Title:
SELF-LEVELING PONTOON BOAT ASSEMBLY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Pontoon boat assemblies and methods stabilized against rolling, pitching, or g-forces via, at least in part, a mechanical or electronic means are discussed.



Inventors:
Sullivan, Kevin (Plymouth, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/830158
Publication Date:
01/31/2008
Filing Date:
07/30/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SWINEHART, EDWIN L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SCHWEGMAN LUNDBERG & WOESSNER, P.A. (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A pontoon boat assembly comprising: two or more pontoons; at least one deck disposed above the two or more pontoons, the deck rotatably movable relative to the two or more pontoons; and an actuating means to rotate the at least one deck in response to a motion of at least one of the pontoons such that the deck remains substantially level.

2. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 1, wherein the at least one deck includes an upper deck and a lower deck, the lower deck disposed between the upper deck and the two or more pontoons.

3. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 2, wherein the upper deck is independently suspended above the two or more pontoons.

4. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 2, wherein the actuating means is disposed between the upper deck and the lower deck.

5. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 2, comprising at least one curved track support member disposed between the upper deck and the lower deck.

6. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 5, wherein the actuating means includes a mechanical gyro having one or more struts and one or more wheels attached to an end of the struts, the one or more wheels configured to rest and move along the at least one curved track support member.

7. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 2, wherein the actuating means includes an electronic gyro configured to provide sensed electrical information to a controller.

8. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 7, comprising two or more piston devices positioned between the upper deck and the lower deck, the two or more piston devices configured to adjust in response to a rolling or pitching motion of the two or more pontoons using an actuating signal provided by the controller.

9. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 8, wherein the two or more pistons comprise at least one of air or hydraulic pistons.

10. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 7, wherein the electronic gyro is disposed adjacent a middle portion of the at least one deck.

11. The pontoon boat assembly of claim 1, wherein the actuating means is disposed between the two or more pontoons.

12. A method comprising: supporting a deck relative to a pair of pontoons using a curved support; and keeping the deck substantially level regardless of a position of the pontoons.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein supporting the deck relative to the pair of pontoons includes supporting an upper deck relative to a lower deck using the curved support.

14. The method of claim 12, wherein supporting the deck relative to the pair of pontoons further includes using a mechanical gyro having one or more struts and one or more wheels attached to an end of the struts.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein keeping the deck substantially level regardless of a position of the pontoons includes moving the one or more wheels along the curved support.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein moving the one or more wheels along the curved support includes rotating a first portion of the deck along the curved support to a position near a top of a first pontoon; and moving a second portion of the deck along the curved support to a position distant from a top of a second pontoon.

17. A method comprising: supporting a deck relative to a pair of pontoons using two or more piston devices disposed between the deck and the pontoons; sensing a change in position of at least one pontoon; generating an actuator signal using the sensed change in pontoon position; and causing the two or more pistons to keep the deck substantially level regardless of the positions of one or both pontoons.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein supporting the deck relative to the pair of pontoons includes using four piston devices, each piston device disposed at a corner portion of the deck.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein causing the two or more pistons to keep the deck substantially level includes moving at least a first piston in a first direction and moving at least a second piston in a second direction opposite the first direction.

20. The method of claim 17, wherein causing the two or more pistons to keep the deck substantially level includes suppressing a rolling or pitching force applied to the at least one pontoon.

Description:

PRIORITY OF INVENTION

This non-provisional application claims the benefit of priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/820,926, filed Jul. 31, 2006, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This patent document pertains generally to suppressing a rolling or pitching motion of a boat. More particularly, but not by way of limitation, this patent document pertains to a self-leveling pontoon boat assembly.

BACKGROUND

Boats, such as pontoon boats, often experience rolling and pitching motions due to waves or unbalanced vertical loads (e.g., when passengers board a boat). These rolling and pitching motions may cause passengers or gear located on, or boarding, a surface of the boat to be thrown around, possibly resulting in injury to one or more of the passengers.

Overview

The present inventor has recognized, among other things, an unmet need for suppression of roll, pitch, or gravitation force (“g-force”) experience by a subject on a deck of a pontoon boat assembly.

In Example 1, a pontoon boat assembly comprises two or more pontoons; at least one deck disposed above the two or more pontoons, the deck being rotatably movable relative to the two or more pontoons; and an actuating means to rotate the at least one deck in response to a motion of at least one of the pontoons such that the deck remains substantially level.

In Example 2, the pontoon boat assembly of Example 1 is optionally configured such that the at least one deck includes an upper deck and a lower deck, the lower deck disposed between the upper deck and the two or more pontoons.

In Example 3, the pontoon boat assembly of Example 2 is optionally configured such that the upper deck is independently suspended above the two or more pontoons.

In Example 4, the pontoon boat assembly of Example 2 is optionally configured such that the actuating means is disposed between the upper deck and the lower deck.

In Example 5, the pontoon boat assembly of Example 2 optionally comprises at least one curved track support member disposed between the upper deck and the lower deck.

In Example 6, the pontoon boat assembly of Example 5 is optionally configured such that the actuating means includes a mechanical gyro having one or more struts and one or more wheels attached to an end of the struts, the one or more wheels configured to rest and move along the at least one curved track support member.

In Example 7, the pontoon boat assembly of Example 2 is optionally configured such that the actuating means includes an electronic gyro configured to provide sensed electrical information to a controller.

In Example 8, the pontoon boat assembly of Example 7 optionally comprises two or more piston devices positioned between the upper deck and the lower deck, the two or more piston devices configured to adjust in response to a rolling or pitching motion of the two or more pontoons using an actuating signal provided by the controller.

In Example 9, the pontoon boat assembly of Example 8 is optionally configured such that the two or more pistons comprise at least one of air or hydraulic pistons.

In Example 10, the pontoon boat assembly of Example 7 is optionally configured such that the electronic gyro is disposed adjacent a middle portion of the at least one deck.

In Example 11, the pontoon boat assembly of at least one of Examples 1-10 is optionally configured such that the actuating means is disposed between the two or more pontoons.

In Example 12, a method comprises supporting a deck relative to a pair of pontoons using a curved support; and keeping the deck substantially level regardless of a position of the pontoons.

In Example 13, the method of Example 12 is optionally configured such that supporting the deck relative to the pair of pontoons includes supporting an upper deck relative to a lower deck using the curved support.

In Example 14, the method of at least one of Examples 12-13 optionally comprises supporting the deck relative to the pair of pontoons using a mechanical gyro having one or more struts and one or more wheels attached to an end of the struts.

In Example 15, the method of Example 14 is optionally configured such that keeping the deck substantially level regardless of a position of the pontoons includes moving the one or more wheels along the curved support.

In Example 16, the method of Example 15 is optionally configured such that moving the one or more wheels along the curved support includes rotating a first portion of the deck along the curved support to a position near a top of a first pontoon; and moving a second portion of the deck along the curved support to a position distant from a top of a second pontoon.

In Example 17, a method comprises supporting a deck relative to a pair of pontoons using two or more piston devices disposed between the deck and the pontoons; sensing a change in position of at least one pontoon; generating an actuator signal using the sensed change in pontoon position; and causing the two or more pistons to keep the deck substantially level regardless of the positions of the pontoons.

In Example 18, the method of Example 17 is optionally configured such that supporting the deck relative to the pair of pontoons includes using four piston devices, each piston device disposed at a corner portion of the deck.

In Example 19, the method of at least one of Examples 17-18 is optionally configured such that causing the two or more pistons to keep the deck substantially level includes moving at least a first piston in a first direction and moving at least a second piston in a second direction opposite the first direction.

In Example 20, the method of at least one of Examples 17-19 is optionally configured such that causing the two or more pistons to keep the deck substantially level includes suppressing a rolling or pitching force applied to the at least one pontoon.

These and other examples, advantages, and features of the present pontoon boat assembly and methods will be set forth in part in following Detailed Description. This Overview is intended to provide an overview of subject matter of the present patent application. It is not intended to provide an exclusive or exhaustive explanation of the invention. The Detailed Description is included to provide further information about the present patent application.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings, which are not necessarily drawn to scale, like numerals describe similar components throughout the several views. The drawings illustrate generally, by way of example, but not by way of limitation, various embodiments discussed in the present document.

FIG. 1 is an end view of a pontoon boat assembly, as constructed in accordance with at least one embodiment.

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of a pontoon boat assembly, as constructed in accordance with at least one embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The pontoon boat assemblies discussed herein provide a pontoon boat having a deck that is independently suspended above the pontoons. Advantageously, the deck remains generally level in response to a roll, pitch, or g-force regardless of the position of one or both pontoons.

FIG. 1 illustrates an end view of one example of a pontoon boat assembly 100. The pontoon boat assembly 100 may include an upper deck 102, a lower deck 104, and two more pontoons 106A, 106B. In another example, the pontoon boat assembly 100 includes a single deck. In an opening 130 between the upper deck 102 and the lower deck 104, the pontoon boat assembly 100 includes at least one mechanical gyro 108 including one or more struts 110 and one or more wheels 112, for instance, adapted to rest and move along one or more track support members 114. In certain examples, a mechanical gyro 108 is positioned at a middle width portion of the pontoon boat assembly 100, such as along a roll axis 120, thereby providing one-axis leveling to the pontoon boat assembly 100. In certain examples, the track support members 114 include a U-shaped or otherwise curved track support.

Through the use of the one or more struts 110, the one or more wheels 112, and the track support members 114, the upper deck 102 is able to move relative to the pontoons 106A, 106B (as shown in phantom). In this way, the pontoon boat assembly 100 is able to suppress roll experienced by subjects located on the upper deck 102 relative to the roll experienced by the pontoons 106A, 106B. For example, when a wave approaches and comes in contact with a longitudinal side of a first pontoon 106A, the upper deck 102 portions nearest the first pontoon 106A may rotate along the track support members 114 to a position near a top of the first pontoon 106A, while the upper deck 102 portions nearest a second pontoon 106B may rotate along the track support members 114 to a position relatively distant from a top of the second pontoon 106B. In this way, the upper deck 102 maintains a generally level orientation regardless of a position of the pontoons 106A, 106B.

FIG. 2 illustrates a schematic view of another example of a pontoon boat assembly 200. In this example, like the example of FIG. 1, the pontoon boat assembly 200 may include an upper deck 202, a lower deck 204, and two or more pontoons 206A, 206B. In addition, the pontoon boat assembly 200 of this example includes one or more electronic gyros 208 which provide sensed electrical information to a controller 224. In certain examples, the electronic gyro 208 is positioned along two axes which coincide with the roll 220 and pitch 222 axes of the pontoon boat assembly 200. The controller 224 is configured to, in turn, provide an actuating force to one or more hydraulic or air pistons 210 (or the like) mounted at one or more corners of the pontoon boat assembly 200 in an opening 230 between the upper deck 202 and the lower deck 204. The actuating force can be aimed at providing two-axis leveling to the pontoon boat assembly 200, such as counteracting or suppressing any rolling or pitching motion of the pontoon boat assembly 200.

Through the use of the one or more electronic gyros 208, the controller 224, and the one or more hydraulic or air pistons 210, for example, the upper deck 202 is able to move relative to the pontoons 206A, 206B, and is thereby able to suppress both roll and pitch of the pontoon boat assembly 200. For example, when a wave approaches and comes in contact with a longitudinal side of a first pontoon 206A, the electronic gyro 208 and controller 224 may together sense and generate an actuator force which is communicated to the one or more hydraulic or air pistons 210. In one such example, the one or more hydraulic or air pistons 210 adjacent the first pontoon 206A may move in one direction, while the one or more hydraulic or air pistons 210 adjacent the second pontoon 206B may move in the opposite direction. In brief, the one or more pistons 210 adjust in such a way that the upper deck 202 maintains a generally level orientation.

Closing Notes

The above Detailed Description includes references to the accompanying drawings, which form a part of the Detailed Description. The drawings show, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention can be practiced. These embodiments are also referred to herein as “examples.” In this document, the terms “a” or “an” are used, as is common in patent documents, to include one or more than one, independent of any other instances or usages of “at least one” or “one or more.” In this document, the term “or” is used to refer to a nonexclusive or, such that “A or B” includes “A but not B,” “B but not A,” and “A and B,” unless otherwise indicated.

In the appended claims, the terms “including” and “in which” are used as the plain-English equivalents of the respective terms “comprising” and “wherein.” Also, in the following claims, the terms “including” and “comprising” are open-ended, that is, a system, device, article, or process that includes elements in addition to those listed after such a term in a claim are still deemed to fall within the scope of that claim. Moreover, in the following claims, the terms “first,” “second,” and “third,” etc. are used merely as labels, and are not intended to impose numerical requirements on their objects.

The above description is intended to be illustrative, and not restrictive. For example, the above-described examples (or one or more features thereof) may be used in combination with each other. Other embodiments can be used, such as by one of ordinary skill in the art upon reviewing the above description. Also, in the above Detailed Description, various features may be grouped together to streamline the disclosure. This should not be interpreted as intending that an unclaimed disclosed feature is essential to any claim. Rather, inventive subject matter may lie in less than all features of a particular disclosed embodiment. Thus, the following claims are hereby incorporated into the Detailed Description, with each claim standing on its own as a separate embodiment. The scope of the invention should be determined with reference to the appended claims, along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled.

The Abstract is provided to comply with 37 C.F.R. § 1.72(b), to allow the reader to quickly ascertain the nature of the technical disclosure. It is submitted with the understanding that it will not be used to interpret or limit the scope or meaning of the claims.