 as the knock-down top is lowered to the down position 127 as shown in FIG. 10, and rotate upward 109 as the knock-down top is raised from the down position to the up position. A knock-down top telescoping support 120 is used for the embodiment of present invention shown in FIG. 9 and FIG. 10. While one knock-down telescoping support will be adequate to raise and lower most knock-down tops, other embodiments may utilize more than one telescoping support. The knock-down top telescoping support is pivotally attached to the knock down top with a top attachment bracket 121 and to the deck 13 with a deck attachment bracket 122. For some preferred embodiments, the knock-down top telescoping support is activated by an air supply means which similar to that shown in FIG. 8.

[0047] Referring now to FIG. 11, a detail of an embodiment of a deck attachment bracket 122 is shown for anchoring the telescoping support 120 to the deck 13. For the embodiment shown, deck bracket anchor bolts 139 secure the deck attachment bracket to the deck For other embodiments, the deck attachment bracket can be substantially similar to that shown in FIG. 3 for a deck support anchor. Similarly, the top attachment bracket can be the substantially similar to that shown in FIG. 11 or FIG. 3, but inverted. Other means for anchoring the knock down top telescoping support to the deck and the top will be known to persons skilled in the art.

[0048] Other embodiments and other variations and modifications of the embodiments described above will be obvious to a person skilled in the art. Therefore, the foregoing is intended to be merely illustrative of the invention and the invention is limited only by the following claims.





 
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