Title:
Boat propeller safety cover
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A boat propeller safety cover includes a soft, flexible, somewhat pouch-shaped body having a stretchable opening sized and structured to receive a propeller unit while the propeller unit is mounted to a recreational water craft. The body may be formed of multiple layers of material, for example, a substantially puncture resistant, or cut resistant material which forms an inner surface of the body and a soft, foam-like material which forms an outer surface of the body. The safety cover provides an effective barrier or buffer between the sharp blades of a propeller unit and a human being, for example, a swimmer, while the boat is docked on the beach, or anchored in open water, for example.



Inventors:
Mcnerney, Johnna (Huntington Beach, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/282287
Publication Date:
06/07/2007
Filing Date:
11/18/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63H5/16
View Patent Images:
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Foreign References:
DE44456C
DE3663C
Primary Examiner:
VASUDEVA, AJAY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STOUT, UXA & BUYAN, LLP (Laguna Hills, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A propeller cover apparatus comprising: a body having a flexible pouch portion and a size-adjustable opening for receiving a propeller unit; the pouch portion including a first layer made of a first material, and a second layer made of a second material that is different from the first material.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first material is at least one of a cut resistant material and a puncture resistant material.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first layer of the pouch portion forms an inner surface of the pouch portion.

4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first material comprises a cut resistant fabric.

5. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the second material comprises a substantially compressible material.

6. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first material is a cut resistant material and the second material is a compressible material.

7. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the second material has a softness providing a cushioning feel to a human coming into physical contact therewith when the apparatus is in use and covering a propeller blade.

8. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first material comprises a cut resistant material and the second material comprises a compressible material having a softness providing a cushioning feel to a human coming into physical contact therewith when the apparatus is in use and covering a propeller blade.

9. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first material comprises a Kevlar material.

10. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the second material comprises a neoprene material.

11. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first material comprises a Kevlar material, and the second material comprises a neoprene material.

12. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the pouch portion includes base region having a substantially circular periphery and a side region coupled to and substantially circumscribing the base region.

13. A propeller safety cover apparatus for protecting against injurious contact of a human body with a propeller blade comprising: a body comprising a pouch portion including a compressible outer surface and a cut resistant inner surface; and a stretchable cuff portion defining an opening into the body, the cuff portion being structured to be sufficiently enlargeable to enable insertion of a propeller unit into the body while the propeller unit is mounted to a water vehicle.

14. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein the stretchable cuff portion comprises an elastic material.

15. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein the stretchable cuff portion has a resiliency sufficient to cause the apparatus to snugly engage a propeller shaft when the apparatus is in use and covering a propeller blade.

16. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein the pouch portion comprises neoprene.

17. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein the pouch portion comprises at least two layers of different materials.

Description:

The present invention generally relates to apparatus for boating safety, and more specifically relates to a safety cover for protecting persons and animals from injurious contact with a boat propeller.

Pleasure boating has become an increasingly popular activity. Different types of drive assemblies are available for propelling pleasure watercraft. For example, drive assemblies including outboard motors are generally comprised of a portable frame on which is mounted an internal combustion engine for power, a drive shaft extending from the engine, a propeller unit having a substantially horizontally orientated propeller shaft in communication with a propeller, and a transmission unit positioned between the drive shaft and the propeller unit to control transfer of engine power from the drive shaft to the propeller shaft and propeller.

Outboard motors are typically mounted on a transom of the watercraft in such a manner that the propeller unit it may be freely pivoted both up, down and side by side, by means of a tiller or handle mounted on an outboard motor frame opposing the extending drive shaft. In this manner, the tiller may be used to move the extending drive shaft and rotating propeller into and out of the water to avoid obstructions and side to side for steering as the boat is propelled.

A popular drive assembly known as an IO drive assembly places the propeller unit in a position spaced apart from the boat transom and in a substantially unobstructed position. This can be compared to prior propulsion systems having a shaft located through a boat hull with the propeller unit located under the boat and away from the transom.

Boat propellers, like fans, push water to propel the boat. As the propeller blades rotate, the blade edges virtually cut through the water, forcing the water over a curved surface of the blade. This action channels or redirects the water, imparting the directional thrust needed to propel the boat forward or backward.

It is important to note, in order to gain a clear understanding of one of the objects of the present invention, that in order to maximize the thrust imparted by a boat propeller, the propeller blades are sharpened using machining and polishing techniques effective to produce a nearly razor-like edge to these blades.

In nearly all pleasure boating watercraft, the propeller of the drive unit remains at least partially submerged, if not wholly submerged, in the water when the watercraft is parked on a beach or anchored. It can be appreciated that this combination of submerged blades having razor-like edges, and a recreational setting, presents a serious safety hazard to swimmers, especially children, who often venture too near a submerged propeller of an anchored or beached pleasure boat.

For example, for persons entering or exiting a boat while the boat is anchored in open water, egress is commonly made via the transom of the boat or by a “swim step” located directly off of the back of the boat and just above the propeller unit. It can be appreciated then that unless extreme caution is exercised, a potentially dangerous situation can result. The proximity of the substantially unobstructed propeller blades located just below the water surface and the primary egress pathway into and out of the boat is a recipe for serious injury. Mere contact with the sharp propeller blade edges can cause injuries extending from relatively minor epidural lacerations to relatively more serious deep muscle tissue trauma.

Surprisingly, conventional propeller covers have either not adequately addressed these serious safety concerns or have been primarily or exclusively directed to protection of the propeller unit itself rather than protection against human bodily injury resulting from contact with the unit.

For example, Carlisle, U.S. Pat. No. 5,664,975 discloses a reflective safety cover for increasing visibility of a propeller of a motor boat being towed by a trailer for preventing rear end accidents.

Miller, U.S. Patent Publication No. 2003/0017763 discloses a fabric safety enclosure for covering a boat propeller during road transportation.

The need for a device for protecting people from injury resulting from contact with propeller blades has been recently recognized in Tonokaboni et al., U.S. Patent Publication No. 2005/0066874. Tonokaboni discloses propeller cover made in the shape of a somewhat, clamshell-like case that clamps over a propeller unit.

Morton, U.S. Pat. No. 6,152,064 discloses a buoyant enclosure for a propeller that serves as a warning sign to swimmers of the location of the propeller. Although Morton mentions that his propeller cover is designed to protect swimmers against injury from contact with a propeller, Morton's device is relatively cumbersome to install and use and seems to be more closely directed to a means of alerting swimmers rather than providing an effective barrier between a human being and a propeller blade.

There is a need for more effective, more convenient, easier to use boat propeller safety cover for protecting people, for example, children, during recreational boating activities. The present invention provides such a device, with a primary objective being preserving the pleasure of boating by preventing some of the more common serious injuries attributable thereto.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A propeller safety cover apparatus is provided. The apparatus is easy to use, easy to store, and highly effective in preventing injury. Unlike prior art devices that serve to simply “cover” a boat propeller to thereby make the propeller's position more visible, the present invention is designed to provide a cushioning buffer between a human being and sharp propeller blades.

In certain especially advantageous embodiments of the invention, the apparatus of the present invention is structured to provide an effective, easy to use safety cover for a boat propeller, the apparatus providing, in use, a soft, impact-absorbent buffer between a human being and a sharp propeller blade of a boat. Alternatively or additionally, the present invention is structured to substantially prevent such a propeller blade, for example, a newly sharpened propeller blade, from puncturing or otherwise cutting through the apparatus when the apparatus is in use as a safety cover for a propeller unit.

In accordance with the present invention, a propeller safety cover apparatus generally comprises a body, for example a flexible, pliable body at least partially made of a soft, cushioning, preferably substantially non-water absorbent material, the body being sized to be suitable for covering blades of a propeller unit a boat. The body may include a flexible pouch portion which is sized to enclose or substantially entirely contain an entire blade assembly of a propeller unit when such a propeller unit is operationally mounted to a boat. The body may further include a resilient, size-adjustable opening structured to be sufficiently expandable to receive a propeller unit inserted therein and through the opening, for example, while the propeller unit is coupled to a boat.

In some embodiments of the invention, the pouch potion includes multiple layers of material. For example, in an exemplary embodiment, the pouch portion includes an inner layer made of a first material that is resistant to being torn, damaged or cut by the propeller blades of which it is in contact with during use of the apparatus. In this example, the pouch portion further includes an additional layer, for example, an outer layer made of a second material. The second material may be different from the first material in that it is more closely directed to establishing a buffer, or cushioning barrier between a human being an a propeller blade enclosed in the apparatus during use thereof.

More specifically, the inner layer may be substantially entirely formed of a puncture resistant and/or cut resistant material. For example, the first material may comprise a flexible fabric such as Kevlar and/or other suitable material known to be cut resistant and/or puncture proof. In some embodiments of the invention, the inner layer is made of a material having a cut resistance effective to substantially prevent a propeller blade, for example, a newly sharpened propeller blade, from cutting into or through the inner layer.

In addition, the second material which forms the outer layer may comprise a soft and/or compressible material that forms an outer surface of the body of the apparatus. For example, the second material may comprise a strong, spongy material, for example, but not limited to, Neoprene or other material, for example, Neoprene having a thickness of at least about 0.1 mm, or about 0.2 mm, or about 0.3 mm, or about 0.5 mm, or greater. In one aspect of the invention, the second material is a material which has a softness quality that provides a cushioning feel to a human being that comes into physical contact therewith when the apparatus is in use.

Preferably, many of the materials suitable for use in the present invention are at least somewhat resistant to deterioration in an aquatic or salt-water environment in order to maintain integrity of the present invention for at least one season of use prior to needing replacement.

The outer layer and inner layer may be secured together using any suitable means. For example, the outer layer and inner layer may be sewn together along one or more seams thereof. Alternatively or additionally, the outer layer and inner layer may be sealed together along at least a portion of interfacing surfaces between the outer layer and inner layer. Sealing the layers together may be accomplished by, for example, using a suitable adhesive material, or by the application of heat between the inner layer and outer layer during manufacture of the present invention.

In some embodiments of the invention, the opening of the body is defined by a cuff portion structured to be sufficiently enlargeable to enable insertion of a propeller unit therein, for example, while the propeller unit is mounted to a water vehicle. Preferably, the cuff portion is also structured such that the opening, when at rest, assumes a size that is sufficiently small to snugly circumscribe a shaft of the propeller unit when the apparatus is in use as a safety cover. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the cuff portion is made of one or more elastic materials, for example, elastic fabrics. For example, the cuff portion may comprise an elastic fabric and gathered material sewn to, or folded over and forming an enclosure for the elastic material.

In another advantageous aspect of the invention, the structure of the body opening does not require the use of ties, zippers, snaps, or other separate fastener elements other than the size and resiliency of the elastic cuff portion, to enable insertion and/or removal of the apparatus from the propeller unit.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

The various aspects and advantages of the present invention may be more clearly understood and appreciated with respect to the following Detailed Description when considered in conjunction with the accompanying Drawings of which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective top view of an apparatus in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 2 is a partially cut away perspective side view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a boat propeller unit mounted to a pleasure water craft that is docked on a beach;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the boat propeller shown in FIG. 3, while an apparatus of the invention is being installed thereon; and

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the boat propeller shown in FIG. 3 with an apparatus of the invention installed over the propeller and being effective to protect swimmers against injurious contact with sharp edges of propeller.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Turning now to FIGS. 1 and 2, a propeller cover apparatus 10 in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention is shown. The apparatus 10 generally comprises a body 12 having a flexible pouch portion 14 and a size-adjustable opening 16. The opening 16 is defined by a cuff portion 18 of the body 12.

More particularly, the pouch portion 14 may be fabricated from one or more separate, cut out panels of flexible materials sewn or otherwise bound together to achieve the desired pouch-like shape. For example, in the shown embodiment, the apparatus 10 includes a base region 22 and a side region 24 coupled to the base region 22. For example, the base region 22 may comprise a somewhat disc-shaped element 26 having a generally circular periphery and having a diameter about equal to a diameter of a conventional recreational boat propeller blade assembly (not shown in FIGS. 1 and 2). The side region 24 may comprise a flexible panel element 32 including a first edge 34 formed from a seam 38 joining base region 22 and side region 24, as shown in FIG. 2. The flexible panel element 32 further includes a second edge 42 formed from a seam 42 joining the cuff portion 18 with side region 24, as shown in FIG. 1.

It should be appreciated that in other embodiments of the invention not shown, the body 12 may be structured from a unitary piece of material with or without seams as shown. For example, it is contemplated that the body 12 may comprise a flexible, resilient rubber material molded using conventional means to achieve the desired shape. Alternatively, one or both of the base region 22 and the side region 24 of apparatus 10 may be individually formed of multiple panels of material joined together. All of such variations are considered to fall within the scope of the present invention.

In some embodiments of the invention, the apparatus 10 includes multiple layers of materials, for example, multiple layers of materials having different compositions, thicknesses and/or other attributes.

For example, in a particularly advantageous aspect of the invention, the pouch portion 14 comprises, at least in part, a cut resistant and/or puncture resistant material effective to prevent a sharp edge of a propeller blade from slicing through, puncturing, cutting or otherwise damaging the structural integrity of the apparatus 10 when the apparatus is in use.

In the shown embodiment, the pouch portion 14 of apparatus 10 comprises an inner layer 50 made of a first material which is a cut resistant material, and an outer layer 54 which comprises a second material that may be a material other than a cut resistant material.

As is known to those of skill in the materials art, cut resistance of a material may be measured by ASTM and ISO test methods which employ force-distance testers to determine the cut resistance of the material when exposed to a cutting edge under specified loads. An ASTM test method (ASTM standard 1790-97) known as the Cut Protection Performance Test (CPPT) Method is used to determine cut resistance of a piece of fabric. In accordance with this test, a cutting edge is moved across the fabric several times each time under a different load and each time a measurement of the distance of travel of the cutting edge to cut through is made. The loads and corresponding distances are graphed to determine the load (reference load) required to cut through the fabric at 25 mm. The reference load is a measure of cut resistance.

In some embodiments, a light weight Kevlar material or Kevlar blend fabric is employed for the inner layer 50. In other embodiments, a medium weight (14 oz. per square yard) Kevlar material may be used to form the inner layer 50. For example, the material of the inner layer 50 may have a cut resistance, under the ASTM CPPT standard, of at least about 0.5 kg, more specifically about 0.7 kg, even more specifically, about 0.9 kg, and even more specifically about 10 kg. A heavy weight (20 oz. per square yard) Kevlar material has been found to have a cut resistance between 1.3 and 1.4 kg (about 1.3 kg). Kevlar Plus material (also 20 oz. per square yard) has been found to have an even better cut resistance of about 1.6 kg.

Kevlar fiber is a type of fiber of the class of aromatic polyamides or aramids (more specifically, a p-aramid) which is marketed by E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company of Wilmington, Del. Kevlar Plus material, which contains Kevlar fibers, is also marketed by E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company of Wilmington, Del. The terms “Kevlar material” and “Kevlar fabric” are meant to include, for the purposes of this specification and the claims, blends of Kevlar and other fibers which blends have a cut resistance of at least about 0.5 kg, for example, at least about 0.9 kg., and including Kevlar Plus material.

Many of these materials and other known cut resistant and/or puncture resistant materials are suitable for forming the inner layer 50 of the body 12 within the scope of the present invention.

Various combinations of different grades and weights of cut resistant and/or puncture resistant materials, and different weights and/or thicknesses of compressible materials may be used in the manufacture of various embodiments of the invention.

It should also be appreciated that rather than separate layers 50, 54 as shown, the body 12 may comprise, in some instances, no more than a single, substantially unitary layer of material forming both an outer surface and inner surface of the body 12. In this case, the single layer may be selected to be a material having an effective cut resistance and/or puncture resistance for preventing propeller blades from penetrating through the body 12.

Alternatively, rather than the two layers shown, the body 12 may comprise more than two layers of material, preferably at least one of which is suitably cut resistant and/or puncture resistant. All of these different variations are considered to within the scope of the present invention.

Still referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, in another aspect of the invention, outer layer 54, which generally forms the outer surface of the body 12, may comprise a relatively soft, cushioning material, thereby providing a buffering layer between a human being and the propeller unit enclosed within the apparatus 10.

For example, in an exemplary embodiment, the second material which forms the outer layer 32 is a closed cell, compressible material such as a synthetic rubber. For example, the second material may comprise Neoprene or the like. For example, the material may comprise a Neoprene material having a thickness of at least about 0.1 mm and up to about 5 mm, or greater. Advantageously, the outer layer 54 may be structured to provide a cushioning feel to a human being coming into physical contact therewith when the apparatus 10 is being used to cover a propeller.

The inner layer 50 and the outer layer 54 may be bonded together by any suitable means known in the art. For example, the layers 50 and 54 may be coupled together by adhesives, stitching, heat sealing, or the like.

In yet another aspect of the invention, the cuff portion 18, shown most clearly in FIG. 1, is structured to be sufficiently enlargeable to enable insertion of a standard-sized propeller unit therein, for example, while the propeller unit is mounted to a recreational watercraft. Preferably, the cuff portion 18 is also structured such that the opening, when at rest, assumes a size that is sufficiently small to snugly circumscribe a shaft of the propeller unit when the apparatus is in use.

For example, the cuff portion 18 may be comprised of one or more bands of fabric, for example, one or more elastic strips bound together to form a circular opening into to the body 12. The cuff portion 18 may be sewn or otherwise fixed to the side region 32 at seam 49. The cuff portion 18 may further comprise a nylon material sewn to the elastic band when the elastic band is in a stretched position. This particular manner of construction gives the cuff portion 18 a gathered appearance when at rest and allows the cuff portion to stretch to enable installation of apparatus to a propeller unit. Other arrangements for forming a stretchable, resilient opening of body 12 are also contemplated and are considered to be within the scope of the present invention. In some embodiments of the invention, the cuff portion 18 is substantially unitary in construction with the body 12. For example, the cuff portion may comprise the same material which forms the outer layer.

In some embodiments of the invention, at least one of the outer surface of the apparatus and the inner surface of the apparatus 10 is structured to facilitate identification of the correct positioning of the apparatus in use. For example, at least one of the outer surface and inner surface may include a distinct color, marking, and/or other indicia that can assist a user in identifying whether apparatus is being correctly positioned on a propeller unit. For example, the inner surface of the apparatus may be marked with writing, patterning, color, etc. that would be useful to indicate that such surface is the inner, cut resistant surface which is intended to be positioned directly adjacent the propeller blades. Similarly, the outer surface of the apparatus may be marked with writing, patterning, color, etc. to provide indication that the surface is the outer, buffering surface of the apparatus. Such features may be helpful, for example, in the event that the apparatus becomes inverted or “inside out” after multiple uses, for example.

FIGS. 3-4 illustrate how the apparatus 10 may be used as an easy and highly effective means to prevent injury to swimmers and other persons during a recreational boating outing.

Turning now to FIG. 3, a drive unit 60 operationally mounted to a watercraft 66 is shown, the watercraft being parked on a shallow sandy beach. The drive unit 60 includes a propeller unit 68 having sharp blades 70. In FIG. 4, the apparatus 10 of the invention is shown as it is partially installed over the propeller unit 68.

Turning briefly back to FIG. 1, it should be appreciated that the opening 16 formed by cuff region 18 (see FIG. 1) is preferably sufficiently stretchable to enable the opening 16 to be manually stretched open to a degree that will allow insertion of the propeller blades into the pouch portion 14 without difficulty, for example, by a normal adult human being. The cuff portion 18 is also structured to be sized and sufficiently resilient to cause the apparatus 10, when at rest over the propeller unit, to snugly fit to a circumference of the propeller shaft, or at a minimum, at least sufficiently tight to prevent the apparatus 10 from being inadvertently removed or slipped off the propeller unit.

FIG. 5 shows the apparatus 10 completely installed to the propeller unit with the sharp propeller blade edges fully covered and no longer exposed to cause injury to swimmers 74.

In another advantageous aspect of the invention, the structure of the body opening does not require the use of ties, zippers, snaps, or other separate fastener elements other than the size and resiliency of the elastic cuff portion, to enable insertion and/or removal of the apparatus from the propeller unit.

It should be appreciated that the present propeller cover apparatus may be successfully manufactured using materials of construction other than the specific materials described herein. In addition, the simple construction of the apparatus enables the manufacture of the apparatus in accordance with the invention, in many different colors, sizes, shapes and designs.

Although there has been hereinabove described one or more exemplary embodiments of a boat propeller safety cover, in accordance with the present invention, for purposes of illustrating the manner in which the present invention may be used to advantage, it will be appreciated that the present invention is not limited thereto. Accordingly, any and all modifications, variations and/or equivalent arrangements which may occur to those skilled in the art should be considered to be within the scope of the present invention as defined in the appended claims.