Title:
Shadowless floating dock
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A floating dock for use in areas having endangered flora, sensitive to the lack of sunlight, is assembled from modular units in such a manner that sunlight can pass through the dock to impinge on the ecology.



Inventors:
Rueckert, David (Jupiter, FL, US)
Application Number:
10/205096
Publication Date:
01/29/2004
Filing Date:
07/26/2002
Assignee:
RUECKERT DAVID
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
114/48, 114/263, 405/3
International Classes:
B63C1/02; (IPC1-7): B63C3/06; B63C5/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LEE, JONG SUK
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Michael A. Slavin (Palm Beach Gardens, FL, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A watercraft support device, said device comprising at least one cradling platform, said cradling platform being substantially rectangular and having an upper surface spaced apart from a lower surface by a continuous sidewall; a ramp platform, said ramp platform being a substantially rectangular structure having an upper surface spaced apart from a lower surface by a continuous sidewall; said cradling platform and said ramp platform having means for passing light from said upper surfaces through said lower surfaces, a linking system for flexibly connecting said cradling platform and said ramp platform together, said linking system including at least one ramp platform securing cavity spanning between said ramp platform upper surface and said ramp platform lower surface, said cavity characterized by a uniform cross section, at least one cradling platform securing cavity spanning between said cradling platform upper surface and said cradling platform lower surface, said cavity characterized by a uniform cross section, and at least one insertion plug adapted for insertion in said cavities and having a contoured first end spaced apart from a contoured second end by a middle portion, each of said contoured ends sized to selectively engage one of said securing cavities; and attachment means for securing said support device to a dock.

2. The watercraft support device of claim 1 wherein a plurality of small bores are formed in said cradling platform and said ramp platform of said device, each of said bores having one end in said platform upper surface and the other end in said platform lower surface.

3. The watercraft support device of claim 2 wherein an elongated optical fiber is secured in said bores, said fiber transmitting light from said upper surfaces through said lower surfaces.

4. The watercraft support device of claim 2 wherein said bores are parallel with said continuous sidewalls of said cradling platform and said ramp platform.

5. The watercraft support device of claim 2 wherein some of said bores are normal to said upper and lower surfaces and the remainder of said bores are angularly disposed to said normal bores.

6. The watercraft support device of claim 2 wherein said one end of said bores is laterally displaced from said other end of said bores.

7. A watercraft support device comprising a plurality of flat platforms, each of said platforms being a substantially rectangular rigid structure having an upper surface spaced apart from a lower surface by a first sidewall, a second sidewall, a front wall and a back wall, a linking mechanism for interlocking said platforms together including a plurality of securing cavities spanning between said platform upper surface and said platform lower surface, said cavities characterized by a uniform cross section, at least one insertion plug having a contoured first end spaced apart from a contoured second end by a middle portion, each of said contoured ends sized to selectively engage one of said securing cavities, said insertion plug sized such that each of said contoured ends simultaneously engages said securing cavities, said plurality of platforms permitting passage of light through said device, and attachment means for securing said support device to a dock.

8. The watercraft support device of claim 7 wherein said plurality of flat platforms are interlocked to form a discontinuous grid having an overall area, said grid having openings within said overall area, each of said openings in the form of a rectangular platform, said openings arranged in said grid to permit light to penetrate said device and be dispersed throughout the area of said grid.

9. The watercraft support device of claim 7 wherein said upper and lower surfaces of said platforms contain apertures connected by through bores, said through bores passing light through said rectangular platforms.

10. The watercraft support device of claim 9 wherein said through bores contain optical fibers secured therein, said optical fibers conducting light through said rectangular platforms.

11. The watercraft support device of claim 9 wherein said through bores are oriented normal to said upper and lower surfaces of said rectangular platforms.

12. The watercraft support device of claim 11 wherein some of said through bores are oriented at an angle other than normal to said upper and lower surfaces.

13. The watercraft support device of claim 12 wherein said lower surface is defined by a flat plane, said lower surface is formed with elongated ridges extending below the plane of said lower surface, said elongated ridges having a bottom and sidewalls, said normal through bores extending through said bottom of said ridges, said through bores oriented at an angle other than normal extending through said sidewalls of said ridges.

14. A floating dock for use in waterways having protected bottom ecology sensitive to deprivation of sunlight, said dock being of modular construction comprising a plurality of platforms interlocked together by connectors, said platforms oriented in such a manner to permit sunlight to penetrate said dock and prevent deprivation of sunlight to sensitive ecology thereunder.

15. A floating dock of claim 14 wherein said dock is formed of a grid of said platforms, said grid being discontinuous and having openings therein, said openings in the shape of said platforms, said openings oriented in relation to the sunlight whereby protected bottom ecology under said dock is not deprived of sunlight.

16. A floating dock of claim 14 wherein said interlocked platforms each have a top surface spaced apart from a bottom surface by continuous sidewalls, apertures in said top surface and said bottom surface connected by through bores, said through bores and apertures allowing penetration of sunlight through said platforms.

17. A floating dock of claim 16 wherein said through bores have optical fibers secured therein to direct sunlight through said platforms.

18. A floating dock of claim 16 wherein said through bores are oriented normal to said top and bottom surfaces.

19. A floating dock of claim 18 wherein some of said through bores are oriented at an angle to said top and bottom surface other than normal.

20. A floating dock of claim 16 wherein said platforms are formed of cellular plastic with said top surface, bottom surface and continuous sidewalls forming a smooth hard skin.

Description:

[0001] This application is related to U.S. Pat. No. 5,941,660 which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] This invention relates to protection of endangered species of flora found growing in and under the waterways and bodies of water used for business and pleasure. More particularly, the invention is directed to a facility which allows people to enjoy the marine habitat without damaging that environment.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] More and more people are using the lakes, rivers and coastal marine environment for recreational activities every year. The number of boat registrations continues to increase and the recent innovation of personal watercraft has afforded many more people the opportunity to enjoy water related activities. Of course, all of this activity produces by-products detrimental to the peace and beauty of the marine environment.

[0004] The damage has reached a point where legislation is now in effect protecting various elements of the environment. Several government agencies, both federal and state, are charged with the enforcement of these laws.

[0005] One of the aspects of this legislation concerns growth of aquatic plants, particularly underwater grasses. These plants grow in shallow water and require sunlight for essential processes. Certain species are protected, either because they are in danger of disappearing or are considered necessary to a balanced local ecology.

[0006] Unfortunately, ingress and egress to the water is usually through shallow water areas along the banks and beaches of bodies of water. Further, to avoid contact with the bottom, boaters and personal watercraft operators prefer to operate their craft from docks built over shallow areas and extending into deeper water. It has now been determined that such docks can endanger aquatic plants because their shadow, cast on the bottom, blocks out the necessary sunshine. Therefore, the location of such docks, in relation to certain aquatic flora, is regulated by the government.

[0007] Thus what is lacking in the prior art is a floating dock structure that may be sited in a protected area because the aquatic plants are not deprived of vital sunlight.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] Accordingly, it is an object of this invention to provide a floating dock which passes sunlight through the structure.

[0009] It is another object of this invention to provide a modular dock that may be assembled and sited in relation to the available sunlight so that during the daylight hours the bottom, under the dock, is swept with light.

[0010] It is another object of this invention to provide a floating dock having apertures through the components for passage of sunlight.

[0011] It is still another object of this invention to provide a floating dock with optical fibers extending through the components to transmit light through the dock.

[0012] It is yet another object of this invention to orient the through bores through the components in such an angular manner to distribute the sunlight below the dock.

[0013] Other objects and advantages of this invention will become apparent from the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings herein set forth by way of illustration.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] FIG. 1 is a pictorial view showing the present invention secured to a dock;

[0015] FIG. 2 is a spaced-apart perspective view of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 3 is a cross section of a flat platform of the present invention;

[0017] FIG. 4 is a cross section of a flat platform of the present invention;

[0018] FIG. 5 is a cross section of an intermediate platform of the present invention;

[0019] FIG. 6 is a back cross section of an intermediate platform of the present invention;

[0020] FIG. 7 is a side elevation view of a ramp platform of the present invention;

[0021] FIG. 8 is a back cross section of a ramp platform of the present invention;

[0022] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a linking pin of the present invention;

[0023] FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an expanded version of the present invention;

[0024] FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a single-piece embodiment of the present invention;

[0025] FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the support structure of the present invention;

[0026] FIG. 13 is a partial top plan view of the post adaptor of the present invention;

[0027] FIG. 13A is a partial perspective view of the post adaptor shown in FIG. 13;

[0028] FIG. 14 is a partial top plan of a two platforms joined by insertion plugs;

[0029] FIG. 15 is a cross-section view of an insertion plug and capping member engaging a pair of the present invention;

[0030] FIG. 15A is a perspective view of the flat plate capping member shown in FIG. 15;

[0031] FIG. 15B is a perspective view of the insertion plug shown in FIG. 15;

[0032] FIG. 16 is a partial cross section view of a cleat-style capping member;

[0033] FIG. 17 is a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of the present invention.

[0034] FIG. 17A is a close-up view of the attachment brackets of the present device;

[0035] FIG. 18 is a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of the present invention; and

[0036] FIG. 19 is a perspective view of a single-piece embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0037] Although the invention is described in terms of a specific embodiment, it will be readily apparent to those skilled in this art that various modifications, rearrangements and substitutions can be made without departing from the spirit of the invention. The scope of the invention is defined by the claims appended hereto.

[0038] Reference is made in general to the Figures, wherein an embodiment of a watercraft support device or floating dock 10 is shown in FIG. 1. The device 10 comprises a flat platform 12, a cradling platform 14, and a ramp platform 16. The dock 10 has bores 11 extending through the platforms 12, 14, and 16. The bores may be perpendicular to the upper and lower surfaces or they may be disposed at angles other than normal or some bores may be perpendicular and some at other angles. The platforms are linked together and provide a floating surface on which a watercraft may be parked. As will be described below, the device 10 is attached to a dock 18 via tethering posts 19 which are permanently secured to the dock 18 and which pass through vertical bores 20. 20 in the device.

[0039] Now referring generally to FIGS. 2-4 the flat platform 12 is a substantially rectangular, rigid structure having a horizontal upper surface 22 spaced apart from a horizontal lower surface 24 by a first vertical sidewall 26 a second vertical sidewall 28 a vertical front wall 30 and a vertical back wall 32. Apertures 13 are formed in the upper surface 22 and lower surface 24 forming complementary ends of bores 11. An integral frontal linking arm 34 extends from the front wall 30. The frontal linking arm 34 has an inclined bottom surface 36. As such, the distance between the upper surface 22 and the bottom surface 36 decreases from a maximum near the flat platform front wall 30 to a minimum at a distal end 38 of the linking arm 34. An integral rearward linking arm 40 extends from the lower surface 24. First sidewall 26. and second sidewall 28 of the flat platform 12. The rearward linking arm 40 has an inclined top surface 42. As such, the distance between the lower surface 24 and the top surface 42 decreases from a maximum near the flat platform back wall 32 to a minimum at a distal end 44 of the linking arm 40.

[0040] Now the referring generally to FIGS. 2.5 and 6. the cradling platform 14 is a substantially-rectangular, rigid structure having a horizontal upper surface 46 spaced apart from a horizontal lower surface 48 by a first vertical sidewall 50. a second vertical sidewall 52. a vertical front wall 54 and a vertical back wall 56. Apertures 15 in the lower and upper surfaces connect to bores 11 extending through platform 14. An integral frontal linking arm 58 extends from the front wall 54. The frontal linking arm 58 is bounded by the upper surface 46 first sidewall 50 and second sidewall 52 of the cradling platform 12. The frontal linking arm 58 has an inclined bottom surface 60. As such, the distance between the upper surface 46 and the bottom surface 60 decreases from a maximum near the cradling platform front wall 54 to a minimum at a distal end 62 of the linking arm 58. An integral rearward linking arm 64 extends from the back wall 56. The rearward linking arm 64 is bounded by the lower surface 48 first sidewall 50 and second sidewall 52 of the cradling platform 12. The rearward linking arm 64 has an inclined top surface 66. As such the distance between the lower surface 48 and the top surface 66 decreases from a maximum near the cradling platform back wall 56 to a minimum at a distal end 68 of the platform back wall 56 to a minimum at a distal end 68 of the linking arm 64. An arched support channel 70 rises upward from the cradling platform upper surface 46. The support channel 70 runs the longitudinal length of the upper surface 46. The support channel 70 resembles a half-pipe which opens upward. To ease loading and unloading of a watercraft, the channel 70 advantageously has a smooth surface to keep sliding friction between the channel 70 and the watercraft to a minimum.

[0041] Now referring generally to FIGS. 2, 7 and 8, the ramp platform 16 is a substantially-rectangular, rigid structure having horizontal upper surface 72 spaced apart from a horizontal lower surface 74 by a first vertical sidewall 76, a second vertical sidewall 78, a vertical front wall 80, and a vertical back wall 82. Apertures 17 in the upper and lower surfaces of platform 16 form opposite ends of through bores 11. An integral frontal linking arm 84 extends from the front wall 80. The frontal linking arm 84 extends from the front wall 80. The frontal linking arm 84 is bounded by the upper surface 72, first sidewall 76 and second sidewall 78 of the cradling platform 14. The frontal linking arm 84 has an inclined bottom surface 86. As such, the distance between the upper surface 72 and the bottom surface 86 decreases from a maximum near the ramp platform front wall 80 to a minimum at a distal end 88 of the linking arm 84. An integral rearward linking arm 90 extends from the back wall 82. The rearward linking arm 90 is bounded by the upper surface 72, first sidewall 76, and second sidewall 78 of the ramp platform 12. The rearward linking arm 90 has a horizontal bottom surface 92. An arched support channel 94 extends upward from the ramp platform upper surface 72. The support channel 94 resembles a half-pipe which opens upward. To ease loading and unloading of a watercraft, the channel 94 advantageously has a smooth surface to keep sliding friction between the channel 94 and the watercraft to a minimum. The support c channel 94 runs the longitudinal length of the ramp platform upper surface 72. Near the ramp platform back wall, however, the support channel is tapered, passing through the rearward linking arm 90 to form a ramped entrance 98. The ramped entrance 98 resembles a three sided funnel. The entrance 98 serves to guide a watercraft into the support channels 70.94. The entrance 98 also provides an incline along which a watercraft may travel during loading, as it leaves the water, or during unloading, as it enters the water. As a result, the ramped entrance 98 advantageously eliminates the need for a lifting crane to raise or lower the watercraft.

[0042] Referring to FIGS. 3 and 4 frusto-conical bores 20,20 extended vertically through flat platform frontal linking arm 34. Bore 20 passes through linking arm 34 near the first sidewall 26, while bore 20 passes through linking arm 34 near the second sidewall 28. The bores 20, 20 are tapered: their diameters decrease from a maximum near the upper surface 22 to a minimum near the linking arm bottom surface 26. Frusto-conical bores 100,100 extend vertically through flat platform rearward linking arm 40. Bore 100 passes through linking arm 40 near the first sidewall 26, while bore 100 passes through linking arm 40 near the second sidewall 28. The bores 100,100 are tapered: their diameters decrease from a maximum near the lower surface 24 to a minimum near the linking arm top surface 42. Each bore 20,20,100,100 is characterized by a pair of vertical channel 110. The bores 20,20,100,100 and channels 110 are shaped to accept linking pins 112 and their associated locking tabs 114.

[0043] Referring to FIGS. 5 and 6 frusto-conical bores 102,102 extend vertically through cradling platform frontal linking arm 58. Bore 102 passes through linking arm 58 near the first sidewall 50, while bore 102 passes through linking arm 58 near the second sidewall 52. The bores 102,102 are tapered: their diameters decrease from a maximum near the upper surface 60. Frusto-conical bores 104,104 extend vertically through cradling platform rearward linking arm 64. Bore 104 passes through linking arm 64 near the first sidewall 50, while bore 104 passes through linking arm 64 near the second sidewall 52. The bores 104,104 are tapered: their diameters decrease from a maximum near the lower surface 48 to a minimum near the linking arm top surface 66. Each bore 102,102,104,104 is characterized by a pair of vertical channels 110. The bores 102,102,104,104 and channels 110 are shaped to accept linking pins 112 and their associated locking tabs 114.

[0044] Referring to FIGS. 7 and 8, frusto-conical bores 106,106 extend vertically through ramp platform frontal linking arm 84. Bore 106 passes through linking arm 84 near the first sidewall 76, while bore 106 passes through linking arm 84 near the second sidewall 78. The bores 106,106 are tapered: their diameters decrease from a maximum near the upper surface 72 to a minimum near the linking arm bottom surface 72 to a minimum near the linking arm bottom surface 86. Frusto-conical bores 108,108 extend vertically through ramp platform rearward linking arm 90 near the first sidewall 76, while bore 108 passes through linking arm 90 near the first sidewall 76, while bore 108 passes through linking arm near the second sidewall 78. The bores 108,108 are tapered: their diameters decrease from a maximum near the upper surface 72 to a minimum near the arm bottom surface 92. Each bore 106,106,108,108 is characterized by a pair of vertical channels 110. The bores 106,106,108,108 and channels 110 are shaped to accept linking pins 112 and their associated locking tabs 114.

[0045] Referring generally to FIGS. 2 and 9 linking pins 112 are used to secure adjacent platforms 12,14,16 together. Each pin 112 has an enlarged head plate 116 and a cylindrical body 118. A pair of locking tabs 114 extends radially from the body 118. A pair of locking tabs 114 extends radially from the body 118, near the bottom of the pin 112. The tabs 114 are sized to fit bore channels 110. A example of pin 112 use is now provided. The back wall 32 of flat platform 12 is placed against front wall 54 of cradling platform 14, so that platform frontal linking arm 58, and bores 100,100 are aligned with bores 102,102. A linking pin 112 is positioned over bore 102. The 112 is pushed down and fed through bore 102 into bore 100. When the locking tabs 114 emerge pas the lower surface 24 of the flat platform frontal linking arm 40, the pin 112 is rotated until the tabs 114 are not longer aligned with the channels 110 of bore 100, thus securing the pin 112 within the bores 100, 102. This procedure is repeated with aligned bores 102 and 100. The ramp platform frontal linking arm 84 is attached to the cradling platform rearward linking arm 64 in a similar fashion. Additional platforms may be added by repeating this overlapping and linking pin 112 placement procedure with as many platforms 12,14,16 as are needed.

[0046] In one embodiment, the device is secured to a dock 18 via tethering posts 10 which pass through selected bores 20,20. The posts 19 are part of a four-piece unit. The unit includes a pipe securing ring 120 which is bolted to a vertical face of the dock 18. A horizontal piece of pipe 122 extends away from the dock 18, outward from the ring 120. A ninety degree transition elbow 124 is glued to the free end of the horizontal pipe 122. A vertical piece of pipe 19 extends from the elbow 124 downward into the water. The vertical pipe 19 extends into the water far enough so that the bottom edge of the pipe 19 is below the water surface at all times, even during possible low tides. The outer diameter of the vertical pipe 19 is chosen to allow unencumbered vertical motion of the device 10 in response to tides or wave action. In one embodiment, the vertical pipes 19 have an outer diameter of six inches, while the bores 20, 20 have a minimum inner diameter of seven inches. Although the tethering posts 19 have been described as part of a four-piece unit, other configurations may be used. For example, a piling driven into an underwater surface may also be sufficient.

[0047] A watercraft is loaded onto the support device 10 by driving the watercraft towards the device 10 and aiming the bow of the watercraft towards the ramped entrance 98. As the watercraft enters the ramped entrance 98 the watercraft's bow will travel upward and enter the ramp platform support channel 94. As the watercraft travels along the ramped entrance 98 the ramped platform 16 will tend to tilt. That is, the back wall 82 will move down, and the front wall 80 will move up. This tilting is controlled by the linking pins 112 which are locked into place withing bores 104,104, 106, 106. Since the bores 104,014,106,106 are frusto-conical and the pins 112 are cylindrical, the ramp platform frontal linking arm 84 and the cradling platform rearward linking arm 64 are attached, essentially, in a hinge-like fashion. Additionally, the incline found on the bottom surface 86 of the ramp platform frontal linking arm 84 is opposite the incline found on the top surface 66 of the cradling platform rearward linking arm 64. These opposite inclines allow the ramp platform frontal linking arm 84 to pivot away from cradling platform rearward linking arm 64 without damage to either arm.

[0048] As more of the watercraft travels further onto the device 10, the cradling platform 14 begins to tilt with respect to the flat platform 12. This tilting is facilitated by the cooperation of bores 100,100,102,102 and the linking pins 112 secured therein. As described above, the frusto-conical shape of the bores 100,100,102,102 combines with the cylindrical shape of the pins 112 to provide a hinge-like linkage between the flat platform 12 and the cradling platform 14. Additionally the incline found on the bottom surface 60 of the cradling platform frontal linking arm 58 is opposite the incline found on the top surface 42 of the flat platform rearward linking arm 40. These opposite inclines allow the cradling platform frontal linking arm 58 to pivot away from the flat platform rearward linking arm 40 without damage to either arm.

[0049] When the watercraft is completely loaded on the device 10, the support channels 70, 94 will keep the watercraft upright, allowing individuals to enter or leave the watercraft. The weight of the watercraft and individuals is supported by the device 10. The watercraft 10 may be unloaded by reversing the above-described procedure.

[0050] Although the device 10 has been described as containing one flat platform 12, one cradling platform 14, and one ramp platform 16, other configurations may be used. As shown in FIG. 10, several of each type of platform 12, 14,16 may be used to accommodate an individual's docking needs or watercraft size.

[0051] A one-piece embodiment, as shown in FIG. 11, is also possible. Also illustrated in FIG. 11 are several different aperture and bore structures, including round, oval, triangular, rectangular, and curvilinear. Any other shape may be used

[0052] In addition, although the device 10 has been shown in with its longitudinal axis oriented perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of a dock 18, other orientations are possible. For example, the device 10 may be rotated ninety degrees so that the longitudinal axis of the device 10 is parallel to the longitudinal axis of the dock 18. In such a case, the distance between tethering posts 19 is increased and the posts 19 would pass through bores 10,108 of several platforms 12,16. The linking pins 112 and tethering posts are sized to fit within each of the platform bores 20,20,100,100,102,102,104,104,106,106,108,108.

[0053] With reference to FIG. 12 a pictorial view of another embodiment of the present dock assembly 110 is shown. By way of overview, the dock assembly 110 includes a flat platform 112, a cradling platform 114, and a ramp platform 116 with bores 111. The platforms 112,114 and 116 are linked together, providing a floating surface on which a watercraft may be parked. As will be described below, the dock assembly 110 is attached to a rigid dock structure 118 via tethering posts 120. The tethering posts 120 are secured to the rigid dock by attachment brackets 122 that maintain the tearing posts in a vertical sidewall 130, a vertical front wall 132 and a vertical back wall 134.

[0054] The perimeter of the flat platform 112 is punctuated by securing cavities 136 that extend orthogonally between the upper surface 124 and the lower surface 126. The securing cavities 136 are essentially-cylindrical, having a uniform cross section throughout. Each securing cavity 136 includes a pass through slot 138 that, as described below, accommodates an insertion plug 140.

[0055] The cradling platform 114 is a substantially-rectangular, rigid structure having a horizontal upper surface 142 spaced apart from a horizontal upper surface 142 spaced apart from a horizontal lower surface 144 by a first vertical sidewall 146 a second vertical sidewall 148 a vertical front wall 150, and a vertical back wall 152. An arched support channel 154 rises upward from the cradling platform upper surface 142. The support channel 154 resembles a half-pipe which opens upward. TO ease loading and unloading of a watercraft, the channel 154 advantageously has a smooth surface to keep sliding friction between the channel 154 and the watercraft to a minimum.

[0056] The perimeter of the cradling platform 114 is punctuated by securing cavities 156 that extend orthogonally between the upper surface 142 and the lower surface 144. The securing cavities 156 are essentially-cylindrical, having a uniform cross section throughout. Each-cylindrical, having a uniform cross section throughout. Each securing cavity 156 includes a pass through slot 158 that, as described below, accommodates an insertion plug 140.

[0057] The ramp platform 116 is a substantially-rectangular, rigid structure having a horizontal upper surface 160 spaced apart from a horizontal lower surface 162 by a first vertical sidewall 164, a second vertical sidewall 166, a vertical front wall 168, and a vertical back wall 170. An arched support channel 172 extends upward from the ramp platform upper surface 160. The support channel 172 resembles a half-pipe which opens upward. To ease loading and unloading of a watercraft, the channel 172 advantageously has a smooth surface to keep sliding friction between the channel 172 and the watercraft to a minimum. Near the ramp platform back wall 170, however, the support channel is tapered to form a ramped entrance 174. The ramped entrance 174 resembles a three-sided funnel. The entrance 174 serves to guide a watercraft into the support channels 154,172. The entrance 174 also provides an incline along which a watercraft may travel during loading, as it leaves the water, or during unloading, as it enters the water. As a result, the ramped entrance 174 advantageously eliminates the need for a lifting crane to raise or lower the watercraft.

[0058] The perimeter of the ramp platform 116 is punctuated by securing cavities 176 that extend orthogonally between the upper surface 142 and the lower surface 144. The securing cavities 176 are essentially-cylindrical, having a uniform cross section throughout. Each securing cavity 176 includes a pass through slot 178 that, as described below, accommodates an insertion plug 140.

[0059] As shown in FIG. 14, adjacent flat platform 112 with apertures 113 and bores 111 and cradling platform 114 with apertures 115 and bores 111 are linked together by insertion plugs 140. The insertion plugs 140 are shaped to engage aligned pairs of securing cavities 136, 156, 176. As such, the insertion plugs 140 include a contoured first end 180 spaced apart from, a contoured second end 182 by a rectangular middle portion 184. In FIG. 14, the insertion plug first ends 180 occupy flat platform securing cavities 136; the insertion plug, second ends 182 occupy cradling platform securing cavities 156. The pass through slots 138,158, accommodate the insertion plug middle portion 184, allowing the insertion plug 140 to span between the securing cavities 136, 156. By using additional insertion plugs 140, any number of platforms 112,114,116 may be joined.

[0060] With additional reference to FIGS. 15 and 15B resiliently-deformable retention tabs 186 extend from the insertion plug lower surface 188 and engage positioning recesses 190 formed in the platform lower surfaces 126, 144, 162. The retention tabs 186 are formed integral with bottom surface 188 of the insertion plug 140 and cooperate with the positioning recesses 190 to prevent upward motion of the insertion plugs 140. In use, as shown in FIG. 15B, the insertion plug ends 180, 182 are fed downward, through the plane of the platform upper surfaces 124,142 and into the securing cavities 136,156, respectively. As the insertion plug ends, 180, 182 are introduced into the securing cavities 136, 156, the retention tabs 190 flex inward, away from an equilibrium position, toward the central axis of the insertion plug 140. As the insertion plug bottom surface 188 travels toward the plane of the platform lower surfaces 126, 144, the insertion plug ends 180, 182 substantially fill the securing cavities 136, 158. As the insertion plug bottom surface 188 and platform lower surfaces 126 become substantially co-planar, the retention tabs 186 extend out of the securing cavities 136, 156 and return to an equilibrium position, thereby engaging corresponding positioning recesses 190.

[0061] Now with reference to FIG. 15, a capping member 192 prevents unwanted downward motion of the insertion plug 140. The capping member 192 is removably secured against the insertion plug top surface 194. In a preferred embodiment, attachment bolts 196 engage receiving nuts 198 that are disposed within the insertion plugs 140.

[0062] Each capping member 192 is perforated by first bolt apertures 200 that align vertically with second bolt apertures 202 located in the insertion plugs 140. After the insertion plug 140 is in place and the retention tabs 186 have engaged the corresponding positioning recesses 190, the capping member is placed against the insertion plug top surface 194, aligning the first bolt against the insertion plug top surface 194, aligning the first bolt apertures 200 with the second bolt apertures 202. Once the bolt apertures 200,202 are aligned, the attachment bolts 196 are threaded into the receiving nuts 198 and tightened in place. In this manner, each insertion plug 140 is locked within a pair of cooperating securing cavities 136, 156 with the retention tabs 186 preventing upward plug 140 is locked within a pair of cooperating securing cavities 136, 156, with the retention tabs 186 preventing upward plug 140 motion and the capping member 192 preventing downward plug 140 motion. The remaining pairs of adjacent securing cavities 136, 156, and 176 are joined in similar fashion. The orientation of the insertion plug ends 180, 182, with respect to the securing cavities 136, 156, 176 is not crucial; the insertion plug ends are congruent, and the securing cavities are also of uniform size. As a result, each insertion plug end 180, 182 will fit into securing cavities 136, 156, 176 on any of the various platforms 112, 114, 116.

[0063] As illustrated in FIG. 15, optical fibers or rods 119 are secured in the bores 111 to transmit light through the platforms and provide reinforcement. The fibers or rods are transparent plastic material that carry light longitudinally. They may be fixed in the bores by friction, adhesives, or thermoplastically. The upper ends of the rods may be smooth with the upper surface of the platform. The lower ends may be coterminous with the bores or extend beyond the lower surfaces to provide more light dispersal. The fibers or rods 119 may be incorporated in any or all the disclosed modifications.

[0064] With reference to FIGS. 12, 15A and 16, three different types of capping member 192 are employed by this dock assembly 110. For example, the capping member 192 may be a flat plate 193, as shown in FIG. 15A, or a cleat construction 195, as shown in FIG. 16. The capping member 192 may also be a cradling plug 197, shaped to match the contours of the support channels 154, 172. The cradling plug 193 is inserted, as shown in FIG. 12, along the seam between abutting cradling platforms 114 and ramp platforms 116. Each version of the capping member 192 includes first bolt apertures 200.

[0065] Additionally, as shown in FIG. 12, the platform upper surfaces 12, 142, 160 include positioning notches 204 that accommodate the capping members 192. The flat plate embodiment of the capping member 192 fits entirely within the positioning notch 204.

[0066] As shown in FIGS. 12 and 17, the dock assembly 110 is secured to a dock 118 via tethering posts 120. The tethering posts 120 are attached to the dock 118 by attachment bracket 122. As shown in FIG. 17A, each attachment bracket 122 is a two-piece unit shaped to encircle one of the tethering posts 120. Both pieces of the bracket 122 are bolted together, and cooperate to hold a tethering post 120 in a vertically-aligned orientation.

[0067] In one embodiment, the outer diameter of the tiering posts 120 allows the tethering post to fit within the platform securing cavities 136,156,176. However, in an effort to accommodate tethering posts 120 of different sizes, post adaptors 206 are provided, as shown in FIG. 13. Post adaptors 206 are provided, as shown in FIG. 13. Post adaptors are used when the available tethering posts 120 will not fit within the securing cavities 136, 156, 176. With additional reference to FIG. 2A each post adaptor 206 includes a top connector plank 208 includes a pair of attachment fingers 210, each shaped to engage a selected securing cavity 136, 156, 176. The bottom plank 208 is a mirror image of the top connector plank 208 and includes a pair of attachment fingers 210.

[0068] In one embodiment, the post adaptors 206 are secured to a platform 112, 114, 116 by inserting attachment fingers 210, 210 into dock-facing securing cavities 136, 156, 176. Once the attachment fingers 210, 210 are in place, the top connector plank 208 and connector plank 208 are bolted together in a sandwich-style arrangement. The attachment fingers 210, 210 each include a stop flange 212,212 that prevents unwanted vertical motion of the attachment fingers and locks the post adaptor 206 in place. When the connector planks 208, 208 are bolted together, the top connector plank stop flanges 212 fit into positioning notches 204, and the bottom connector plank stop flanges 212 abut platform lower surfaces 126,144, 162. Each connector plank 208, 208 includes a post bore 214, 214 that accommodates a tethering post 120.

[0069] Although the present embodiment of the dock assembly 110 includes a flat platform 112 a cradling platform, 114, and a ramp platform 116, other configurations are possible. As shown in FIGS. 17 and 18, the dock assembly 110 may be assembled without a cradling platform 114 or ramp platform 116. By connecting several flat platforms 112 together, the dock assembly 110 is especially useful as a floating dock to which watercraft may be moored. In this embodiment, resiliently compressible bumpers 214 are attached to boat-facing portions of the platforms 112. The bumpers 214 include connector projections 216 that positively engage platform securing cavities 136. Once attached to the perimeter of the dock assembly 110, the bumpers 214 act as a cushion that allows a watercraft to contact the platforms 112 without damage.

[0070] FIG. 18 also depicts another embodiment of the modular construction of the floating dock 10. In this embodiment, the platform 112 is assembled from rectangular modular units 312. The modular units are assembled in a grid to establish the floating dock. By omitting a modular unit in the grid, an aperture 313 is formed for allowing sunlight to pass through the structure. The particular pattern of omitted modular units may be elected to permit the most desirable light transmission based on the orientation of the floating dock to the passage of the sun during a 24 hour period.

[0071] As shown in FIG. 19, the dock assembly 110 may also be formed as a single-piece embodiment. The single piece embodiment includes securing cavities 218 that are compatible with the insertion plugs 140 described above. As a result, the single piece embodiment may be used in conjunction with other platforms 112, 114, 116, if desired. The single piece embodiment may be aligned as needed with respect to an existing fixed dock 118.

[0072] In all the modifications illustrated, the apertures and through bores, whether or not optical rods are secured in the apertures, pass sunlight through the platforms. The pattern of the bores dictates the pattern of sunlight reaching the underlaying bottom. Each of the platform elements or modular components may have different patterns of apertures for best exposure in a certain orientation. These different components may be chosen and constructed to prevent total darkness impinging on protected bottom ecology.

[0073] The watercraft support is manufactured by use of a clamshell mold having an internal cavity in the shape of one of the platforms. A predetermined mixture of polyethylene and an emulsifier is injected in to the clamshell mold and the mold is then heated to a first temperature for about an hour. During the heating process, the clamshell is rotated while heating the mold causing the mixture to coat the internal cavity. This forms a smooth hard surface. The clamshell mold is then heated to a second predetermined raised temperature for a second predetermined period of time, causing the emulsifier to produce gas bubbles forming a cellular body structure. Rotating of the clamshell mold continues until the mixture is allowed to cool. The apertures and bores are formed by punch, or by hot probes or laser, or by other cutting tool. Forming the bores with a hot cutter will produce a smooth hard wall in the bores.

[0074] It is to be understood that while I have illustrated and described certain forms of my invention, it is not to be limited to the specific forms or arrangement of parts herein described and shown. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes may be made without departing from the scope of the invention and the invention is not be considered limited to what is shown in the drawings, and described in the specification.