Title:
Boat docking assembly and method of use thereof
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A boat docking assembly for docking a boat in a slip alongside a dock comprises a catch adapted for attachment to a boat, an arm adapted for pivotable attachment to a dock at a pivot and connection with the catch, and a dampener adapted to resist movement of the boat away from the pivot. The assembly preferably includes a support line along the side of the boat upon which the catch slides. The dampener preferably provides progressive resistance against movement away from the pivot and reduces the boat's velocity before pulling the boat toward the dock for debarkation or embarkation.



Inventors:
Slater, John G. (Naples, FL, US)
Application Number:
10/405435
Publication Date:
10/07/2004
Filing Date:
04/02/2003
Assignee:
SLATER JOHN G.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B21/00; (IPC1-7): B63B21/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090301376PLANING PONTOON TUBEDecember, 2009Hoover et al.
20070062428High speed sailing craftMarch, 2007Eveleth
20080216734MARINE TELESCOPING GRAB BARSeptember, 2008Czipri
20090288589Portable boat lounge and a method of attaching the portable boat lounge to the sides of a boatNovember, 2009Hammen
20040112269Front drive submarineJune, 2004Budnik
20020069807Device for guiding a sail of a sailing boatJune, 2002Clausin et al.
20100000461Foil shapes for use in barge skegs and marine propeller shroudsJanuary, 2010Waite et al.
20090288587Trim for Use with WatercraftNovember, 2009Butters
20090050046Davit Assembly and a Method for Moving a BoatFebruary, 2009Verkooijen et al.
20090126615Moring cleatMay, 2009Strong
20050066869Boat dock bumper & dockline storage systemMarch, 2005Alan



Primary Examiner:
SWINEHART, EDWIN L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JANSSON MUNGER MCKINLEY & KIRBY LTD. (RACINE, WI, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. A boat docking assembly comprising: a catch adapted for attachment to a boat; an arm adapted for pivotable attachment to a dock at a pivot and providing for connection with the catch; and a dampener interconnected with the assembly and adapted to resist movement of the boat away from the pivot after connection between the arm and the catch.

2. The boat docking assembly of claim 1 further including a support line along the side of the boat, the support line having two ends, each end being attached to the boat, and wherein the catch slidingly engages the rope.

3. The boat docking assembly of claim 2 wherein the support line includes a stop, the stop adapted to prevent the catch from sliding after contacting the stop.

4. The boat docking assembly of claim 2 wherein the dampener is positioned between the pivot and the arm, the dampener comprising a piston connected with respect to the arm and a tensioning device for resisting movement of the piston away from the pivot.

5. The boat docking assembly of claim 2 wherein the dampener is positioned on the support line, the dampener comprising first and second clamps attached to the support line and an elastic line extending between the first and second clamps such that the elastic line resists movement of the boat away from the arm after connection between the catch and arm.

6. The boat docking assembly of claim 1 wherein the arm is adapted for universally-pivotable attachment to the dock and is adapted to retain a specific position relative to the dock until moved by contact with the catch.

7. The boat docking assembly of claim 1 wherein the arm includes a hook and the dampener includes a piston housing having distal and proximal ends, a piston positioned within the piston housing, a rod having a first end connected with respect to the piston and a second end connected with respect to the arm, and a tensioning device adapted to resist movement of the piston toward the distal end.

8. The boat docking assembly of claim 1 wherein the dampener provides progressive resistance to the movement of the boat away from the pivot after connection between the arm and the catch.

9. A boat docking assembly for allowing a single boat operator to attach a boat to a dock, the assembly comprising: a support line adapted to connect to and extend along a side of the boat, the support line including a stop; a catch adapted to attach to and slide along the support line; an arm adapted to pivotably attach to a dock at a pivot and providing for connection with the catch during docking; and a dampener adapted to resist movement of the boat away from the pivot after connection between the arm and the catch; whereby, as the boat moves toward a slip alongside the dock: the catch and the arm are connected; the catch slides along the support line until contacting the stop; the support line becomes taut after the catch contacts the stop; the catch pulls the arm toward the catch after the support line becomes taut; and the dampener resists movement of the boat away from the pivot.

10. The boat docking assembly of claim 9 wherein the support line has at least about three feet of slack.

11. The boat docking assembly of claim 9 wherein the support line has a first end adapted for attachment to the boat at the midship cleat and a second end adapted for attachment to the boat at the aft cleat.

12. The boat docking assembly of claim 9 wherein the arm is adapted for universally-pivotable attachment to the dock and is adapted to retain a specific position relative to the dock until moved by contact with the catch so that, upon departure from the dock, the operator may place the arm in a position facilitating connection with the catch upon return of the boat to the dock.

13. The boat docking assembly of claim 9 wherein the catch includes a loop and the arm includes a hook.

14. The boat docking assembly of claim 9 wherein the pivot is on a substantially vertical piling on the dock.

15. A method of docking a boat comprising: extending a support line along a side of the boat; attaching a catch to the support line so that the catch is adapted to slide along the support line; pivotably attaching an arm to a dock at a pivot; associating a dampener with the arm or the support line to resist movement of the boat away from the pivot; moving the boat toward a slip alongside the dock; and connecting the catch to the arm while the boat moves toward the slip, the catch sliding along the support line and pulling the arm, the dampener resisting movement of the boat away from the pivot, thereby reducing the velocity of the boat.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein the dampener pulls the boat toward the dock after reducing the velocity of the boat.

17. The method of claim 15 further comprising: placing the arm at a specific position relative to the dock so that connection between the arm and catch is facilitated.

18. The method of claim 15 wherein the connecting action is performed using a pole which supports the catch until the catch connects with the arm.

19. The method of claim 15 wherein the support line includes a stop and during the connecting action the catch slides from a forward end of the support line to the stop where the catch pulls the support line taut and pulls the arm.

20. The method of claim 15 wherein the dampener provides progressive resistance to the movement of the arm away from the pivot, thereby progressively reducing the velocity of the boat.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to boat line handling, and, in particular, to an assembly for use in safely docking boats alongside a dock.

[0002] Docking a boat typically requires that someone on board the boat either connect a line to the dock or jump to the dock with a line or that someone on the dock assist with such a line. When only the boat operator is present, such a method is particularly difficult to perform since the boat operator must leave his or her position at the steering wheel or outboard motor control such that the boat's direction and velocity is, at least temporarily, not controlled. Such a lack of control can lead to damage to the boat, dock, pier or other boats in the area as well as injury to the boat operator. Inclement weather conditions including high winds and rain and rough water further increase the difficulty encountered by a single boat operator attempting to dock a boat and may escalate such damage or injury.

[0003] In addition, for all but the most skilled boater, docking a boat alongside a dock often involves an abrupt stop to the boat's velocity and may include bumping into the dock or other boats. While such minor collisions have negligible results taken singly, over time these impacts can result in damage to the boat or dock.

[0004] Therefore, there is a need in the field of docking boats for an assembly which allows a single boat operator to dock a boat safely alongside a dock without allowing the boat to drift uncontrollably.

[0005] There is also a need in the field for an assembly which requires only an initial connection between the boat and dock before the assembly manipulates the boat into position alongside the dock. There is a further need for allowing such an initial connection to be performed before the boat enters the dockside position.

[0006] Moreover, there is a need in the field of boat docking for an assembly which provides for dampened impacts between the boat and the dock, or, more preferably, which provides for proper docking without any impact at all.

[0007] Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide an improved boat docking assembly which meets these addressed needs.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] In accordance with the present invention, a boat docking assembly is provided to facilitate docking of a boat in a slip alongside a dock or the like. The boat docking assembly of this invention overcomes certain problems and shortcomings of the prior art, including those noted above, and provides unique components which operate to satisfy a number of specific docking needs.

[0009] The boat docking assembly comprises a catch adapted for attachment to a boat, an arm adapted for pivotable attachment to a dock at a pivot and providing for connection with the catch, and a dampener connected with respect to the assembly and adapted to resist movement of the boat away from the dock after connection between the arm and the catch. In certain embodiments, the dampener may by adapted to resist movement of the arm and the catch away from the pivot after connection between the arm and the catch. The assembly may further include a support line running along the side of the boat with each end attached to the boat. The support line may include a stop which is adapted to prevent the catch from sliding after contact with the stop. In such an embodiment, the catch is connected to the arm and remains substantially in the same position as the boat and support line move alongside the dock until the stop contacts the catch and the support line is pulled taut.

[0010] The arm preferably is adapted for universally-pivotable attachment to the dock and to retain a specific position relative to the dock until moved by contact with the catch. The arm may also include a hook adapted to connect with the catch. In such an embodiment the catch preferably includes a loop. Of course, the catch may instead include a hook while the arm includes a loop.

[0011] The dampener preferably provides progressive resistance to the movement of the boat away from the pivot after connection between the arm and the catch. In certain embodiments the dampener is positioned between the pivot and the arm and comprises a piston connected with respect to the arm and a tensioning device for resisting movement of the piston away from the pivot. The dampener preferably includes a piston housing with distal and proximal ends and the piston positioned within the piston housing, a rod having a first end connected with respect to the piston and a second end connected with respect to the arm and the tensioning device adapted to resist movement of the piston toward the distal end. The dampener may include a face plate at the distal and proximal ends of the piston housing. Each face plate is preferably secured to housing by slot rings which fit in grooves formed in the housing to prevent the housing from rupturing when the boat pulls the piston toward the distal end.

[0012] In other certain embodiments, the dampener is positioned on the support line and comprises first and second clamps attached to the support line and an elastic line extending between the first and second clamps. In such an embodiment, the elastic line resists movement of the boat away from the arm after connection between the catch and arm. For instance, the elastic line urges contraction to a ‘resting’ length. As the elastic line is stretched beyond its resting length, it provides increasing resistance and dampens the force pulling the boat from the dock.

[0013] The invention may also be described as a boat docking assembly for allowing a single boat operator to attach a boat to a dock. This boat docking assembly preferably comprises a support line adapted to connect to and extend along a side of the boat and including a stop, a catch adapted to attach to and slide along the support line, an arm adapted to pivotably attach to a dock at a pivot and to provide for connection with the catch during docking, and a dampener adapted to resist movement of the boat away from the pivot after connection between the arm and the catch. Such an embodiment provides that as the boat moves toward a slip alongside the dock the catch and the arm are connected, the catch slides along the support line until contacting the stop, the support line becomes taut after the catch contacts the stop, the catch pulls the arm toward the catch after the support line becomes taut, and the dampener resists movement of the boat away from the pivot.

[0014] In certain embodiments, the support line has a first end adapted for attachment to the boat at the midship cleat and a second end adapted for attachment to the boat at the aft cleat. The support line preferably has at least about three feet of slack, e.g., the midship cleat and aft cleat may be separated by seven feet while the support line includes ten feet of line therebetween. In embodiments in which the dampener is positioned on the support line, the length of the support line is calculated to include the resting length of the elastic line rather than the stretched length of the elastic line (which equals the length of non-elastic line between the dampener clamps).

[0015] The arm is preferably adapted for universally-pivotable attachment to the dock and is adapted to retain a specific position relative to the dock until moved by contact with the catch so that, upon departure from the dock, a user may place the arm in a position facilitating connection with the catch upon return of the boat to the dock.

[0016] The pivot can be mounted anywhere on the dock allowing for easy use. Specifically, the pivot may be mounted on the topside of the dock or on the vertical surface of a substantially vertical piling on the dock. The pivot preferably comprises a first bracket mounted to the dock, and a second bracket pivotably mounted to the first bracket to allow pivoting about an axis substantially perpendicular to the main surface of the first bracket. The arm may then be pivotably mounted to the second bracket to allow pivoting about an axis substantially parallel to the main surface of the first bracket. Such a bracket assembly can be considered a universal joint. In some embodiments, the pivot may further include the ability to pivot about the third axis which is perpendicular to the first and second axes previously mentioned.

[0017] The invention also includes a method of docking a boat which comprises extending a support line along a side of the boat, attaching a catch to the support line so that the catch is adapted to slide along the support line, pivotably attaching an arm to a dock at a pivot, associating a dampener with the arm to resist movement of the arm away from the pivot or with the support line to resist movement of the boat away from the pivot, moving the boat toward a slip alongside the dock, and connecting the catch to the arm while the boat moves toward the slip, the catch sliding along the support line and pulling the arm, the dampener resisting movement of the boat away from the pivot to reduce the velocity of the boat. The method may also comprising placing the arm at a specific position relative to the dock so that connection between the arm and catch is facilitated.

[0018] It is preferred that the dampener pull the boat toward the dock after reducing the velocity of the boat. The dampener provides progressive resistance to the movement of the arm away from the pivot to progressively reduce the velocity of the boat. In certain other embodiments, the connecting action is performed using a pole which supports the catch until the catch connects with the arm. In yet other embodiments, the support line may include a stop such that during the connecting action the catch slides from a forward end of the support line to the stop where the catch pulls the support line taut and pulls the arm.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] The drawings furnished herewith illustrate a preferred construction of the present invention in which the above advantages and features are clearly disclosed as well as others which will be readily understood from the following description of the illustrated embodiment. In the drawings:

[0020] FIG. 1 is a plan view of a boat approaching a slip alongside a dock in accordance with the present invention.

[0021] FIG. 2 is a plan view of a boat entering a slip alongside a dock and showing the initial connection between a preferred catch and preferred arm in accordance with the present invention.

[0022] FIG. 3 is a plan view of a boat positioned in a slip alongside a dock after the dampener has pulled the boat to the dock in accordance with the present invention.

[0023] FIG. 4 is a plan view of an arm and dampener mounted to a horizontal surface in accordance with the present invention.

[0024] FIG. 5 plan view of an arm and dampener mounted to a vertical surface in accordance with the present invention.

[0025] FIG. 6 an cross section of a dampener taken along the plane defined by the first and second pins in accordance with the present invention.

[0026] FIG. 7a is a plan view of an alternate embodiment of a dampener shown connected to the support line in accordance with the present invention.

[0027] FIG. 7b is an exploded view showing internal features of the dampener of FIG. 7a.

[0028] FIG. 7c is a exploded view showing internal features of another alternate embodiment of a dampener shown connected to the support line in accordance with the present invention.

[0029] FIG. 8a is a plan view of the preferred catch in accordance with the present invention.

[0030] FIG. 8b is a top view of the preferred clamp showing certain internal components for clarity in accordance with the present invention.

[0031] FIG. 8c is a side view of the preferred clamp showing certain internal components for clarity in accordance with the present invention.

[0032] FIG. 8d is an end view of the preferred clamp showing certain internal components for clarity in accordance with the present invention.

[0033] FIG. 9a is a top view of the preferred stop showing certain internal components for clarity in accordance with the present invention.

[0034] FIG. 9b is an end view of the preferred stop showing certain internal components for clarity in accordance with the present invention.

[0035] FIG. 9c is a side view of the preferred stop showing certain internal components for clarity in accordance with the present invention.

[0036] FIG. 9d is an end view of the preferred stop showing certain internal components for clarity in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0037] Referring to FIGS. 1-3, a boat docking system in accordance with the present invention is generally designated by the reference numeral 8. Boat docking system 8 includes a catch 30, arm 50 and dampener 60 for positioning a boat 20 in a slip 12 alongside a dock 10. Dock 10 typically extends from a pier 9 and often includes a vertical piling 11. As shown, arm 50 is mounted to piling 11 through pivot 52. Arm 50 is shown including a hook 51 which facilitates connection between arm 50 and catch 30. Dampener 60 is shown interconnected between pivot 52 and arm 50 to resist movement of arm 60 away from pivot 52.

[0038] Boat 20 includes a midship cleat 21 and an aft cleat 22 to which first and second ends 36,37 of support line 53 are fixed. Support line 35 is typically kept within boat 20 and can be hung along the side 23 of boat 20 as boat 20 approaches dock 10. Catch 30 is slidingly attached to support line 35. Such attachment is typically accomplished by passing support line 35 through a hole in catch 30. The hole is preferably sized such that catch 30 may slide along support line 35 until contacting stop 38 which is typically fixed at a position on support line 35 toward second end 37. As shown, catch 30 includes a loop 31 which is designed to facilitate connection with hook 51 of arm 50. Of course, it is understood that the invention includes an embodiment where catch 30 includes a hook while arm 50 includes a loop, or other known mating connections.

[0039] FIG. 1 depicts boat 20 as it approaches dock 10. Support line 35 has been thrown overboard and hangs along the side 23 of boat 20. When boat 20 is near dock 10, the boat operator, or another person, connects catch 30 with arm 50. Catch 30 may be manually held as the boat moves catch 30 toward arm 50 or supported by a pole supported by the boat operator, another person or boat 20.

[0040] FIG. 2 depicts the initial connection between catch 30 and arm 50. As can be seen, the contact by catch 30 has caused arm 50 to pivot about pivot 52. After connection, the boat's forward movement causes support line 35 to slide through catch 30 until stop 38 contacts catch 30. After stop 38 contacts catch 30, support line 30 is drawn taut between midship cleat 21 and catch 30 and arm 50 is pulled in the direction of the boat's velocity. As arm 50 is pulled away from pivot 52, dampener 52 resists the force of the boat 20. Such resistance progressively increases as arm 50 is pulled farther from pivot 52 until the boat's forward velocity is eliminated. Then boat 20 is pulled back toward pivot 52 by dampener 52 to allow embarkation or debarkation. Such a position is shown in FIG. 3.

[0041] FIGS. 4 and 5 show arm 50 and dampener 60 more closely. As can be seen, pivot 52 may be mounted to a horizontal surface such as dock 10, or to a vertical surface such a piling 11. In either case, first bracket 53 is mounted to the surface and is connected to second bracket 54 by first pin 55. Second bracket 54 pivots about first pin 55 and is connected to dampener 60 by second pin 56. Arm 50, in turn, pivots about second pin 56.

[0042] FIG. 6 is a cross section view of dampener 60, arm 50 and pivot 52. As shown, arm 50 is connected to rod 68, and may be integral therewith. Rod 68 is connected to piston 61. Piston 61 is sized to substantially fill piston housing 63 so that piston 61 is substantially confined to linear movement. Piston housing 63 is pivotably connected to second pin 56. Second pin 56 is connected to second bracket 54 which is pivotably connected to first pin 55. First pin 55 is connected to first bracket 53 which can be mounted to dock 10, piling 11 or a similar surface.

[0043] The pivoting ability provided by this construction allows arm 50 to be placed at a desired position which facilitates connection with catch 30. For instance, when a boat operator boards a boat to leave the dock he may position arm 50 such that hook 51 open towards the water and a height which is easily reached. When boat 20 returns to dock 10, the operator may hold catch 30 at the height of arm 50 until connection therebetween or use a pole to support catch 30 at the height of arm 50 until connection therebetween. The pivoting ability further assures connection between arm 50 and catch 30 since arm 50 may pivot in line with the force exerted by catch 30.

[0044] Tensioning device 62 is positioned between distal face plate 66 and piston 61 such that movement of piston 61 toward distal face plate 66 is resisted. Tensioning device 62 is shown as a spring, though any other type of tensioning devices such as hydraulic or pneumatic pressured chambers or compressible foam or the like is contemplated. Proximal and distal face plates 67,66 are held in position by snap rings which engage a groove on the inside of the housing 63.

[0045] As arm 50 is pulled by contact with catch 30, piston 61 is moved away from proximal end 65 toward distal end 64. Tensioning device 62 provides progressively increased resistance to movement of piston 61. At the point that the boat's velocity is eliminated, tensioning device 62 urges piston 61 back toward proximal face plate 67 and boat 20 is moved toward dock 10.

[0046] FIGS. 7a-7c depict an alternate embodiment of a dampener 90 which is connected to support line 35 rather than between pivot 52 and arm 50. While this embodiment is not shown in FIGS. 1-3, it is understood that dampener 90 can simply be interconnected with support line 35 shown in FIGS. 1-3 and can be used with or without dampener 60 in connection with pivot 52 and arm 50. Preferably, dampener 90 is connected to support line 35 approximately two feet from first end 36 at midship cleat 21.

[0047] In the embodiments shown in FIGS. 7a-7c, support line 35 passes through a support line channel 94 in first and second dampener clamps 92,93. Also connected between first and second dampener clamps 92,93 is an elastic line 91, which is preferably elastomeric and most preferably EPDM rubber or a similar material. Each end of elastic line 91 is received within cavity 95 of dampener clamps 92,93. When resting or unstretched, elastic line 91 is preferably about 12 inches. The length of support line 35 between the two dampener clamps 92,93 is preferably about 20 inches. During use, the elastic line 91 stretches, providing progressively increasing resistance until it is stretched to the length of the support line 35 between the dampener clamps 92,93 and support line 35 becomes taut. When the pulling force lessens, dampener 90 pulls each dampener clamp 92,93 toward one another and, thus, the boat toward the dock. FIG. 7c shows an embodiment which includes two elastic lines 91 which can provide increased resistance to stretching.

[0048] FIGS. 8a-8d depict the catch 30 in greater detail. As shown, catch 30 includes a loop 31 which is preferably made of rope 81 which is connected at each end to a clamp 80. A sleeve 82 provides rope with durability. The preferred sleeve is comprised of firm plastic. FIG. 8b shows a top view of clamp 80 with internal cavities 82 depicted by dashed lines for clarity. Clamp 80 is preferably formed by a top and bottom half 83,83 which are connected by fasteners 85. Clamp 80 forms hole 86 which, as discussed above, receives support line 35 and enables catch 30 to slide along support line 35. To create loop 31, each end of rope 81 is placed in a cavity 82 of bottom half 84 (or top half 83). Studs 87 extend into rope 81 and prevent it from moving within cavity 82. The halves 83,84 are then mated such that the studs from the other half also extend into rope 81. Fasteners 85 are tightened so that each end of rope 81 is fixed in position within cavities 82.

[0049] FIGS. 9a-9d depict stop 38 in greater detail. Stop 38 is, similar to clamp 80, formed by a top and bottom half 92,93. A single cavity 94 is formed when the halves 92,93 are mated. Also formed is flange 91 which has a greater radius than the rest of stop 38 to provide a surface to contact catch 30. Support line 30 is placed in the cavity 94 of one of the halves 92,93 while studs 95 extend into support line 30 to prevent relative movement between stop 38 and support line 30. Then the halves 92,93 are mated such that the studs 95 of the other half 93,92 extend into support line 30. Fasteners 96 are then inserted into halves 92,93 to fix stop 38 in position.

[0050] While the invention has been described with respect to specific embodiments by way of illustration, many modifications and changes will occur to those skilled in the art. It is, therefore, to be understood that the appended claims are intended to cover all such modifications and changes as fall within the true scope and spirit of the invention.