Title:
Method and apparatus for inspection and repair of sailing vessels in-situ
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus and method is disclosed for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, which may comprise a containment curtain of a size and shape allowing the containment curtain to define a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal adapted to cooperate with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; and a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and adapted to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water. The filtered water may be filtered to a sufficient degree to allow underwater imaging of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement, e.g., to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of the underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement. The apparatus and method may further comprise the containment seal forming seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull and the containment seal and the containment curtain forming a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel. The containment seal may further comprise a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel. The method and apparatus may further comprise an underwater imaging apparatus adapted to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus to a location outside of the work area to facilitate evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.



Inventors:
Hux, William F. (Jacksonville, FL, US)
Candelario, David M. (Kalamazo, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/207257
Publication Date:
01/29/2004
Filing Date:
07/25/2002
Assignee:
HUX WILLIAM F.
CANDELARIO DAVID M.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B9/00; B63B17/00; B63C11/52; B63C1/04; (IPC1-7): B63B9/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
OLSON, LARS A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GOODMAN & CRAY, LLP (SANTA ANA, CA, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. An apparatus for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, comprising: a containment curtain of a size and shape allowing the containment curtain to define a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal adapted to cooperate with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and adapted to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow underwater imaging of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of the portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of the underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: the containment seal forming seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

5. The apparatus of claim 2, further comprising: the containment seal forming seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

6. The apparatus of claim 3, further comprising: the containment seal forming a seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

7. The apparatus of claim 4, further comprising: the containment seal and the containment curtain forming a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

8. The apparatus of claim 5, further comprising: the containment seal and the containment curtain forming a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

9. The apparatus of claim 6, further comprising: the containment seal and the containment curtain forming a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

10. The apparatus of claim 4, further comprising: the containment seal comprising a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

11. The apparatus of claim 5, further comprising: the containment seal comprising a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

12. The apparatus of claim 6, further comprising: the containment seal comprising a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

13. The apparatus of claim 7 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus adapted to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus to a location outside of the work area to facilitate evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

14. The apparatus of claim 8 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus adapted to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time commnunication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus to a location outside of the work area to facilitate evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

15. The apparatus of claim 9 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus adapted to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus to a location outside of the work area to facilitate evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

16. The apparatus of claim 10 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus adapted to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus to a location outside of the work area to facilitate evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

17. The apparatus of claim 11 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus adapted to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus to a location outside of the work area to facilitate evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

18. The apparatus of claim 12 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus adapted to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus to a location outside of the work area to facilitate evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

19. An apparatus for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, comprising: a containment curtain means for defining a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal means for cooperating with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain means a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and operative to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water.

20. The apparatus of claim 19 wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow underwater imaging of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement.

21. The apparatus of claim 19 wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of the portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of the underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement.

22. The apparatus of claim 19, further comprising: the containment seal means forms a seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

23. The apparatus of claim 20, further comprising: the containment seal means forms a seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

24. The apparatus of claim 21, further comprising: the containment seal means forms a seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

25. The apparatus of claim 22, further comprising: the containment seal means and the containment curtain means form a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

26. The apparatus of claim 23, further comprising: the containment seal means and the containment curtain means form a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

27. The apparatus of claim 24, further comprising: the containment seal means and the containment curtain means form a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

28. The apparatus of claim 22, further comprising: the containment seal means comprising a first containment seal means and a second containment seal means and the first containment seal means and the second containment seal means along with the containment curtain means form a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

29. The apparatus of claim 23, further comprising: the containment seal means comprising a first containment seal means and a second containment seal means and the first containment seal means and the second containment seal means along with the containment curtain means form a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

30. The apparatus of claim 24, further comprising: the containment seal means comprising a first containment seal means and a second containment seal means and the first containment seal means and the second containment seal means along with the containment curtain means form a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

31. The apparatus of claim 25 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus operative to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus and to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

32. The apparatus of claim 26 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus operative to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus and to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

33. The apparatus of claim 27 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus operative to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus and to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

34. The apparatus of claim 28 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus operative to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus and to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

35. The apparatus of claim 29 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus operative to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus and to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

36. The apparatus of claim 30 further comprising: an underwater imaging apparatus operative to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus and to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

37. A method for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, comprising: utilizing a containment seal to define with the containment curtain a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel defining a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; replacing the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water.

38. The method of claim 37 wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow underwater imaging of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement.

39. The apparatus of claim 37 wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of the portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of the underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement.

40. The method of claim 37, further comprising: forming a seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

41. The method of claim 38, further comprising: forming a seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

42. The method of claim 39, further comprising: forming a seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

43. The method of claim 40, further comprising: utilizing the containment seal and the containment curtain to form a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

44. The method of claim 41, further comprising: utilizing the containment seal and the containment curtain to form a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

45. The method of claim 42, further comprising: utilizing the containment seal and the containment curtain to form a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

46. The method of claim 43, further comprising: the containment seal comprising a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

47. The method of claim 44, further comprising: the containment seal comprising a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

48. The method of claim 45, further comprising: the containment seal comprising a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

49. The method of claim 43 further comprising: providing an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; in real time communicating the image to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

50. The method of claim 44 further comprising: providing an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; in real time communicating the image to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

51. The method of claim 45 further comprising: providing an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; in real time communicating the image to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

52. The method of claim 46 further comprising: providing an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; in real time communicating the image to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

53. The method of claim 47 further comprising: providing an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; in real time communicating the image to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

54. The method of claim 48 further comprising: providing an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; in real the communicating the image to a location outside of the work area to facilitate remote evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

55. An apparatus for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, comprising: a containment curtain of a size and shape allowing the containment curtain to define a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal adapted to cooperate with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and adapted to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water; wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow underwater imaging of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement.

56. An apparatus for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, comprising: a containment curtain of a size and shape allowing the containment curtain to define a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal adapted to cooperate with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and adapted to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water; wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of the portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of the underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement.

57. An apparatus for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, comprising: a containment curtain of a size and shape allowing the containment curtain to define a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal adapted to cooperate with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and adapted to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water; wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of the portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of the underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement; the containment seal forming seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull.

58. An apparatus for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, comprising: a containment curtain of a size and shape allowing the containment curtain to define a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal adapted to cooperate with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and adapted to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water; wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of the portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of the underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement; the containment seal forming seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull; the containment seal and the containment curtain forming a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel.

59. An apparatus for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, comprising: a containment curtain of a size and shape allowing the containment curtain to define a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal adapted to cooperate with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and adapted to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water; wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of the portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of the underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement; the containment seal forming seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull; the containment seal and the containment curtain forming a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel; the containment seal comprising a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel.

60. An apparatus for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, comprising: a containment curtain of a size and shape allowing the containment curtain to define a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal adapted to cooperate with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and adapted to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water; wherein the filtered water is filtered to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of the portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of the underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement; the containment seal forming seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull; the containment seal and the containment curtain forming a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel; the containment seal comprising a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel; an underwater imaging apparatus adapted to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus to a location outside of the work area to facilitate evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to the field of inspection and repair of sailing vessels in-situ, i.e., in the water, without then need for putting the vessel, e.g., into a dry-dock, or removing the vessel from turbid waters.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] It is well known in the art of vessel husbandry, e.g., for the purposes of doing repair or ordinary maintenance on a vessel, particularly a large ocean-going vessel, to take the vessel out of the water in some manner, e.g., by utilizing the services of a dry-dock. Particularly when the repair is non-scheduled, e.g., due to some accident causing damage to the hull and/or propulsion system of a vessel that needs repair, the time needed to remove the vessel from the water inspect the damage and make a claim for coverage and authorization of covered repair costs from, e.g., an insurer, can be enormously expensive to the vessel owner/operator. Often this lost time/down time for the vessel can far exceed the costs of the actual repairs necessary.

[0003] It is known in the art to do repairs and the like in the water, e.g., at dockside, without taking the vessel from the water. However, often this work cannot be covered by insurance, since the inspections required are most generally not capable of being done with the vessel in the water. Even the taking of photographs or other images of the damage may not be satisfactory to the insurer. This may be due, e.g., to the quality of the images obtainable in-situ, without removing the vessel from the water. The inspections necessary to approve the repair work in terms of reinsuring the vessel suffer from the same problems if the vessel is not removed from the water, or from turbid water where clarity is insufficient to perform a meaningful inspection.

[0004] There exists, therefore, a need for improving the ability to inspect and repair vessels dockside or at least in-situ in the water without removal of the vessel to, e.g., a dry-dock facility, or to move the vessel to less turbid waters; and to obtain satisfactory images for remote approval of the necessary work and of the work as completed, with a minimum of down-time for the vessel.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] An apparatus and method is disclosed for inspecting and repairing a sailing vessel having a hull while the sailing vessel remains afloat in the water, which may comprise a containment curtain of a size and shape allowing the containment curtain to define a work area around a portion of the hull of the sailing vessel; a containment seal adapted to cooperate with the hull of the sailing vessel to define with the containment curtain a region of water within the work area and a region of water outside of the work area; and a filtration system connected to the region of water within the work area and adapted to replace the ambient water initially within the region of the work area with filtered water. For environmental reasons, the particulate and solids removed from the water may be disposed upland while the filtered water may be returned to the region within the containment. The apparatus and method may further comprise the filtered water being filtered to a sufficient degree to allow underwater imaging of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement, which may include to a sufficient degree to allow imaging of the portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement of a quality to allow real-time remote analysis of underwater imaging for purposes of approval of the repair or replacement. The apparatus and method may further comprise the containment seal forming seal along the hull of the sailing vessel from at least the waterline on the port side of the hull of the vessel to at least the waterline on the starboard side of the hull and the containment seal and the containment curtain forming a work area from a point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a point aft of the stern of the sailing vessel. The containment seal may further comprise a first containment seal and a second containment seal and the first containment seal and the second containment seal along with the containment curtain forming a work area from a first point along the hull of the sailing vessel to a second point along the hull of the sailing vessel. The method and apparatus may further comprise an underwater imaging apparatus adapted to provide as an output an image of a portion of the sailing vessel in need of repair or replacement; a real time communication link connected to the output of the imaging apparatus to a location outside of the work area to facilitate evaluation of the necessary repair or replacement. The digital video images may be used in real time to create a grid reference system on the hull or appurtenance inspected which will allow measurement, cataloging, and recorded documentation of repairs or conditions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0006] FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of an inspection and repair system according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0007] FIG. 2 shows another perspective view of the embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 1;

[0008] FIG. 3 shows a more detailed perspective view of a propulsion repair system useful in an embodiment of the present invention;

[0009] FIG. 4 shows another perspective view of the propulsion repair system shown in FIG. 3;

[0010] FIG. 5 shows a perspective view of another embodiment of the present invention;

[0011] FIG. 6 shows a schematic block diagram of a portion of the system according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0012] Turning now to FIG. 1 there is shown a perspective view of an inspection and repair system 10 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The inspection and repair system 10 can include a system 10 for the husbandry, i.e., inspection, repair and maintenance of a sea going or other vessel 20, which includes a hull 22, and which may be, e.g., tied up beside a dock 30.

[0013] The vessel husbandry system 10 may include a containment curtain system 40, which may be, e.g., utilized for performing inspection, repair or maintenance tasks, e.g., at the stern section 24 of the vessel 20. The vessel husbandry system 10 containment curtain system 40 may include, e.g., a starboard containment curtain wall 42, a port containment curtain wall 44, a rear containment curtain wall 46 and a forward containment curtain wall 48, as well as a containment curtain floor 50, with the starboard containment curtain wall 42, the port containment curtain wall 44, the rear containment curtain wall 46 and the forward containment curtain wall 48, as well as a containment curtain floor 50, defining a containment area 52.

[0014] The forward containment curtain wall 48 may be in sealing engagement with the hull 22 of the vessel 20, e.g., at a forward most end of the stern section 24 of the hull 22. The sealing engagement may be accomplished, e.g., with a seal 54 that may, e.g., be constructed beforehand to conform to the shape of the hull 22 at this forward most portion of the stern section 24 or may be adaptable to conform to such shape.

[0015] The seal 54 may be adapted to engage and hold the material of the surrounding portion of the containment curtain forward wall 48 along the outer most edge of the seal 54. For example, the seal 54 may be adapted to hold the material of a containment curtain wall, e.g., the forward containment curtain wall 48 as shown in FIG. 1 in a sandwich arrangement with the seal 54 forming a U-shaped slot into which the material of, e.g., the forward containment curtain wall 48, also formed with a corresponding U-Shaped opening, can be inserted and the U-Shaped slot of the seal 54 tightened to engage the material of the containment curtain wall 48. The seal 54 may be formed on its innermost edge with a suitable sealing material, e.g., a strip of neoprene rubber. The seal 54, as mentioned above, may be of a relatively rigid construction and pre-shaped to form a sealing engagement with the hull 22 of the vessel 20 at a location in, e.g., the stern section 24, or, alternatively, in another embodiment of the present invention may be relatively flexible and adapted to shape to the contour of the hull 22 of the vessel to form the sealing engagement.

[0016] The starboard containment curtain wall 42, the port containment curtain wall 44, the rear containment curtain wall 46 and the forward containment curtain wall 48, as well as the containment curtain floor 50, may be formed of a suitable relatively light weight, durable and non-permeable material, e.g., any of a number of synthetic rubber compounds and the like well known in the art, e.g., which are used, e.g., by the United States Navy in the fabrication of the air containment skirt for hover craft such as CAC craft.

[0017] The edges forming the joints between the respective starboard containment curtain wall 42, the port containment curtain wall 44, the rear containment curtain wall 46 and the forward containment curtain wall 48, as well as the containment curtain floor 50, may be formed in any suitable manner that provides a leak proof seal, e.g., by stitching, spot welding or the like joint formation techniques that are well known in the art.

[0018] The edges forming the joints between the respective starboard containment curtain wall 42, the port containment curtain wall 44, the rear containment curtain wall 46 and the forward containment curtain wall 48, as well as the containment curtain floor 50, may be formed, e.g., with stiffening members (not shown) e.g., there may be formed grommet sheaths (not shown) into which may be inserted one or more reinforcing grommets extending singularly or collectively generally between corners of the containment curtain system 40 starboard containment curtain wall 42, port containment curtain wall 44, rear containment curtain wall 46 forward containment curtain wall 48, and the containment curtain floor 50, respectively, as needed to assist in maintaining the relatively solid rectilinear shape of the containment region 52. Suitable stiffening may also be accomplished, e.g., by providing one or more layers of multiply material, e.g., fabric and polycarbonate plastic of Ultra High Molecular Weight polyethylene, positioned in requi9ns of the containment curtain walls 42, 44, 46 and 48 or floor 50 where stiffening is desired.

[0019] The material selected for the containment curtain system 40 starboard containment curtain wall 42, port containment curtain wall 44, rear containment curtain wall 46 forward containment curtain wall 48, and containment curtain floor 50 can also be constructed to be buoyant, particularly, e.g., in sea water. Alternatively, the material for only the containment curtain walls 42, 44, 46 and 48, or some of them may be so constructed, such that the entire arrangement of the starboard containment curtain wall 42, port containment curtain wall 44, rear containment curtain wall 46, forward containment curtain wall 48, and containment curtain floor 50 is so buoyant. Alternatively, of the if the buoyancy is not sufficient to float the entire containment curtain system 40 starboard containment curtain wall 42, port containment curtain wall 44, rear containment curtain wall 46, forward containment curtain wall 48, and containment curtain floor 50 then flotation booms (not shown) may be utilized to provide the appropriate buoyancy. Alternatively, flexible, inflatable portions of the walls 42, 44, 46 and 48 of the containment curtain system 40 (not shown) may have compressed air added to provide additional lift and assist with the proper balance of lift and trim, and also, e.g., in maintaining sealing pressure of the seal 54 against the hull 22. Anchor points shown in FIGS. 1, 2 and 5 at the terminus of tie down lines 80 may be utilized to stabilize the containment curtain system 40, as may be available to be utilized at the harbor of opportunity. These anchors points may be composed of driven metal anchors, auger drilled anchors or solid ballast material, e.g. concrete or steel.

[0020] In any event sufficient buoyancy, ballast, or trim may be achieved as noted or by other means well known in the art such that the top edges of the side walls, 42, 44, 46 and 48 remain sufficiently above the water line so as to contain the water within the containment area 52 and prevent the introduction of water from the region surrounding the containment system starboard containment curtain wall 42, port containment curtain wall 44, rear containment curtain wall 46 forward containment curtain wall 48, and containment curtain floor 50. In any event, the anchor points can be made to hold the tie down lines 80, which may be attached at generally the corner regions of the containment system 40 containment curtain floor 50 to help maintain the integrity of the shape of the containment area 52, along with the buoyancy or neutral trim of the containment curtain 40 as a whole. Where the weight of the outer region of water may contain a higher specific gravity than the filtered water within the inner region and cause the containment curtain walls 42, 44, 46 and 48, and/or floor 50 to move toward enveloping the hull any the protruding items, e.g., propulsion system components that are desired to be worked upon, buoyancy can be applied to the containment floatation chambers (not shown), e.g., by adding compressed air, causing the containment curtain walls 42, 44, 46, and 48 and floor 50 to rise several inches higher. This therefore can raise the level of the water in the inner region and create differential pressure outward, which may be utilized to restore the integrity of the containment area 52 and generally maintaining its original shape as a work area. Banks of lights 90 may be suspended on the insides of the containment curtain walls, e.g., starboard containment curtain wall 42 and port containment curtain wall 44 and held up by the buoyancy of the containment curtain system 40, or may be independently provided with buoyancy means (not shown) which alone or in combination with the buoyancy of the containment curtain system 40 may keep the light banks 90 in position.

[0021] The system 10 may also be provided with a support system 60, e.g., contained on a support vessel, e.g., a barge 62. The support system 60 may include a pump and filter system 64, which may include an intake pipeline 66 and a return pipeline 68. The pump and filter system 64, operating through the intake pipe line 66 and the return pipe line 68 may be controlled, e.g., from a control station 70 aboard the barge 62.

[0022] The pump and filter system 64 in operation can serve to remove the water from around, e.g., the stern section 24 of the hull 22 of the vessel 20 within the work area 52 which may include dirt, oil, etc. contained within the water within the containment work area 52, resulting in lack of clarity of the water, and replace it with water that has been filtered. Waterborne particulate and solids may be removed in sufficient quantity to improve the clarity of the water within the containment area 52. As additional containment systems 40 are attached to the hull, as explained in more detail in regard to FIG. 5, it may be possible, e.g., to transfer water from a first containment region 52 to one or more subsequent containment regions, e.g., 52′ thus inflating the subsequent region 52′ with pre-filtered water and allowing the previous region 52 to collapse somewhat or fully with the physics of displacement. In this manner, in situ, without the need to, e.g., place the vessel in a dry-dock, or move the vessel to geographic locations of higher water clarity, inspection and repair can be done, e.g., of the hull 20 or the propulsion system, e.g., the propellers 94 and/or the bearing 142 on the propeller shafts 96. The bearings 142 are axially mounted for rotation of the propeller shafts 96 within cylindrical strut bearing housings 99 on struts 98 attached to the hull 22.

[0023] Turning now to FIG. 2, there is shown another perspective view of the embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 1. The support system 60 may also include a propeller repair unit 92, which may be attached to a control consol 72 on the barge 62 by a tether or umbilical 76, and which may be positioned on the propeller 94 and propeller shaft 96, e.g., by divers and remotely controlled, e.g., for safety reasons, from the control console 72 on the barge 62 through the tether/umbilical 76. The control console 72 for among other things propeller 94 seal 142 repair, as is well known in the art, may be custom built for the particular application and not commercially available as an entire assembly, however, many of the components such as valves, gauges, tubing, and fittings are commercially available. Likewise, a propulsion repair unit 100, described in more detail below, may have a tether/umbilical 74 connected to the support system 60 on the barge 62, e.g., at the control console 70. This tether/umbilical 74 may, among other things, be connected (not shown) to the ratchet drive mechanisms 134a and 134b to provide hydraulic pressure for operating the drive mechanisms 134a and 134b.

[0024] Turning now to FIGS. 3 and 4 there is shown a more detailed perspective view of a propulsion repair system 100 useful in an embodiment of the present invention. The propulsion repair unit 100 can be designed to be fitted, e.g., by divers, straddling the propeller shaft 96 and aligned with the propeller shaft 96 for purposes of, e.g., removal and replacement of the bearing 142 by a replacement bearing 140, as will be described in more detail below.

[0025] The propulsion repair unit 100 may have, e.g., a rear alignment yoke 120a and a forward alignment yoke 120b. The rear alignment yoke 120a and the forward alignment yoke 120b may be connected by a pair of cylindrical alignment bars 102a and 102b. The forward alignment yoke 120b and, alternatively, both the forward alignment yoke 120b and the rear alignment yoke 120a, may be of a clamshell construction, e.g., having one or more hinges, e.g., at 120° intervals around the respective yoke 120a, 120b for ease of application and removal, as is well known in the art. This can enable the yoke 120a or 120b, to engage the propeller shaft 96 on both sides of the strut bearing housing 99. The forward alignment yoke 120b and the rear alignment yoke 120a may be constructed of a pair of flat hinged sections (not shown) connected together as rings 122a and 122b, which may be attached to each other by a plurality of bolts 124. Each of the rear alignment yoke 120a and the forward alignment yoke 120b may have a plurality of propeller shaft engagement feet 126, which may be constructed of arched plates adapted to engage and hold the rear alignment yoke 120a and the forward alignment yoke 120b on the outer surface of the propeller shaft 96 and may be supported on the rear alignment yoke 120a and the forward alignment yoke 120b by alignment yoke engagement feet connection legs 128. The alignment yoke engagement feet connection legs 128 may be attached to the rear alignment yoke 120a and the forward alignment yoke 120b and to the engagement feet 126 by suitable means, e.g., by dry hyperbaric SMAW welding.

[0026] Also mounted on the alignment bars 102a and 102b between the rear alignment yoke 120a and the forward alignment yoke 120b can be a pair of bearing replacement yokes 130a and 130b, which may be formed in a clamshell construction, with a hinge 132 as well as a means for closing the open end of the clamshell, e.g., a bolt (not shown). The forward one of the bearing replacement yokes 130b may have mounted on it a pair of ratchet drive mechanisms 134a and 134b, which may be similar to those made by manufacturers of propeller seal products such as “Lips Propellers” “Kennedy” or “Crane,” including tooling for the installation and removal of their seals. Though this tooling is only designed for use above water and on dry docked vessels, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that it can be adapted for use underwater, e.g., electric tools can be replaced with hydraulic ones, etc. The forward bearing replacement yoke 130b may have a pair of openings through it through each of which extend a respective ratchet arm 138. The ratchet arms 138 may have threaded portions 144, which also pass through a respective opening 148 in the rear bearing replacement yoke 130a forming a threaded and ratcheted operating opening 148. In operation a replacement bearing 140 may be formed, e.g., in two semi-circular or three or four, arched portions to be inserted over the shaft 96 in contact with the rear bearing replacement yoke 130a. The ratchet drive mechanisms 134a and 134b can rotatively turn the ratchet arms 138 to move the rear bearing replacement yoke 130a toward the forward bearing replacement yoke 130b, with the rear bearing replacement yoke 130a slideably moving along the alignment bars 102a and 102b on a respective alignment bar sleeve 136 formed at the outer end of each respective rear bearing replacement yoke 130a hingedly connected sections. The threaded ratcheted openings 148 may be both threaded to receive the threaded portions 144 of the ratchet arms 138a and 138b, respectively, and to ratchet the movement of the rear bearing yoke 130a along the alignment bars 102a and 102b. As will be understood by those skilled in the art the openings 148 can contain a ratchet that ratchets, e.g., at each rotation of their respective ratchet arm 138a, 138b, such that the drive mechanisms 134a, 134b are operated to rotate the ratcheted arms 138a, 138b one rotation and then reverse direction for one rotation as the ratcheting occurs. The forward bearing replacement yoke 130b may be fixedly attached to the alignment bars 102a, 102b, e.g., as by welding. Alternatively or additionally, the forward bearing replacement yoke 130b may be attached to the forward end of the bearing strut housing 99, e.g., as by welding, or, e.g., by being welded to pad eyes (not shown) which may be existing on the bearing strut housing 99. This movement forces the replacement bearing 140 into the strut bearing housing 99 and moves an existing bearing 142 out of the opposite end of the strut bearing housing 99. As noted above the new bearing 140 sleeve may be cut into segments to fit around the full diameter of the propeller shaft 96.

[0027] Turning now to FIG. 5 there is shown a perspective view of another embodiment of the present invention. Here is illustrated the utilization of a containment and filtering system 40′ which may be set up along the hull 22 of the vessel 20, with two containment curtain seals 54′, e.g., one in a rear containment curtain wall 46′ and one in a forward containment curtain wall 48′. FIG. 5 also illustrates the fact that two or more containment and filtering systems, e.g., 40 and 40′ may be set up on a single vessel 20 at the same time.

[0028] Turning now to FIG. 6 there is shown a schematic block diagram of an image-processing portion 200 of the system 10 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The image processing system 200 may comprise an imager 204, which may be any suitable video imager, either capable of producing still photographs or motion video, e.g., a video camera 204 capable of producing analog or digital video images. The image processing system 200 may also include a processor unit 202, which may include any suitable digital data processor 210, e.g., a P.C. or a lap top computer, a work station, a hand held digital assistant or the like, or simply a dedicated micro-controller processor that is preprogrammed to carry out the functions noted below, as opposed to a general purpose computing apparatus responding to the instructions of an application software containing the instructions for performing the functions noted below.

[0029] The processor unit 202 may have a separate image processor 208 or the functionality defined for the image processor 208 may be performed by the processor 210 or by the image processor 208 under the control of the processor 210 or by a combination of the image processor 208 and the processor 210. Depending upon the capabilities of the imager 204 and therefore the signal received by the processing unit 202 over the connection 206 between the imager 204 and the processing unit 202, and depending on the type of image data being desired to be transmitted from the location of the processor unit 202 and the imager 204 to a remote evaluation location 240, and over whatever communication medium or combination of communication mediums are desired, this will define the functionality to be performed by the image processor 208 alone or in combination with the processor 210 as noted above.

[0030] For example, if the imager 204 is capable of providing images in standard still or video compressed formats, e.g., JPEG or MPEG, and this is the desired format for transmission to the remote location 240 over some form of communication system, then the processor 210 and/or the image processor 208 may need only to forward the image output of the imager 204 on line 206 to the communications section 220 of the processor unit 202. In other cases, e.g., if the image from the imager 204 is an analog image, then the image processor 208 and/or the processor 210 or a combination of both may need to digitize the image and then may need to place the digitized image into a standardized form, e.g., JPEG or MPEG.

[0031] The communications section 220 of the processor unit 202 may include a number of possible outlets to communicate the images to the remote location 240. These may include a wired connection 226 to the Public Switched Network, i.e., the usual switched telephone system. The utilization of these systems and the formation and/or modulation of the signals for transmission may be done by external devices, e.g., modems, or devices internal to the processor unit 210, e.g., a modem card, or may be done in software by the processor unit 210, acting as a soft-modem, as is well known in the art. Other devices may be employed as is also well known in the art, e.g., encryption/decryption devices such as coder-decoders (CODECs”), analog to digital and/or digital to analog converters, and the like. This functionality may be provided solely by the communication unit 220 or by the digital data processor 210, or by a combination of the communication unit 220 and the digital data processor 210 as is also well known in the art.

[0032] The link to the remote evaluation area 240 may be through a wireless antenna 222, e.g., to a central wireless station (not shown) for transmission, e.g., by microwave or satellite to another central station (not shown), which can communicate to a wireless antenna 242 at the remote location 240, unless the remote location is in wireless communication with the same central station (not shown) as to which the signal from antenna 222 originally was received within the particular wireless communication system being employed. Similarly microwave or satellite antenna 224 at the location of the imager 204 may communicate in various ways directly or indirectly to the microwave or satellite antenna 246 at the remote location.

[0033] It is also possible to have a direct dedicated line 228, e.g., a coaxial cable, or fiber optic connection between the location of the imager 204 and the remote location 240.

[0034] Various of these communication links can be or be part of a networked connection over the world wide web, otherwise known as the Internet, or some combination of this with, e.g., the PSN, more localized local networks such as LANs or WANs or the like. The capability of the system to transmit in essentially real time the underwater images, which due to the clarity of the water within the containment and filtration systems 40 or 40′ enables rapid remote evaluation of the husbandry needs, e.g., the damages that need to be repaired or the evaluation of the sufficiency of the repairs or maintenance once completed. In this manner rapid approval of such things as insurance coverage and the amount of coverage for a given necessity of husbandry can be obtained. This can greatly reduce, e.g., the amount of time that a vessel is in the repair facility or otherwise in need of repair, which in combination with the elimination of the need for the vessel to be removed from the water and, e.g., placed in a dry dock to have the husbandry work done, is a very significant savings both to the vessel owner/operator but also to the party covering the repair or maintenance work, e.g., an insurer.