Title:
Pontoon boat
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed herein is a pontoon boat adapted to receive a personal watercraft for propulsion thereof. In an exemplary embodiment, the pontoon boat includes a multilevel decking defining an open bay area for receiving the personal watercraft. The multilevel decking includes a rigid support frame, a floor, at least one deck, and a front panel opposite the open bay area that extends from the floor to the deck. One or more flotation elements are releasably secured proximal the floor. A continuous surface, such as one defined by a diaphragm, is secured to the floor adjacent the open bay area. The continuous surface cooperates with the floor and the front panel to inhibit a rearward flow of cavitated water.



Inventors:
Quinn, Brian (Ambler, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/804685
Publication Date:
12/13/2007
Filing Date:
05/18/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B21/56
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
VASUDEVA, AJAY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCCARTER & ENGLISH, LLP NEWARK (NEWARK, NJ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A pontoon boat adapted to receive a personal watercraft for propulsion thereof, comprising: a floor at least partially defining an open bay area; at least one flotation element positionable proximal said floor; and a continuous surface secured adjacent said open bay area for cooperating with said floor to inhibit rearward flow of cavitated water.

2. The pontoon boat of claim 1, including a diaphragm defining said continuous surface.

3. The pontoon boat of claim 1, wherein said continuous surface defines a fluid receiving area proximal said open bay area for receiving a forward flow of water.

4. The pontoon boat of claim 3, wherein said continuous surface and said floor cooperate to inhibit flow of water from beneath said floor into said fluid receiving area.

5. The pontoon boat of claim 4, wherein said continuous surface and said floor form substantially no openings therebetween so as to inhibit flow of water from beneath said floor into said fluid receiving area.

6. The pontoon boat of claim 1, including a support frame secured to said floor, wherein said at least one flotation element is releasably securable to said support frame.

7. The pontoon boat of claim 6, including a deck secured to said support frame opposite said floor.

8. The pontoon boat of claim 1, wherein said floor is formed of high-density polyethylene sheeting.

9. The pontoon boat of claim 1, wherein said floor is formed of a polystyrene foam layer.

10. The portion boat of claim 1, including a foam sheet defining said continuous surface.

11. The pontoon boat of claim 1 in combination with the personal watercraft.

12. A pontoon boat adapted to receive a personal watercraft for propulsion thereof, comprising: a multilevel decking including a support frame, a floor secured to said support frame and defining an open bay area, and an upper deck secured to said support frame and further defining said open bay area; a front panel opposite said open bay area extending from said floor to said upper deck; and at least one flotation element positionable proximal said floor.

13. The pontoon boat of claim 12, wherein said multilevel decking further includes a lower deck positioned between said floor and said upper deck.

14. The pontoon boat of claim 13, comprising a continuous surface secured to said floor adjacent said open bay area for cooperating with said floor and said front panel to inhibit rearward flow of cavitated water.

15. The pontoon boat of claim 14, wherein said continuous surface defines a fluid receiving area proximal said open bay area for receiving forward flow of water.

16. The pontoon boat of claim 15, wherein said continuous surface and said floor form substantially no openings therebetween so as to inhibit flow of water from beneath said floor into said fluid receiving area.

17. The pontoon boat of claim 12, including at least one winch assembly positioned adjacent said open bay area adapted for releasably securing the personal watercraft.

18. The pontoon boat of claim 12, including at least one bumper assembly adapted for receiving the personal watercraft.

19. A pontoon boat adapted to receive a personal watercraft for propulsion thereof, comprising: a multilevel decking defining an open bay area, said multilevel decking including a support frame, a floor secured to said support frame, and a deck secured to said support frame; at least one flotation element positionable proximal said floor; and a substantially continuous surface secured adjacent said open bay area for cooperating with said floor to inhibit rearward flow of cavitated water.

20. The pontoon boat of claim 19, wherein said continuous surface defines a fluid receiving area proximal said open bay area for receiving forward flow of water, and wherein said continuous surface and said floor cooperate to inhibit flow of water from beneath said floor into said fluid receiving area.

21. The pontoon boat of claim 19 in combination with the personal watercraft.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/802,894 filed May 23, 2006, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to a pontoon boat, and, more particularly, to a pontoon boat adapted to receive a personal watercraft.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

It is known in the art to provide a pontoon boat adapted to receive a motorized boat for providing propulsion thereto. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 3,659,546 to Miklos (the “Miklos '546 patent”) discloses a pontoon boat having a structure formed in the stern end of a deck thereof for encapsulating a motor boat that provides the motive means to propel the pontoon boat. The Miklos '546 patent further discloses that the motor boat is separable from the pontoon boat for use as a tender craft. As another example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,746,150 to Beaulac et al. (the “Beaulac '150 patent”) discloses a small boat formed from an open hull reinforced fiberglass unit having twin rear hulls and a docking bay formed between the twin rear hulls to receive a jet propelled personal watercraft. However, what is needed in the art is a pontoon boat adapted to receive a personal watercraft for efficient propulsion thereby.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention overcomes the disadvantages and shortcomings of the prior art discussed above by providing a pontoon boat that is adapted to receive a personal watercraft and inhibit the flow of cavitated water to a motive element thereof. More particularly, an exemplary embodiment of the present invention provides a pontoon boat having a plurality of flotation elements, a support frame, and a multilevel decking. The support frame and/or the multilevel decking define a bay area for receiving the personal watercraft, which is adapted to propel and direct the pontoon boat. The pontoon boat includes a diaphragm and a front panel for inhibiting the flow of cavitated water proximal the motive element of the personal watercraft.

It shall be understood that the relative terminology used herein, such as “upper”, “lower”, “bottom”, “top”, etc., is solely for the purposes of clarity and designation and does not limit the scope of the present invention to structural embodiments having a certain position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of the present invention, reference is made to the following detailed description of various exemplary embodiments considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is an exploded view showing a pontoon boat constructed in accordance with a first exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing the pontoon boat of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a left side elevational view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 1, a right side elevational view being a mirror image thereof;

FIG. 4 is front elevational view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a rear elevational view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a bottom plan view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 1 in combination with a personal watercraft;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view showing a lower winch assembly and a plurality of bumper assemblies for securing the personal watercraft of FIG. 8;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view showing an upper winch assembly for securing the personal watercraft of FIG. 8;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 1 with drop-in flooring being shown;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view showing the pontoon boat of FIG. 1 provided with a seating arrangement, storage containers, and safety railings;

FIG. 13 is a left side elevational view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 12, a right side elevational view being a mirror image thereof;

FIG. 14 is front elevational view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 12;

FIG. 15 is a rear elevational view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 12;

FIG. 16 is a top plan view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 12;

FIG. 17 is a bottom plan view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 12;

FIG. 18 is a perspective view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 12 in combination with a personal watercraft;

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 12 with another seating arrangement;

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of the pontoon boat of FIG. 12 with drop-in flooring being shown;

FIG. 21 is a perspective view showing a rear winch assembly for securing the personal watercraft of FIG. 8;

FIG. 22a is a top perspective view showing a pontoon boat constructed in accordance with a second exemplary embodiment of the present invention and with the flotation elements of the pontoon boat having been broken away; and

FIG. 22b is a bottom perspective view showing the pontoon boat of FIG. 22a.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

Referring to FIGS. 1-7, a pontoon boat 10 constructed in accordance with a first exemplary embodiment of the present invention is shown to include a support frame 12, a plurality of flotation elements 14a-b, a multilevel decking having an upper deck 16, a floor 18 and a lower deck 20 positioned therebetween, a support arch 22, a front panel 24, and a diaphragm 26. The support frame 12, the flotation elements 14a-b, the multilevel decking, the support arch 22, the front panel 24 and the diaphragm 26 shall each be discussed in further detail below.

Referring to FIG. 1, the support frame 12 has a plurality of ribs, including a plurality of upper ribs 28a-p, a plurality of lower ribs 30a-g, and a plurality of intermediate ribs 32a-n extending between the upper ribs 28a-p and the lower ribs 30a-g. The upper ribs 28a-f extend generally longitudinal, and the upper ribs 28g-p extend generally transverse with respect to the upper ribs 28a-f. The lower ribs 30a-b extend generally longitudinal, the lower ribs 30c-d extend generally transverse with respect to the lower ribs 30a-b, the lower ribs 30e-f extend angularly with respect to the lower ribs 30a-b, and the lower rib 30g extends between the lower ribs 30e-f. The support frame 12, together with the upper deck 16 and the floor 18, defines an open bay area 34. As shown in FIG. 8, a personal watercraft 36 is received in the open bay area 34.

The ribs 28a-p, 30a-g, 32a-n co-act with one another such that the support frame 12 is substantially rigid. Each one of the ribs 28a-p, 30a-g, 32a-n are preferably welded and/or fitted with each other one of the ribs 28a-p, 30a-g, 32a-n adjacent thereto. The ribs 28a-p, 30a-g, 32a-n of the support frame 12 provide resistance to bending and/or breaking and are each preferably formed from piping having an outer diameter of one and nine-tenths inches (1.9″). The piping is preferably a combination of schedule forty aluminum, schedule eighty polyvinyl chloride, and schedule forty polyvinyl chloride. It is contemplated that the support frame 12 can include any suitable number of ribs and that the ribs can be secured to one another by any suitable means. It is also contemplated that the support frame 12 can be monolithically formed.

Referring to FIGS. 1-7, the flotation elements 14a-b of the pontoon boat 10 are secured to the support frame 12. More particularly, each one of the flotation elements 14a-b are, in the exemplary embodiment of the invention, provided with a plurality of opposing D-rings 38 and adjustable straps 40 that extend between the opposing D-rings 38. Each one of the adjustable straps 40 extend from a first one of the D-rings 38, over one of the upper ribs 28a, 28f adjacent thereto, and to a D-ring 38 opposing the first D-ring 38. In this regard, the adjustable straps 40 urge the upper ribs 28a, 28f toward the flotation elements 14a-b, thereby securing the support frame 12 thereto. The straps 40 are preferably adjusted to allow some play between the support frame 12 and the flotation elements 14a-b. In this regard, the position of the flotation elements 14a-b with respect to the support frame 12 may self-adjust during operation of the pontoon boat 10 to compensate for load variances on the upper deck 16 (e.g., varying weight and position of cargo, seating, passengers, etc.).

Each one of the flotation elements 14a-b are inflated in use and provide buoyancy to the pontoon boat 10. The flotation elements 14a-b are preferably light weight, durable, and easy to store, such as those flotation elements referred to in the art as being “expedition style”. It is contemplated that the flotation elements 14a-b can be formed from hollow aluminum, solid styrofoam (polystyrene), hollow fiberglass, and/or any other suitable material known in the art.

Each one of the adjustable straps 40 may be provided with a ratchet mechanism (not shown) to facilitate easy attachment and detachment of the flotation elements 14a-b, thereby facilitating easy transportation of the pontoon boat 10 in an unassembled form. In the exemplary embodiment, the pontoon boat 10 is sized and dimensioned such that the width thereof is reduced when the flotation elements 14a-b are detached from the support frame 12. In this regard, the pontoon boat 10 can be wider than government regulations allow for highway transport (e.g., towing of the pontoon boat 10), because the width can be reduced for highway transport by having the flotation elements 14a-b detached. It is contemplated that the flotation elements 14a-b can be secured to the support frame 12 by any suitable means known in the art, e.g., bolts, welding, etc. It is contemplated that, in some embodiments of the invention, the flotation elements 14a-b can be deflated.

Continuing with reference to FIGS. 1-7, the upper deck 16 of the pontoon boat 10 is secured to the upper ribs 28a-p by bolts and/or any suitable means known in the art. The upper deck 16 is preferably formed from UV stabilized high-density polyethylene (HDPE) sheeting that is preferably one-half inch thick and that is surface treated to achieve slip-resistance. The upper deck 16 may be provided as a single, monolithically formed panel or as multiple, complementary panels. The upper deck 16 has an opening 42 formed therethrough. The upper deck 16 is generally rectangular, except that a trapezoidal edge, referenced herein as an upper deck edge 44, at least partially defines the bay area 34 and a plurality of extension surfaces 46a-b. As further discussed below, the upper deck 16 has a plurality of passages 48 through which the support arch 22 extends to the support frame 12. The passages can be spaced apart from the perimeter of the upper deck 16 (as shown in FIG. 1) or formed in the perimeter.

The floor 18 of the pontoon boat 10 is secured to the lower ribs 30a-g by bolts and/or any suitable means known in the art. The floor 18 is preferably formed from a single, monolithically formed panel. The floor 18 is preferably formed from UV stabilized high-density polyethylene (HDPE) sheeting that preferably has a thickness between one-eighth of an inch and one quarter of an inch. The floor 18 is generally rectangular, except that a trapezoidal edge, referenced herein as a lower trapezoidal edge 50, is provided that at least partially defines the bay area 34. Longitudinally-extending sidewalls 35a-b are secured to the floor 18 and are substantially perpendicular thereto.

The lower deck 20 of the pontoon boat 10 is positioned between the upper deck 16 and the floor 18. The lower deck 20 is preferably formed from UV stabilized high-density polyethylene (HDPE) sheeting that is preferably one-half inch thick and surface treated to achieve slip-resistance. The lower deck 20 is preferably a single, monolithically formed panel. The lower deck 20 preferably has the shape of a quadrilateral, e.g., a rectangle, and is in substantial alignment with the opening 42 formed in the upper deck 16, such that a passenger can stand in the opening 42 on the lower deck 20. The lower deck 20 provides a reinforced surface upon which a load (e.g., cargo, a passenger, etc.) may be supported at a position lower than the upper deck 16. A plurality of compartment walls 51a-b are provided that extend perpendicularly from the lower deck 20 to the upper deck 16 and that are in substantial alignment with those edges of the upper deck 16 defining the opening 42 formed therein.

Continuing with reference to FIGS. 1-7, the support arch 22 is secured to the support frame 12. Considerable loads and torques are typically exerted on the pontoon boat 10 during operation thereof, and the support arch 22 provides further strength and rigidity to the multilevel decking and/or the support frame 12. The support arch 22 includes a horizontal support member 52a formed from a horizontal pipe that has been reinforced with a pipe dowel extending therethrough. The support arch 22 further includes a plurality of support members 52b-d securing the horizontal support member 52a to the upper ribs 28a, 28p and a plurality of support members 52e-g securing the horizontal support member 52a to the upper ribs 28m, 28f. The support arch 22 is preferably sized and dimensioned to permit entry of the personal watercraft 36 with an operator thereof into the bay area 34 without the support arch 22 having to be removed and/or without the operator having to first exit the personal watercraft 36. It is contemplated that the support arch 22 can be detachably secured to the support frame 12. Each one of the support members 52a-g are preferably formed from schedule forty aluminum piping having an outer diameter of one and nine-tenths inches (1.9″).

The front panel 24 of the pontoon boat 10 is secured to the intermediate ribs 32m-n and preferably has a trapezoidal shape. The front panel 24 is preferably formed from UV stabilized high-density polyethylene (HDPE) sheeting and can be formed from any suitable material known in the art. The front panel 24 co-acts with the upper deck 16, the floor 18, the sidewalls 35a-b, and the compartment walls 51a-b to define a plurality of chambers 54a-b therebetween. In preferred embodiments of the invention, one or more of the compartment walls 51a-b are hingedly secured to the lower deck 20, thereby permitting user access to one or more of the chambers 54a-b.

The diaphragm 26 of the pontoon boat 10 is preferably formed from a thin, resistant and waterproof material, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The diaphragm 26 includes a continuous surface 56 defining a fluid receiving area 58 and further includes a plurality of mounting flaps 60a-c extending from the continuous surface 56. An interference fit may be formed by the ribs 30e-g and the floor 18, and each one of the mounting flaps 60a-c may be positioned between the floor 18 and a corresponding one of the ribs 30e-g to secure the continuous surface 56 to the support frame 12. The mounting flaps 60a-c are preferably secured about the lower trapezoidal edge 50, such that water beneath the floor 18 does not flow directly into the fluid receiving area 58. It is contemplated that the continuous surface 56 can be secured to the support frame 12 and/or the floor 18 in any suitable manner known in the art.

The diaphragm 26, the front panel 24, and/or the floor 18 prevent the rearward flow of cavitated water from entering that area in which the motive element of the personal watercraft 36 operates, e.g., that area rearward of the fluid receiving area 58, while permitting the forward flow of water into the fluid receiving area 58. Accordingly, there are preferably no openings formed between the diaphragm 26 and the floor 18.

Referring to FIG. 8, the pontoon boat 10 is adapted to receive a personal watercraft 36 in the bay area 34. The personal watercraft 36 is preferably of a contemporary two to three person sit-down style with a horsepower rating that can be greater than one hundred. Although it is contemplated that any personal watercraft suitable for propelling the pontoon boat 10 can be used in combination therewith, the personal watercraft 36 is preferably of the popular type that is up to sixteen feet in length and includes an internal combustion motor powering a water jet pump as its primary source of propulsion. The personal watercraft 36 is preferably designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling rather than in the conventional manner of boat operation. As shown in FIG. 8, The personal watercraft 36 preferably includes a peripheral lip 62 (e.g., a gunwale) to which a hook, for example, can be secured.

As shown in FIG. 9, the pontoon boat 10 includes a plurality of bumper assemblies 64a-b. Each one of the bumper assemblies 64a-b include one of a plurality of padded finger sets 66a-b that are formed from rubber and/or polyurethane and that abut against the personal watercraft 36 when same is received in the bay area 34. A plurality of arms 68a-b secure the finger sets 66a-b to the support frame 12. The bumper assemblies 64a-b are flexibly adjustable to accommodate personal watercrafts of varying sizes and/or dimensions.

A winch assembly, referenced herein as a lower winch assembly 70, is secured to a bow eye 69 at the underside of the personal watercraft 36. In this regard, the winch assembly 70 secures the personal watercraft 36 against the bumper assemblies 64a-b (and one or more sets of padding 71 discussed below) when the personal watercraft 36 is received in the bay area 34. A passenger can access the lower winch assembly 70 by rotating the compartment wall 51a open and reaching through the chamber 54a. As shown in FIG. 9, padding 71 may be secured to one or more ribs of the support frame 12 for safely abutting the personal watercraft 36, and it is contemplated that padding can be provided in any location about the bay area 34. Two sets of padding 71 are preferably attached to the rib 30g for receiving the personal watercraft 36, and the bow eye 69 is preferably positioned between the two sets of padding 71.

Referring to FIG. 10, the pontoon boat 10 can be provided with a winch assembly, referenced herein as an upper winch assembly 72, for securing the personal watercraft 36 in the bay area 34, such that the motive element of personal watercraft 36 is in the fluid receiving area 58. In this regard, the upper winch assembly 72 includes a plurality of clips 74 for attachment to the lip 62 (e.g., a gunwale) of the personal watercraft 36. In some embodiments of the invention, the upper winch assembly 72 can also be secured to one of the flaps 60a, 60b to urge the continuous surface 56 upward. Among other advantages, the upper winch assembly 72 and/or the lower winch assembly 70 facilitate the ease at which the personal watercraft 36 can be urged into a desired position within the bay area 34.

With reference to FIGS. 1-10, an exemplary method of using the pontoon boat 10 is further discussed in detail. During transport of the pontoon boat 10, the flotation elements 14a-b are released from the support frame 12 to reduce the overall width of the pontoon boat 10. Then, at a lake or other body of water, the adjustable straps 40 are wrapped about the support frame 12 to urge the flotation elements 14a-b against the support frame 12. The pontoon boat 10 is then deployed onto the water and the flotation elements 14a-b become at least partially submerged.

To secure the personal watercraft 36 to the pontoon boat 10, the personal watercraft 36 is directed toward the bay area 34 and the operator of the pontoon boat 10 passes under the support arch 22 with the personal watercraft 36. After a user of the pontoon boat 10 (e.g., a passenger, etc.) folds down the compartment wall 51a, the user reaches into the chamber 54a to operate the lower winch assembly 70, thereby securing the pontoon boat 10 to the underside of the personal watercraft 36. A user secures the clips 74 of the upper winch assembly 72 to the lip 62 (e.g., gunwale) of the personal watercraft 26 (and/or the diaphragm 26).

In operation, the personal watercraft 36 propels and directs the pontoon boat 10. The diaphragm 26 is at least partially submerged so as to permit the forward flow of water into the fluid receiving area 58 from a position behind the pontoon boat 10. Water rearward of the diaphragm can be operated upon by a motive element of the personal watercraft 36 to provide propulsion to the pontoon boat 10. The front panel 24, the floor 18, and the diaphragm 26 cooperate to inhibit the flow of cavitated water rearward of the diaphragm such that the motive element of the personal watercraft has enhanced efficiencies. The multilevel decking preferably rides above the water line so as to inhibit the rearward flow of water from a position ahead of the pontoon boat 10 into the fluid receiving area 58. The front panel 24 inhibits the rearward flow of cavitated water from a position ahead of the pontoon boat 10 into the fluid receiving area 58. In this regard, although the water frontward of the pontoon boat 10 is typically cavitated during motion of the pontoon boat 10, the front panel 24 will inhibit the flow of such cavitated water through the chambers 54a-b and into the fluid receiving area 58. Although cavitated water could otherwise cause inefficiencies in the motive element of the personal watercraft 36, the front panel 24, the floor 18, and the diaphragm 26 cooperate to inhibit the flow of cavitated water proximal the motive element of the personal watercraft 36, thereby providing enhanced propulsion efficiencies.

The exemplary embodiment of the pontoon boat 10 has numerous other advantages. For example, the pontoon boat 10 is difficult to capsize, swamp, and/or sink and has a relatively shallow draft in the water. When used in combination with the personal watercraft 36, enough power is provided to the pontoon boat 10 for controlled travel through considerable water currents and/or speeds (e.g., due to reduced cavitation problems). Because the pontoon boat 10, when assembled, can be wider than government regulations for highway transport, a wider “footprint” is provided, thereby facilitating a low center of gravity. Moreover, the multilevel decking and support frame 12 is self-bailing, thereby making the pontoon boat 10 substantially resistant to holding water and/or sinking. The pontoon boat 10 is relatively lightweight, thereby permitting enhanced load capacity.

It is contemplated that the pontoon boat 10 can be provided with many variations and modifications without departing from the spirit and the scope of the invention. For example, referring to FIG. 11, a drop-in flooring 76 can be provided to at least partially enclose the bay area 34 to enhance the upper surface area of the pontoon boat 10. The drop-in flooring 76 can be formed from a single panel or multiple panels. The drop-in flooring 76 may be provided with fittings and/or supports that attach to the support frame 12.

Referring to FIGS. 12-18 and 20, the pontoon boat 10 can be provided with a seating arrangement that includes, for example, a plurality of chairs 78, a plurality of benches 80 having a backing, and a bench 81 having no backing. The benches 80, 81 preferably have a low elevation and can be positioned about the perimeter of the opening 42 on the upper deck 16, such that a sunken area is provided in which passengers can place their feet when sitting on the benches 80, 81. Among other advantages, the seating arrangement of FIGS. 12-18 and 20 facilitates a direct line of sight between the operator of the personal watercraft 36 and those locations beyond the pontoon boat 10. In particular, the low back of the bench 81 enables a user of the personal watercraft 36 to have a direct line-of-sight forward when operating the personal watercraft 36.

The pontoon boat 10 can be provided with storage containers 82 secured to the upper deck 16 and safety railings 84 secured to the support frame 12. In this regard, additional holes, similar to the passages 48, are formed in the upper deck 16, and the railings 84 extend through the additional holes to the support frame 12. In some embodiments, one or more of the safety railings 84 are removably attached to the support frame 12 and/or one or more storage containers 82 are removably attached to the upper deck 16. Also, as shown in FIG. 19, additional seating arrangements are contemplated.

Additional variations and modifications of the invention are contemplated. For example, inflatable elements (not shown) can be secured to an underside of the floor 18 and/or the diaphragm 26 to add additional lift thereto. As another example, the pontoon boat 10 can be provided with oars (not shown) to facilitate propulsion of the pontoon boat 10 in the absence of the personal watercraft 36. As yet another example, safety panels, screens and/or sheeting (not shown) can be provided to extend from the top of the safety railings 84 to the upper deck 16, thereby preventing items from rolling off of the upper deck 16. It is also contemplated that the pontoon boat 10 and components thereof can be provided with any suitable dimensions.

A spray guard can be provided extending from the bow of the upper deck 16 and from the flotation element 14a to the flotation element 14b. It is contemplated that the spray guard can preferably be formed from a transparent plastic sheeting. It is further contemplated that the spray guard can reduce residual splashing onto the multilevel decking and funnel additional air under the multilevel decking between the flotation elements 14a-b (e.g., to reduce drag). Also, in the event of a head-on collision, it is contemplated that the spray guard can inhibit any harm caused to the persons and property on the upper deck 16.

Referring to FIG. 21, it is contemplated that the pontoon boat 10 can be provided with additional and/or alternative assemblies for securing the personal watercraft 36 in the bay area 34. For example, a rear winch assembly 86 can be used to secure the personal watercraft 36 in the bay area 34, such that the motive element of the personal watercraft 36 is proximal the fluid receiving area 58. Some embodiments of the rear winch assembly 86 include a winch 86a and a winch strap 86b, wherein the winch 86a is positioned on the upper deck 16 proximal the rib 28p and the winch strap 86b extends from the winch 86a around the seat of the personal watercraft 36 (and through an eyelet thereof). An end of the winch strap 86b opposite the winch 86a is then secured to the pontoon boat 10, such as to the rib 28m of the support frame 22. As another example, the pontoon boat 10 includes a strap 88 for raising the diaphragm 26 (or other continuous surface 56). In some embodiments of the invention, the strap 88 is secured to and extends from the flap 60a, extends through the support frame 12 (for leverage on one or more of the ribs), extends over the seat of the personal watercraft 36, extends back through the support frame 12 (for leverage from one or more of the ribs), and extends to and is secured to flap 60b, so as to urge the continuous surface 56 upward. Among other advantages, the rear winch assembly 86 and/or the strap 88 facilitate the ease at which the personal watercraft 36 can be urged into a desired position within the bay area 34.

Referring to FIGS. 22a-b, top and bottom perspective views are provided showing a pontoon boat 110 (with the flotation elements 114a-b being broken away to facilitate consideration and discussion). Elements illustrated in FIGS. 22a-b which correspond substantially to the elements described above with reference to FIGS. 1-21 have been designated by corresponding reference numerals increased by one hundred. The embodiment of the present invention shown in FIGS. 22a-b is constructed and used in manners consistent with the foregoing description of the pontoon boat 10 of FIGS. 1-21 unless it is stated otherwise.

Continuing with reference to FIGS. 22a-b, it is contemplated that the pontoon boat 110 includes a floor 118 formed of a polystyrene foam layer, such as styrofoam. The polystyrene foam layer can be formed of a continuous polystyrene foam layer or from multiple polystyrene foam sections, which are referenced herein as billets 90. It is preferred that the foam layer be continuous, e.g., unitarily formed, though multiple billets 90 are shown in FIGS. 22a-b to facilitate consideration and discussion. The floor 118, e.g., the billets 90, is secured to the support frame 112.

It is contemplated that the polystyrene foam layer floor 118 is formed of a hard, closed rigid polystyrene foam shell and may be about six to ten inches thick (or more or less thick). It is contemplated that added load capactity of the pontoon boat 110 is possible, because the floor 118, which is buoyant, is adapted to extend below the water line in heavier conditions. The buoyancy of the floor 118 is contemplated to enhance the safety of the pontoon boat 110, by providing flotation to the pontoon boat 110, e.g., in addition to primary flotation provided by the flotation elements 114a-b (not shown).

A foam sheet 92 is adhered and/or otherwise secured to the floor 118 opposite the support frame 112. The foam sheet 92 includes a first section 94 thereof defining a continuous surface 156 proximal the bay area 134. The foam sheet 92 is preferably a flexible and resiliently deformable closed cell foam sheeting about one inch thick and may be provided with a laminated protective film coating. In some embodiments of the present invention, such as that shown in FIGS. 22a-b, it is contemplated that the foam sheet 92 includes a second section 96 adjacent the floor 118 and a third section 98 adjacent the front panel 124.

The foam sheet 92 preferably extends the full length of the pontoon boat 110. In such arrangement, an elevation E1 between the first section 94 and the water line is about the same as an elevation E2 between the second section 96 and the water line. An elevation E3 between the third section 98 and the water line is multiform by virtue of the angle of the front panel 24, such that the elevation E3 is increasingly greater than the elevation E2 as the third section 98 extends from the second section 96. When the personal watercraft is received in the open bay area 134 and the first section 94 wraps about the personal watercraft 36, the first section 94 might become slightly lowered to or below the water line, such that the elevation E1 is just less than the elevation E2.

It is contemplated that such arrangement, where the elevation E1 of the first section 92 is substantially similar to the elevation E2 of the second section 94, may provide reduced cavitation and water drag, thereby reducing any bottlenecking of the rearward flow of water as it reaches the motive element of the personal watercraft. Also, it is contemplated that the foam sheet 92 provides the pontoon boat 110 with additional protection from impact and abrasion.

It will be understood that the embodiments of the present invention described herein are merely exemplary and that a person skilled in the art may make many variations and modifications without departing from the spirit and the scope of the invention. All such variations and modifications, including those discussed above, are intended to be included within the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.