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Title:
A MARINE PROPULSION UNIT AND A BOAT HAVING A MARINE PROPULSION UNIT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2000/034118
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A marine propulsion unit comprises a cowl (10), a propeller shaft (4) mounted on the cowl, and a propeller mounted on the propeller shaft. The propulsion unit can be mounted on a boat simply by attaching the cowl (10) to the hull of the boat (1). To avoid increasing the draught of the boat, the underside of the hull can be provided with a recess 2, so that the propeller (3) is received in the recess (2) when the propulsion unit is fitted to the boat. The propulsion unit may also include a blade (7) mounted downstream of the propeller (3). Rotating the blade about a substantially vertical axis deflects the thrust generated by the propeller (3) so as to steer the boat to which the propulsion unit is applied. The boat (1) can be provided with means (20) for directing air towards the propeller (3) of the boat. Directing air towards the propeller (3) promotes cavitation at the propeller thereby reducing the drag exerted by the water on the propeller. In consequence, the propeller is able to rotate faster for a given torque, and thus provides a greater power output.

Inventors:
Glen, Robert D. (E.P. Barrus Limited Launton Road Bicester Oxfordshire OX6 0UR, GB)
Burnham, Michael (Halmatic Limited Saxon Wharf Lower York Street Northam Southampton SO14 5QF, GB)
Application Number:
PCT/GB1999/004091
Publication Date:
June 15, 2000
Filing Date:
December 06, 1999
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
E.P. BARRUS LIMITED (Launton Road Bicester Oxfordshire OX6 0UR, GB)
HALMATIC LIMITED (Saxon Wharf Lower York Street Northham Southampton SO14 5QF, GB)
Glen, Robert D. (E.P. Barrus Limited Launton Road Bicester Oxfordshire OX6 0UR, GB)
Burnham, Michael (Halmatic Limited Saxon Wharf Lower York Street Northam Southampton SO14 5QF, GB)
International Classes:
B63B1/38; B63B39/06; B63H1/28; B63H5/16; B63H11/117; B63H25/06; (IPC1-7): B63H5/16
Domestic Patent References:
WO1987001350A1
Foreign References:
US3823684A
US2064463A
US3742895A
US3937173A
US3793980A
US5816869A
US4545771A
US4871334A
US3626894A
US1401963A
US2705469A
US5529520A
US4911665A
GB2008520A
GB2152459A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Suckling, Andrew (Marks & Clerk 4220 Nash Court Oxford Business Park South Oxford OX4 2RU, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:
1. A marine propulsion unit comprising: a propeller shaft adapted to be coupled to a drive source; a propeller mounted on the propeller shaft; and a cowl disposed under the propeller and extending at least partially around the circumference of the propeller.
2. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 1 wherein the propeller shaft is mounted on the cowl.
3. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 1 or 2 and further comprising attachment means for attaching the unit to a boat hull.
4. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 3 wherein the attachment means comprise holes provided in the cowl for receiving complementary bolts disposed on the bolt hull.
5. A propulsion unit as claimed in any preceding claim and comprising a first blade provided downstream of the propeller and mounted for rotation about a substantially vertical axis for directing the thrust of the propeller.
6. A propulsion unit as claimed in any preceding claim and comprising a second blade provided downstream of the propeller and mounted for rotation about a substantially horizontal axis for directing the thrust of the propeller.
7. A marine propulsion unit comprising: a propeller shaft adapted to be coupled to a drive source; a propeller mounted on the propeller shaft; and a first blade provided downstream of the propeller and mounted for rotation about a first axis for directing the thrust of the propeller.
8. A marine propulsion unit as claimed in claim 7 and further comprising a second blade provided downstream of the propeller and mounted for rotation about a second axis for directing the thrust of the propeller, the second axis being substantially perpendicular to the first axis.
9. A marine propulsion unit as claimed in claim 7 or 8 wherein the first axis is substantially vertical so that rotation of the first blade about the first axis deflects the thrust of the propeller so as to steer the boat.
10. A marine propulsion unit as claimed in claim 9 and further comprising a third blade disposed below the first blade and mounted for rotation about the first axis and a fourth blade disposed sideby side with the second blade and mounted for rotation about the second axis.
11. A marine propulsion unit as claimed in claim 10 wherein the first and third blades are disposed symmetrically about the second axis, and wherein the second and fourth blades are disposed symmetrically about the first axis.
12. A marine propulsion unit as claimed in any of claims 7 to 11 and further comprising a cowl provided under the propeller and extending at least partially around the circumference of the propeller.
13. A propulsion unit as claimed in any of claims 1 to 6 or 12 and further comprising at least one vane provided on the upper surface of the cowl, the or each vane being positioned downstream of the propeller.
14. A propulsion unit as claimed in any of claims 1 to 6,12 or 13 and further comprising auxiliary steering means provided below the bottom of the cowl.
15. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 14 wherein the first blade extends below the cowl, the portion of the first blade extending below the cowl comprising the auxiliary steering means.
16. A propulsion unit as claimed in any preceding claim and further comprising gas introducing means for introducing a gas upstream of the propeller on application of an initial torque to the propeller shaft so as to promote cavitation on initial turning of the propeller and thereby increase the initial propulsion force.
17. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 16 and further comprising a support for the propeller shaft, the support being secured to the cowl and located upstream of the propeller; and wherein the gas introducing means comprises a gas delivery passage defined in the support.
18. A marine propulsion unit, the drive means comprising: a propeller shaft adapted to be coupled to a drive source; a propeller mounted on the propeller shaft; and a means for introducing gas upstream of the propeller on application of an initial torque to the propeller shaft so as to promote cavitation on initial turning of the propeller and thereby increase the initial propulsion force.
19. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 16,17 or 18 wherein the means for introducing gas is arranged to introduce gas over only a part of the volume swept by the propeller.
20. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 19 wherein the means for introducing gas is arranged to introduce gas over only an upper part of the volume swept by the propeller.
21. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 19 or 20 wherein the means for introducing gas is arranged to introduce gas over only the distal ends of the blades of the propeller.
22. A propulsion unit as claimed in any of claims 16 to 21 wherein the means for introducing gas is adapted to stop introducing gas once a predetermined time has elapsed after application of the initial torque to the propeller shaft.
23. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 22 wherein the predetermined time is within the range 0 to 15 seconds.
24. A propulsion unit as claimed in any of claims 16 to 23 and comprising an annular tube located upstream of the propeller, the means for introducing gas being adapted to introduce gas into the interior of the annular tube, the annular tube having one or more apertures for delivering gas to the propeller.
25. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 24 wherein the annular tube has a single aperture for delivering gas, the aperture being provided at the top of the annular tube.
26. A propulsion unit as claimed in any one of claims 18 to 25 and further comprising a support for the propeller shaft, the support being adapted to be secured to the boat and located upstream of the propeller; and wherein the gas introducing means comprises a gas delivery passage defined in the support.
27. A propulsion unit as claimed in any of claims 16 to 26 wherein the means for introducing gas is so arranged that initial rotation of the propeller tends to draw gas towards the propeller.
28. A propulsion unit as claimed in any preceding claim and further comprising an afterplaning shoe.
29. A propulsion unit as claimed in claim 28 wherein the afterplaning shoe is provided on the cowl.
30. A boat having a propulsion unit as specified in any preceding claim.
31. A boat as claimed in claim 30 wherein the propulsion unit is mounted in a complementary recess in the hull of the boat.
32. A boat as claimed in claim 31 wherein the hull of the boat and the cowl together completely enclose the circumference of the propeller.
33. A boat as claimed in claim 31 or 32 wherein the hull of the boat and the cowl together completely enclose the or each blade.
34. A boat as claimed in any of claims 30 to 33 and further comprising a drive source coupled to the propeller shaft.
35. A boat, wherein a recess is provided in the hull of the boat, the recess being so dimensioned as to accommodate a marine propulsion unit as defined in any of claims 1 to 29.
36. A boat as claimed in any of claims 30 to 35 and further comprising: a gas source; and delivery means for delivering gas from the gas source to the gas introducing means.
37. A boat as claimed in claim 36 wherein the gas source is a compressor.
38. A boat as claimed in claim 36 wherein the gas source is a compressed gas reservoir.
39. A boat as claimed in claim 36 wherein the gas source is the exhaust from the drive source.
40. A cowl for a marine propulsion unit, the cowl being so dimensioned as to partially close a recess provided in the hull of a boat.
41. A cowl as claimed in claim 40 and adapted to support a propeller shaft.
42. A cowl as claimed in claim 40 or 41 and so shaped that the cowl and the hull of the boat together enclose the complete circumference of a propeller mounted on the propeller shaft.
Description:
A Marine Propulsion Unit and A Boat Having A Marine Propulsion Unit The present invention relates to a marine propulsion unit and, in particular, to a marine propulsion unit that can be easily attached to or removed from a boat. The invention also relates to a marine propulsion unit provided with a blade for directing the thrust of a propeller, and also to a marine propulsion unit having means for inducing cavitation on initial turning of the propeller. The present invention also relates to a boat that is equipped with such a propulsion unit, or that is able to receive such a propulsion unit.

The present invention also relates to a cowl for such a propulsion unit.

One form of marine propulsion unit is the conventional outboard motor. The principal components of an outboard motor are a diesel or petrol engine, a propeller mounted on a propeller shaft, and a drive train or drive shaft for transmitting the output torque of the engine to the propeller shaft. In use, an outboard motor is suspended from the back of a boat so that the propeller is below the water level and the engine is above the water level.

An outboard motor is usually attached to a boat in such a way that it can pivot about a substantially vertical axis. (Throughout the specification and claims, by"vertical axis" is meant an axis that is vertical when the boat is in its normal orientation, for example at rest in a calm sea. Similarly, by"horizontal axis"is meant an axis which is horizontal when the boat is in its normal orientation, for example at rest in a calm sea.) The boat is steered by rotating the outboard motor about the axis, so that the shaft of the propeller, and hence the thrust of the propeller, is no longer directed exactly along the longitudinal axis of the boat.

Outboard motors can be heavy-for example, with a mass of 50-200kg-so that they have large moments of inertia. It is therefore relatively difficult to rotate an outboard motor in order to steer a boat. This means that there is a significant response time before a boat will change course. This is the case even where the outboard motor is rotated by means of a power steering, or power-assisted steering, arrangement.

It is usual for a boat to be provided with means for trimming the boat, to take account of the distribution of the load in a boat. In a boat fitted with a conventional outboard motor, the boat is generally trimmed by altering the angle of the propeller shaft relative to a horizontal axis, so as to vary the angle between the propeller thrust and the horizontal. This is done by rotating the entire outboard motor about a horizontal axis.

Since it is necessary to rotate the entire outboard motor so as to trim the boat, the same problems occur in trimming a boat as occur in steering.

Another form of marine propulsion unit is the jet outboard motor. A jet outboard motor : is similar in appearance to a conventional outboard motor, except that the propeller of a conventional outboard motor is replaced by a jet. The boat is driven by the thrust from the jet, rather than by thrust generated by rotation of a propeller.

A jet outboard motor is generally suspended from the back of a boat in the same manner as a conventional outboard motor. The boat is steered in a similar manner to a boat fitted with a conventional outboard motor, by rotating the jet outboard motor about a substantially vertical axis. The trim of a boat fitted with a jet outboard motor is adjusted in a similar manner to a boat fitted with a conventional outboard motor, by rotating the jet outboard motor about a horizontal axis. The disadvantages listed above with reference to an outboard motor therefore also apply to a jet outboard motor.

Small boats are commonly powered by diesel outboard engines typically having power outputs of up to around 50hp. If a greater power output is required, a conventional stern drive propulsion unit can provide a power output of around 150hp or greater, and a jet outboard motor will provide a horsepower of greater than 300hp. It can thus be seen that there is a gap in the range of power outputs provided by today's commercially available propulsion units, in the range 50 to 150hp. While this gap can sometimes be filled by using two outboard motors-for example, using two 50hp outboard motors to obtain a total power output of 100hp-this is not an ideal solution. For one reason, some boats physically cannot be fitted with two outboard motors. Another disadvantage is that, if a boat is provided with two outboard motors, their full combined power output may be required only for short periods because maximum power is often only required at specific times such as, for example, when a boat is accelerating from rest to its cruising speed. The provision of two outboard motors is thus an expensive way of achieving greater initial acceleration. Furthermore, since outboard motors are usually available only up to around 50hp, the maximum power output that can be obtained from two outboard motors is around 1 00hp. This still leaves a gap between 100hp and 150hp.

An outboard motor is inflexible in its positioning, since it must be located at the stern of a boat. If it is desired to replace an existing outboard motor, it is advisable to replace it with an outboard motor of approximately the same weight, as otherwise the balance and performance of the boat can be adversely affected. This severely limits the choice of a possible replacement outboard motor, and makes it very difficult to replace an outboard motor with a significantly more powerful outboard motor, since a more powerful outboard motor will almost certainly be heavier than the existing outboard motor. A jet outboard motor is again suspended from the stern of a boat, and thus suffers from this disadvantage of the conventional outboard motor.

A first aspect of the present invention provides a marine propulsion unit comprising: a propeller shaft adapted to be coupled to a drive source; a propeller mounted on the propeller shaft; and a cowl disposed under the propeller and extending at least partially around the circumference of the propeller.

The propeller shaft may be mounted on the cowl. This has the advantage that the propeller, the propeller shaft and the cowl form a single entity. The propulsion unit can be mounted on a boat simply by securing the cowl to the boat, and connecting the propeller shaft to the drive source. Since the drive source itself does not form part of the propulsion unit, the drive source can be positioned at any desired location in the boat. This means that the weight of the drive source is not necessarily concentrated at the stern of the boat, and it is easier to obtain good balance. The provision of the cowl, which extends at least partially around the circumference of the propeller, promotes the flow of water past the propeller, and thus increases the thrust provided by the propeller. The cowl has the further advantage that it provides physical protection for the propeller.

A propulsion unit according to this aspect of the present invention can be mounted on any boat having a suitably shaped hull.

A second aspect of the present invention provides a marine propulsion unit comprising: a propeller shaft adapted to be coupled to a drive source; a propeller mounted on the propeller shaft; and a first blade provided downstream of the propeller and mounted for rotation about a first axis for directing the thrust of the propeller.

If the first axis is substantially vertical, the boat is steered simply by rotating the first blade about its axis. The blade is much lighter than an outboard motor, and has a much lower moment of inertia. It is therefore much easier to control the rotation of the blade, and hence the direction of thrust. The response time of the blade is also reduced compared to the response time of an outboard motor.

A third aspect of the present invention provides a marine propulsion unit comprising: a propeller shaft adapted to be coupled to a drive source; a propeller mounted on the propeller shaft; and a means for introducing gas upstream of the propeller on application of an initial torque to the propeller shaft so as to promote cavitation on initial turning of the propeller and thereby increase the initial propulsion force.

A propulsion unit according to this aspect of the invention has an increased power output on starting, and will therefore produce increased acceleration of the boat to which it is applied from rest. Such a propulsion unit can therefore be used in applications in which a greater initial power output is required than is available at a comparable cost by use of a conventional propulsion unit. The cost of providing the gas supply is much smaller than providing a second motor.

A fourth aspect of the present invention provides a boat having a propulsion unit according to the first, second or third aspect of the invention.

A fifth aspect of the present invention provides a boat having a recess provided in its hull, the recess being so dimensioned as to accommodate a marine propulsion unit according to the first, second or third aspect of the present invention.

A sixth aspect of the present invention provides a cowl for a marine propulsion unit, the cowl being so dimensioned as to partially close a recess provided in the hull of a boat.

Further features of the present invention are defined in the dependent claims.

The present invention will now be described by way of illustrative examples with reference to the accompanying Figures in which: Figure 1 is a schematic side view of a boat equipped with a propulsion unit according to an embodiment of the invention; Figure 2 is a view of the stern of the boat of Figure 1; Figure 3 is a perspective view of the cowl of the propulsion unit of Figure 1; Figure 4 (a) is a partial perspective view of a propulsion unit according to another embodiment of the invention; Figure 4 (b) is a view of the stem of a boat equipped with the propulsion unit of Figure 4(a); Figure 5 (a) is a partial perspective view of a propulsion unit according to another embodiment of the invention; Figure 5 (b) is a view of the stem of a boat equipped with the propulsion unit of Figure 5(a); Figure 6 (a) is a partial side view of a boat equipped with a propulsion unit according to another embodiment of the invention; Figure 6 (b) is a partial side view of a boat equipped with a propulsion unit according to another embodiment of the invention; Figure 7 is a partial side view of a boat equipped with a propulsion unit according to another embodiment of the present invention; Figure 8 (a) is a schematic side view of a boat equipped with a propulsion unit according to another embodiment of the invention; Figure 8 (b) is a partial enlarged view of the propulsion unit of Figure 8 (a); Figure 9 is a partial side view of a boat having a propulsion unit according to another embodiment of the invention; Figure 10 is a partial perspective view of a propulsion unit according to another embodiment of the invention; Figure 11 is a partial perspective view of a propulsion unit according to another embodiment of the invention; Figure 12 is a view of the stern of a boat having two propulsion units according to the present invention; Figure 13 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a boat equipped with a marine propulsion unit according to an embodiment of the invention; Figure 14 is a schematic view of the stem of the boat of Figure 13; Figure 15 is a view of the stern of a boat equipped with a marine propulsion unit according to a modified embodiment of the invention; Figure 16 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a boat equipped with a marine propulsion unit according to a further embodiment of the present invention; and Figure 17 is a view of the boat of Figure 16.

Figure 1 is a schematic sectional view of a boat fitted with a propulsion unit according to a first embodiment of the present invention, and Figure 2 is a view of the stern of the boat of Figure 1.

The boat 1 has a bottom which is provided with a recess 2. As is indicated by the broken line in Figure 1, the height of this recess is greatest at the stem of the boat, and decreases away from the stern. The height of the recess becomes zero around one-third to one-half of the length of the boat from the bow of the boat.

Where the hull of the boat is formed by moulding, for example using a glass-fibre reinforced plastics material, the recess is preferably formed in the hull during the moulding process.

At the stern of the boat, the height and width of the recess 2 are sufficient to accommodate the propeller 3 of the boat. The propeller 3 is mounted on a propeller shaft 4, which is mounted for rotation in bearings 5,6. The forward bearing 5 is provided where the propeller shaft passes through the bottom of the boat, and is a watertight bearing. The rear bearing 6 is mounted in a support 7, the lower end of which is secured to the cowl and the upper end of which is secured to the boat at or near its stern. The support 7 may be a conventional"P-bracket".

The propeller shaft 4 is connected to the output shaft 8 of a power unit 9. The power unit 9 is mounted inside the boat 1.

The bottom of the recess is partially closed by a cowl 10. The cowl 10 acts so as to enclose the propeller in a"tunnel". Water enters the"tunnel"upstream of the propeller, as indicated by the arrows.

The cowl 10 has two principal functions. Firstly, it provides physical protection for the propeller if, for example, the boat is grounded. Secondly, the cowl promotes the flow of water past the propeller, and thus increases the thrust provided by the propeller.

In order to remove the propulsion unit from a boat, all that is necessary is to release the cowl 10 from the boat, to separate the upper end of the support 7 from the boat, and to separate the propeller shaft 4 from the output shaft 8 of the power unit 9. (Although the joint between the propeller shaft 4 and the output shaft 8 is shown inside the boat-i. e., to the left of the bearing 5 in Figure 1-the joint could alternatively be placed within the recess so as to facilitate disconnection and removal of the propeller shaft.) The hull of the boat is preferably provided with locating and/or fastening means to allow the cowl to be correctly positioned on the boat, and/or to enable the cowl to be secured to the boat.

A further advantage of a propulsion unit according to this embodiment of the present invention is that it provides increased protection for divers. The cowl 10 serves to prevent divers from inadvertently coming into contact with the propeller and thereby suffering injury. To provide greater protection for divers, propeller protection bars as disclosed in UK Patent No. 2 152 459 can be incorporated into the propulsion unit.

Figure 3 is a perspective view of the cowl 10. The cowl is provided with abutments 11, 11. When the propulsion unit is fitted to a boat, the abutments 11,11 of the propulsion unit fit against corresponding abutments provided on the bottom of the boat, so as to position the propulsion unit relative to the boat. The propulsion unit can be secured to the boat by means of suitable fastening units (not shown) such as, for example, bolts or studs that protrude from the hull of the boat and pass through complementary holes 19 in the abutments 11,11 of the cowl 10. The cowl is then secured in place with nuts. The cowl 10 can also be provided with means (not shown) for securing the lower end of the support 7 to the cowl.

The cowl 10 shown in Figure 3 is provided with"vector vanes"12. These are provided to spread the thrust of the propeller. In Figure 3, four vanes 12 are shown but, in practice, any number of vanes can be provided. If only a single vane 12 is provided, it should be placed on the centre line of the cowl 10. If more than one vane is provided, they should be arranged symmetrically about the longitudinal centre line of the cowl 10.

It is possible for the vanes 12 to be omitted.

An alternative embodiment of the invention is shown in Figures 4 (a) and 4 (b). Figure 4 (a) is a partial perspective view of a boat having a propulsion unit according to this embodiment, and Figure 4 (b) is a view of the stem of the boat of Figure 4 (a). This embodiment differs from the embodiment of Figures 1 to 3 primarily in that a rudder plate 13 is provided on the boat 1. The rudder plate 13 is mounted downstream of the propeller, within the recess 2. The position of the propeller 3, and the axis 4'of the propeller shaft 4, are shown in broken lines in Figure 3 (a).

The rudder plate 13 is mounted on a rudder shaft 14 for rotation about the axis X-X shown in Figure 4 (a). The upper end of the rudder shaft 14 is mounted in a watertight bearing 15 provided in the bottom of the boat, and the lower end of the rudder shaft is mounted in a bearing 15'provided in the cowl 10. The axis X-X is substantially vertical when the boat is in its normal orientation, for example in a calm sea.

In use, the boat is steered by rotating the rudder 13 about the axis X-X. When the rudder is rotated such that the blade, as seen in plan view, is no longer parallel to the axis of the propeller shaft 4, and hence parallel to the thrust provided by the propeller, a sideways force will be developed on the rudder 13. This will cause the boat to turn. Apart from the provision of the rudder shaft 13, the embodiment of Figures 4 (a) and 4 (b) is generally similar to the embodiment of Figures 1 to 3. Although the support 7 is upstream of the propeller 3 in Figure 4 (a) (whereas it is downstream of the propeller in Figure 1) it would be possible for the support 7 in Figure 4 (a) to be downstream of the propeller.

A modified embodiment of the invention is illustrated in Figures 5 (a) and 5 (b). This embodiment is generally similar to the embodiment of Figures 4 (a) and 4 (b), except that trimming planes 16,16'are provided in addition to the rudder plate 13. A further difference is that the support 7 of Figure 4 (a) is replaced by a support 7 that is positioned downstream of the propeller 3.

The trimming planes 16,16'are mounted on a shaft 17 which is supported in a bearing (not shown) in the support 7. The shaft 17 can be rotated about the axis Y-Y. This axis is substantially horizontal and perpendicular to the axis X-X. The trimming planes 16 16'are fixedly mounted on the shaft 17. If the shaft 17 is rotated about the axis Y-Y, the trimming planes 16,16'will rotate so that they are no longer parallel to the axis 4'of the propeller shaft 4 (not shown in Figure 5 (a)). As a result, an upwards or downwards force will be exerted on the trimming planes, depending on whether they have been rotated upwards or downwards from their position as shown in Figure 5 (a). This force will act to trim the boat in the water.

Figure 5 (a) illustrates one possible way in which the shaft 17 can be rotated. The shaft 17 is provided with lugs 18,18'. If the upper end of the lugs is moved to the left as shown in Figure 5 (a), for example using a push-pull cable or other suitable mechanical actuator, the rear edges of the trimming planes will be elevated. Conversely, if the upper ends of the lugs 18,18' are moved to the right, then the rear edges of the trimming planes will be lowered.

In place of purely mechanical actuation, it would be possible to use other means of actuation such as, for example, electrical or hydraulic actuation.

In the embodiments described above, the boat is steered using the rudder plate 13. The rudder 13 will, however, not be very efficient at low speeds. To overcome this problem, the embodiments described above can be modified by the provision of an auxiliary steering means provided below the cowl 10. If no cowl 10 is provided, the auxiliary steering means should be provided so that they are protrude out from the recess 2.

Figure 6 (a) shows an embodiment in which auxiliary steering means are provided. In this embodiment, the auxiliary steering means simply consist of an extension 13'of the rudder 13 that it extends below the cowl 10.

In an alternative embodiment, illustrated in Figure 6 (b), the rudder shaft 14 extends through the cowl 10. An auxiliary rudder 13"is attached to the portion of the rudder shaft 14 that extends below the cowl 10.

Figure 7 shows a modification of the embodiment of Figure 1. In this embodiment a nozzle 20 is provided in the bottom of the boat and opens at a point within the recess.

Air can be conducted through this nozzle into the recess 2. The nozzle 20 is provided with a non-return valve (not shown), to prevent water from passing upwards through the nozzle 20.

Once the air has been introduced into the recess 2 through the nozzle 20, it will follow the path indicated by the arrows 21 in Figure 7. Air will thus be introduced to the upper part of the area swept by the blades of the propeller 3. This air will induce cavitation at the propeller, and this will reduce the drag exerted by the water on the propeller. In consequence, the propeller will be able to rotate faster for a given torque, and thus provide a greater power output.

Introducing air into the recess of Figure 7 effectively creates a"false water line". The propeller acts as if the upper part of the area swept by the propeller was above the water line, rather than being submerged, so that the drag on the propeller is reduced.

In one method of operation, air is introduced through the nozzle 20 for a limited period when the boat is started. This will provide an increased power output on starting, so that the boat can quickly accelerate. Once a particular speed has been reached, the air supply can be shut off. It is likely that it will be sufficient to supply air for around 15 seconds after starting, but this will depend on the flow rate of air into the recess, the power of the engine, the desired cruising speed, and other performance characteristics of the boat.

The air can be supplied from any suitable source such as, for example, a compressor or a compressed air tank. A control means is provided to control the supply of air. Where the air is supplied from a compressed air tank, the control means can simply be a valve to shut off the supply of compressed air from the tank. If the compressed air is supplied by a compressor, the air supply could be controlled by providing a valve between the compressor and the nozzle 20. As an alternative, the supply of compressed air could be controlled by switching on, and shutting off, the compressor as required.

It is possible for the supply of air to be controlled automatically. This could be done, for example, by controlling the supply of compressed air on the basis of the speed of revolution of the propeller shaft 4 as measured by a suitable sensor. The control means would start supplying air when it detected that the propeller shaft had started to revolve, and would shut off the supply of air when the speed of revolution of the propeller shaft reached a pre-set value. As an alternative, the control means could control the supply of compressed air on the basis of other variables such as, for example, the speed of the boat.

In principle, the supply of air could be controlled manually rather than automatically. In a further modification, the automatic control methods described above could be provided with a manual override.

A modified embodiment of the invention is illustrated in Figures 8 (a) and 8 (b). This embodiment differs from the embodiment of Figure 7 in that the support 7 for the propeller 3 is replaced by a support 7'which is positioned upstream of the propeller.

The support 7'is secured to the bottom of the boat by any suitable means. The lower end of the support 7'can be secured to the cowl 10.

In this embodiment, the nozzle 20 is not provided in the bottom of the boat. Instead, the support 7'is provided with an internal air passage 22 as shown in Figure 8 (b). The rear bearing 6 is disposed within the support 7'. In use, the propeller shaft (not shown) is supported by the rear bearing 6, and the propeller 3 is carried on the propeller shaft 4.

The position of the propeller 3 when it is installed is indicated in broken lines in Figure 8 (b).

Air is introduced into the inlet A of the internal air passage. Air leaving the internal air passage at the exit B is directed towards the upper part of the volume swept by the blades of the propeller 3, so as to induce cavitation. Although the internal air passage is shown as having only one exit in Figure 8 (b), it is possible to provide more than one exit.

In a further embodiment (not illustrated), an internal air passage is provided in a conventional P-bracket. The P-bracket is positioned up-stream of the propeller.

In the embodiment of Figures 8 (a) and 8 (b), the inlet A to the internal air passage 22 is in the upper face of the support. It is not, however, necessary to place the inlet in this location, and it could be provided elsewhere. In this case it would be necessary to transport air to the inlet; this could be done, for example, by providing a nozzle similar to nozzle 20 in the bottom of the boat, and connecting the nozzle 20 to the inlet A to the internal air passage of the support 7'using, for example, a pipe.

A further embodiment of the invention is illustrated in Figure 9. In this embodiment, a pipe 23 is provided towards the bottom of the recess. Compressed air is introduced into the end C of the pipe 23, and leaves at the end D. The air leaving the end D of the pipe 23 is directed towards the propeller 3, so as to promote cavitation. The cowl 10 is shown in broken lines in Figure 9, for clarity.

A further embodiment of the invention is shown in Figure 10. In this embodiment, the pipe 23 is again provided towards the base of the recess. The end D of the pipe 23 is not open in this embodiment, however, but is connected to an annular tube 24. The annular tube is provided with a plurality of outlet holes 25 distributed around the circumference of the annulus. Air introduced into the tube 23 at its end C passes into the annular tube 24, and is directed towards the propeller by the outlets in the annular tube as indicated by the arrows. In this embodiment, the air is directed primarily towards the outer portion of the area swept by the propeller blades-that is, towards the tips of the propeller blades.

Alternatively, the annular tube 24 could be provided with outlets only at its upper most portion. In this case, air would be directed only towards the radially outer portion of the upper part of the area swept by the blades of the propeller 3.

In the embodiments described above, cavitation is induced by directing compressed air towards the propeller. This air can be provided either by a compressor on board the boat, or by a compressed air reservoir. The use of a compressed air reservoir is particularly convenient in the case of boats which carry a supply of compressed air for other purposes such as, for example, operating a self-righting mechanism.

Although the above embodiments use air, the invention is not limited to air. Any gas that will induce cavitation at the propeller can be used.

As one alternative to a supply of compressed air, it is possible to use the exhaust from, for example, a diesel engine as the gas for promoting cavitation.

In a further modification of the invention (not illustrated), the means for delivering gas to the propeller (for example, the nozzle 20, the pipe 23, the annular tube 24, or the internal air passage 22 of the support 7') are arranged such that rotation of the propeller tends to draw gas towards the propeller. The gas is fed into the recess, for example in any of the ways described above, and it is then drawn towards the propeller as a result of the suction caused by the rotation of the propeller.

In a further embodiment, air could be provided from an inlet positioned above the waterline of the boat, for example in the stem or in a side of the boat. The air would be fed from the inlet to a nozzle such as the nozzle 20 of Figure 7, positioned in the base of the boat so as to feed air into the recess 2. If this arrangement is used, providing the nozzle in the side of the boat has the advantage that, once the boat starts to move, air will be forced through the inlet into the delivery system.

The aspect of the invention relating to cavitation has been described above with reference to promoting cavitation in a stern drive propulsion system. However, this aspect of the invention is not limited to a stern drive propulsion system. It can be applied to other propulsion systems such as, for example, an outboard motor, or the "keel drive"propulsion system described in European patent application No.

97303818.5.

Although the introduction of air to promote caviatation is of particular use when a boat is accelerating from rest, it is not limited to this. It can equally be used when a boat has been travelling at reduced speed with the engine idling.

It is possible for a propulsion unit of the present invention to be provided with a gas introducing means to promote cavitation of the propeller in combination with a rudder plate and/or a trimming plane. As an example, Figure 11 shows a further embodiment of the invention, which combines the rudder 13 and trimming planes 16,16'of Figure 5 (a) with the pipe 23 and annular tube 24 for introducing air of Figure 10.

Although only one embodiment having both a gas introducing means and a steering/ trimming plate is illustrated in this application, it is possible for a propulsion unit of the present invention to incorporate any of the gas introducing means described hereinabove and any of the arrangements of rudder plates and/or trimming planes described hereinabove.

It is possible for a boat to be provided with more than one propulsion unit of the present invention. As an example, Figure 12 illustrates an embodiment of the invention in which two propulsion units are provided. The hull of the boat shown in Figure 12 is provided with two recesses 2, which are arranged side by side in the hull of the boat. A propulsion unit according to the invention is fitted in each recess.

In the embodiment shown in Figure 12, each propulsion unit is of the type illustrated in Figures 5 (a) and 5 (b). However, the boat of Figure 12 could be provided with any two propulsion units of the invention. It is, in principle, possible for the boat of Figure 12 to be fitted with two different propulsion units according to the invention.

In a further embodiment of the invention (not illustrated), any of the propulsion units described hereinabove can be provided with an after-planing shoe. This can be formed integrally with the cowl 10, or it can be made as a separate item and secured to the cowl by any suitable means (for example, such as welding or using bolts).

It is possible for the cowl 10 to be omitted from the embodiments described above, with all components of the propulsion unit being secured to the hull of the boat.

Figures 13 and 14 show an embodiment in which the cowl 10 is not present. This generally corresponds to the embodiment of Figure 7, except for the omission of the cowl. The upper end of the support 7 is secured to the hull of the boat by any suitable means, and the lower end of the support is unsupported. Similarly, the cowl 10 could be omitted from the embodiment of Figures 8 (a) and 8 (b), with the upper end of the support 7 being secured to the hull of the boat by any suitable means, and the lower end of the support being unsupported.

Figure 15 illustrates an end view of a further embodiment of the invention. This generally corresponds to the embodiment of Figure 7, except that the lower end of the support 7 is not secured to the cowl 10.

The embodiments of Figures 13,14 and 15 can be combined with any of the arrangements of rudder plates and/or trimming plates described herein.

Figures 16 and 17 show a further embodiment of the invention in which the cowl 10 is not present. In this embodiment, a rudder plate 13 is provided on the boat 1. The rudder is mounted downstream of the propeller, within the recess 2. The rudder plate is mounted for rotation about the axis X-X shown in Figure 1. The rudder shaft 14 is mounted in a watertight bearing 15 provided in the bottom of the boat. The axis X-X is substantially vertical when the boat is in its normal orientation, for example in a calm sea.

It will be noted that the embodiment of Figures 16 and 17 generally corresponds to the embodiment of Figures 1 and 2, except that the rudder plate 13 is provided and the cowl 10 is omitted. Since the cowl 10 is omitted, the lower ends of the support 7 and the rudder shaft 15 are unsupported.