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Title:
PERSONAL WATERCRAFT AND SYSTEMS AND APPARATUSES FOR USE THEREWITH
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/007666
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
There is disclosed herein systems and apparatuses for use with personal watercraft having a top side, a bottom side, a long axis, fore and aft sections and at least one passenger opening defined in the top side between the fore and aft sections, the systems and apparatuses including at least two legs each having a first end and second end, and each attachable at its first end to the watercraft and each having disposed at its second end a wheel; an inflatable bladder attachable to the watercraft; a compressor in fluid communication with the bladder; and a control unit for activating the compressor to inflate the bladder from a stowed configuration to a deployed configuration.

Inventors:
SKINNER MICHAEL (CA)
Application Number:
CA2020/050977
Publication Date:
January 21, 2021
Filing Date:
July 13, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
SKINNER MICHAEL (CA)
International Classes:
B63C13/00; B63B34/20; B63B34/26; B63B43/14
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THURLOW, Matthew (CA)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. An apparatus for use with personal watercraft having a top side, a bottom side, a long axis, fore and aft sections and at least one passenger opening defined in the top side between the fore and aft sections, the apparatus comprising:

at least two legs each having a first end and second end, and each attachable at its first end to the watercraft and each having disposed at its second end a wheel;

wherein the legs are adapted for movement between and retention at each of a retracted position, wherein the wheels are operationally positioned above the bottom side, and a lowered position wherein the wheels are operationally positioned below the bottom side to support rolled movement of the watercraft.

2. An apparatus according to claim 1 , wherein each of the legs comprises a plurality of segments.

3. An apparatus according to claim 1 , wherein the legs comprise a unitary structure.

4. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein the structure comprises at least three segments.

5. An apparatus according to claim 3, further comprising a base unit attachable to the watercraft at a base position aft of the opening and interposed between the first end of each of the legs and the watercraft.

6. An apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the legs attach to and are adapted to complete the movement about the base unit.

7. An apparatus according to claim 1 , wherein each of the legs is substantially linear.

8. An apparatus according to claim 4, wherein each of the segments is angled from the others.

9. An apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the legs are adapted for simultaneous rotation about an axis to complete the movement.

10. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein the base station further comprises retention members for engagement and retention of the legs in the lowered position and the retracted position.

1 1. An apparatus according to claim 9, wherein, in operation, the axis is substantially normal to the long axis of the watercraft.

12. An apparatus according to claim 10, wherein the retention members further comprise one or more of grooves or reversed channels defined therein for receiving the legs in each of the lower and retracted positions.

13. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein in the retracted position a long axis of at least one of the legs is substantially parallel to the long axis of the watercraft.

14. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein in the lowered position the wheels are disposed to extend beneath a bottom of the watercraft when attached thereto.

15. An apparatus according to claim 10, wherein the retention members are operationally affixed to one or more of the base unit, the watercraft and the legs.

16. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein the legs as positioned in the retracted and lowered positions define a notional angle theta therebetween, and wherein theta has a magnitude in the range of about 45 to 1 10 degrees.

17. An apparatus according to claim 16, wherein theta has a magnitude in the range of about sixty degrees.

18. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the legs are formed integrally with the top side of the watercraft.

19. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein a bushing for retaining a segment of the legs during rotation thereof is formed integrally with the top side of the watercraft.

20. An apparatus according to claim 18, wherein one or more retention members are formed integrally with the top side for retaining the legs in the lowered and retracted positions.

21. A personal watercraft comprising having a hull comprising fore and aft sections and having at least one passenger opening defined in a top side thereof between the fore and aft sections, the watercraft further comprising:

at least two legs each having a first end and second end, and each attached at its first end to the hull and each having disposed at its second end a wheel; wherein the legs are joined by a cross-member housed in a bushing and wherein the legs are adapted for rotational movement about an axis colinear with the bushing, and between and retention at each of

i) a retracted position wherein the wheels are operationally positioned above the bottom side, and

ii) a lowered position wherein the wheels are operationally positioned below the bottom side to support rolled movement of the watercraft.

22. A capsize recovery system for attachment to a personal watercraft, the system comprising:

an inflatable bladder;

a compressor in fluid communication with the bladder; and,

a control unit for activating the compressor adapted to inflate the bladder from a stowed configuration to a deployed configuration.

23. A system according to claim 22, further comprising a base unit, wherein the bladder, compressor and control unit are attached to the base unit.

24. A system according to claim 22, wherein the control unit comprises a manual activation trigger.

25. A system according to claim 22, further comprising one or more sensors for determining the attitude of the base unit and, if determining substantial inversion of the base unit, and triggering the compressor to inflate the bladder.

26. A system according to claim 22, wherein the bladder is substantially cylindrical in shaping when in the deployed configuration.

27. A system according to claim 22, wherein the bladder is substantially rectangular in shaping when in the deployed configuration.

28. A system according to claim 22, wherein the bladder is shaped to have a vertical segment with one or more protrusions extending laterally therefrom wherein the deployed configuration.

29. A system according to claim 28, wherein the protrusions comprises two protrusions extending in opposed directions from each other.

30. A system according to claim 29, wherein the protrusions are positioned at an end of the bladder distal from the base unit when in the deployed configuration.

31. A system according to claim 25, wherein the bladder is shaped substantially in the form of an arrowhead at an end distal from the base unit when in the deployed configuration.

32. A system according to claim 28, wherein the bladder further comprises an interior wall with a valve defined therein and substantially enclosing one of the protrusions and having a valve defined therein.

33. A system according to claim 28, wherein the bladder comprises a plurality of chambers and the control unit is adapted to activate the compressor for selective inflation of one or more of the chambers.

34. A system according to claim 22, further comprising a second compressor in fluid communication with the bladder and responsive to the control unit.

35. A system according to claim 22, further comprising a second control unit for deflating the bladder.

36. A system according to claim 35, wherein the control unit further comprises the second control unit.

37. A system for use with a personal watercraft having a top side, a bottom side, a long axis, fore and aft sections and at least one passenger opening defined in the top side between the fore and aft sections, the system comprising:

at least two legs each having a first end and second end, and each attachable at its first end to the watercraft and each having disposed at its second end a wheel;

an inflatable bladder attachable to the watercraft;

a compressor in fluid communication with the bladder; a control unit for activating the compressor to inflate the bladder from a stowed configuration to a deployed configuration;

a gripping mechanism comprising at least two rubber members configured in a sandwiching arrangement and positioned between a lower edge of a base unit and the top side;

wherein the members are adapted to receive and retain a paddle blade to stabilize the watercraft;

a system for enhancing visibility comprising a mast having a base adapted to mate in treaded engagement with a port defined in a support pillar;

one or more visible indicia for attachment to the mast;

wherein the visible indicia comprise one or more of a pennant and a light.

38. A system according to claim 37, wherein the lighting comprises a strobe light.

39. A system according to claim 37, wherein the indicia is positioned at an end of the mast distal from the base.

40. A system according to claim 37, further comprising a radar reflector affixed to the mast.

41. personal watercraft comprising: a hull having a top side, a bottom side, a long axis, fore and aft sections, and at least one passenger opening defined in the top side between the fore and aft sections,

at least two legs each having a first end and second end, and each attachable at its first end to the hull and each having disposed at its second end a wheel;

an inflatable bladder attached to the hull;

a compressor in fluid communication with the bladder; and

a control unit for activating the compressor to inflate the bladder from a stowed configuration to a deployed configuration; wherein in the deployed configuration the bag exerts force on the hull to promote rotation of the watercraft from a capsized position;

Description:
PERSONAL WATERCRAFT AND SYSTEMS AND APPARATUSES FOR USE

THEREWITH

Background:

Kayaks and other personal watercraft are typically large, heavy and difficult for individuals to manoeuvre on land. Launching and landing are particularly challenging and potentially dangerous exercises, especially when the watercraft is loaded with supplies, e.g., for coastal camping or other expeditions requiring relatively large volumes of supplies. Launching and landing are the parts of a paddling or watercraft use session most likely to lead either to injury to the paddler or damage to the craft from, for example, the act of dragging it across rocks, barnacles or slippery kelp. Existing solutions such as strap-on dollies or rollers still require the operator to drag the craft onto shore before deploying the dolly or roller device.

Among personal watercraft, kayaks are particularly susceptible to capsizing in unpredictable ocean currents, or through operator error or inexperience. This characteristic poses an extreme danger to inexperienced operators - as are the majority of recreational kayakers - and sometimes more experienced paddlers, from either difficulty in exiting the kayak (drowning is the rare but not unknown result) to potentially fatal hypothermia in cold water as a result of time taken in unsuccessful efforts to right and re-enter the kayak. An effective solution to a capsize situation is completion of a move commonly known by the term “Eskimo roll”; however, the occasional paddler will typically not possess such skill. There is also a need for improved systems and apparatuses for dealing with capsizing of watercraft, most particularly kayaks. There are known systems incorporating inflatable bags to assist in self-righting of watercraft; however, such systems commonly require prompt, assertive and technically adept actions by operators and a commensurate level of operator skill. This is problematic beyond the obvious need for all operators to have such skill, but also because less skilled kayak operators are even less able to deal with a capsize situation. More specifically, capsize situations can be terrifying for even seasoned kayakers, with known righting systems requiring presence of mind and holding of one’s breath while possibly disoriented (and effectively blind) in water that may be cold and dark. Known systems typically require operators to, for example, remove a bag assembly from a deck stowage point, inflate the bag, and hold it to their upper body to provide leverage to assist in manually righting the kayak, or assemble and deploy a relatively complex mast and bag system. The latter system often requires storage taking up the entire foredeck of the kayak, and manual inflation of the bag, and then using the mast system to attempt to right the kayak.

In addition, weight is a common concern for kayak users, so an unduly cumbersome or heavy capsize recovery system could, in addition to providing questionable effectiveness, be a negative factor in day to day operation of the kayak.

Personal watercraft, especially kayaks, are designed to be low to the water and therefore are often difficult for other watercraft to see and avoid. Coastal areas popular for kayaking are usually popular for use by other watercraft, including, for example, recreational fishers, powerboaters or high-speed commercial whale watching vessels. This may pose a collision danger to paddlers and, like land transport challenges or the possibility of capsizing, can serve as a disincentive for persons to participate in the sport. Kayaks are by their design not well-suited for the attachment of masts with pennants or strobe lights to enhance visibility.

Kayak design typically does not facilitate safe access for operators to necessary and/or desired supplies such as water, food, communications or safety gear while paddling. If supplies are stored in the cockpit, the paddler must typically remove the spray skirt - which can be difficult and dangerous if conditions are rough - or, with much greater difficulty while on the water, remove a hatch cover if the kayak is equipped with a“day hatch” for supply storage. Items may in some cases be placed in waterproof bags and strapped to the hull of the kayak within reach of the paddler, but this is seldom an optimal solution to the issue as the bags may fall off, be punctured or torn, and the straps may fail.

Various watercraft, particularly personal watercraft, exhibit limited space for storage and easy access to articles that the typical paddler would want to keep close at hand, such as a mobile phone, GPS receiver, marine band radio, energy bars, drinking water, and similar items. Most known means of storing articles for transport aboard human-powered watercraft are dedicated to that purpose and do not lend themselves to efficient access to small articles that are frequently needed while on the water. There is a need for improved design(s) to alleviate and/or mitigate the issues discussed above and a need for devices that can provide versatile, multi-functional utility in transport, safety, storage and other applications.

Summary:

There is disclosed herein apparatuses for use with personal watercraft having a top side, a bottom side, a long axis, fore and aft sections and at least one passenger opening defined in the top side between the fore and aft sections, with the apparatus including at least two legs each having a first end and second end, and each attachable at its first end to the watercraft and each having disposed at its second end a wheel; wherein the legs are adapted for movement between and retention at each of a retracted position, wherein the wheels are operationally positioned above the bottom side, and a lowered position wherein the wheels are operationally positioned below the bottom side to support rolled movement of the watercraft.

In another disclosed aspect, each of the legs comprises a plurality of segments.

In another disclosed aspect, the legs comprise a unitary structure.

In another disclosed aspect, the structure comprises at least three segments.

In another disclosed aspect, the apparatuses further comprise a base unit attachable to the watercraft at a base position aft of the opening and interposed between the first end of each of the legs and the watercraft.

In another disclosed aspect, the legs attach to and are adapted to complete the movement about the base unit.

In another disclosed aspect, each of the legs is substantially linear.

In another disclosed aspect, each of the segments is angled from the others.

In another disclosed aspect, the legs are adapted for simultaneous rotation about an axis to complete the movement. In another disclosed aspect, the base station further comprises retention members for engagement and retention of the legs in the lowered position and the retracted position.

In another disclosed aspect, in operation, the axis is substantially normal to the long axis of the watercraft.

In another disclosed aspect, the retention members further comprise grooves defined therein for receiving the legs in each of the lower and retracted positions.

In another disclosed aspect, in the retracted position a long axis of at least one of the legs is substantially parallel to the long axis of the watercraft.

In another disclosed aspect, in the lowered position the wheels are disposed to extend beneath a bottom of the watercraft when attached thereto.

In another disclosed aspect, the retention members are operationally affixed to one or more of the base unit, the watercraft and the legs.

In another disclosed aspect, the legs as positioned in the retracted and lowered positions define a notional angle theta therebetween, and wherein theta has a magnitude in the range of about 45 to 1 10 degrees.

In another disclosed aspect, theta has a magnitude in the range of about sixty degrees.

In another disclosed aspect, the legs are formed integrally with the top side of the watercraft.

In another disclosed aspect, one or more retention members are formed integrally with the top side for retaining the legs in the lowered and retracted positions.

There is also disclosed herein a personal watercraft having a hull with fore and aft sections and having at least one passenger opening defined in a top side thereof between the fore and aft sections, the watercraft further including :at least two legs each having a first end and second end, and each attached at its first end to the hull and each having disposed at its second end a wheel; wherein the legs are joined by a cross-member housed in a bushing and wherein the legs are adapted for rotational movement about an axis colinear with the bushing, and between a retention at each of a retracted position wherein the wheels are operationally positioned above the bottom side, and a lowered position wherein the wheels are operationally positioned below the bottom side to support rolled movement of the watercraft.

There is also disclosed herein a capsize recovery system for attachment to a personal watercraft, the system including an inflatable bladder; a compressor in fluid communication with the bladder; and, a control unit for activating the compressor adapted to inflate the bladder from a stowed configuration to a deployed configuration.

In another disclosed aspect, the system also includes a capsize recovery module, wherein the bladder, compressor and control unit are attached to the base unit.

In another disclosed aspect, the control unit comprises a manual activation trigger.

In another disclosed aspect, the system also includes one or more sensors for determining the attitude of the module and, if determining substantial inversion of the module, triggering the compressor to inflate the bladder.

In another disclosed aspect, the bladder is substantially cylindrical in shaping when in the deployed configuration.

In another disclosed aspect, the bladder is substantially rectangular in shaping when in the deployed configuration.

In another disclosed aspect, the bladder is shaped to have a vertical segment with one or more protrusions extending laterally therefrom wherein the deployed configuration.

In another disclosed aspect, the bladder includes two protrusions extending in opposed directions from each other. In another disclosed aspect, the protrusions are positioned at an end of the bladder distal from the base unit when in the deployed configuration.

In another disclosed aspect, the bladder is shaped substantially in the form of an arrowhead at an end distal from the base unit when in the deployed configuration.

In another disclosed aspect, the bladder further comprises an interior wall with a valve defined therein and substantially enclosing one of the protrusions and having a valve defined therein.

In another disclosed aspect, the bladder comprises a plurality of chambers and the control unit is adapted to activate the compressor for selective inflation of one or more of the chambers.

In another disclosed aspect, the system also includes a second compressor in fluid communication with the bladder and responsive to the control unit.

In another disclosed aspect, the system also includes comprising a second control unit for deflating the bladder.

In another disclosed aspect, the control unit further comprises the second control unit.

There is also disclosed herein a system for use with a personal watercraft having a top side, a bottom side, a long axis, fore and aft sections and at least one passenger opening defined in the top side between the fore and aft sections, the system including at least two legs each having a first end and second end, and each attachable at its first end to the watercraft and each having disposed at its second end a wheel; an inflatable bladder attachable to the watercraft; a compressor in fluid communication with the bladder; and a control unit for activating the compressor to inflate the bladder from a stowed configuration to a deployed configuration.

There is also disclosed herein a personal watercraft including a hull having a top side, a bottom side, a long axis, fore and aft sections, and at least one passenger opening defined in the top side between the fore and aft sections, at least two legs each having a first end and second end, and each attachable at its first end to the hull and each having disposed at its second end a wheel; an inflatable bladder attached to the hull; a compressor in fluid communication with the bladder; and a control unit for activating the compressor to inflate the bladder from a stowed configuration to a deployed configuration; wherein in the deployed configuration the bag exerts force on the hull to promote rotation of the watercraft from a capsized position. Drawings:

The appended Figures show various exemplary embodiments of the present disclosure.

Figure 1 is a side view of a watercraft and an apparatus and system for use therewith;

Figure 2 is an enlarged view of a portion of Figure 1, with a bladder shown notionally in a deployed configuration; Figure 3 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the watercraft, apparatus and system shown with the wheels in a lowered position;

Figure 4 is a plan view of the apparatus and system of Figure 1;

Figure 5 is an exploded view of an embodiment of the apparatus and the system;

Figure 6A is a cross-sectional view of a watercraft in a capsized position; Figure 6B is a cross-sectional view of the watercraft of Figure 6A with a bladder partially inflated;

Figure 6C is a cross-sectional view of the watercraft of Figure 6B in a partially righted position;

Figure 6D is a cross-sectional view of the watercraft of Figure 6C in a righted position; Figure 7 is an enlarged view of a bladder cutaway to show a baffle and valve provided therein;

Figure 8A is an upper right perspective view of an embodiment of a watercraft with retention members formed therewith;

Figure 8B is a right side plan view of the watercraft of Figure 8 A showing the legs in both retracted and lowered positions;

Figure 9 is a bottom plan view of an inflation control system; and, Figure 10 is a perspective view, partially exploded, of the inflation control system of Figure 9.

Description:

There is disclosed herein personal watercraft 100 and systems 200 and apparatuses 201 for use with personal watercraft. Looking to Fig. 1 , the watercraft 100 has a top side 1 10, a bottom side 1 12, a long axis A-A (see, Fig. 2), fore 104 and aft 106 sections and at least one passenger opening 108 defined in the top side 1 10, between the fore 104 and aft 106 sections.

The apparatus 200 includes at least two legs 122. Each of the legs has a first end 122a and second end 122b, and is attachable at its first end 122a to the watercraft 100. Each of the legs has at its second end 122b a wheel 126, preferably designed with a thin, broad lateral tread for stability and support in moving to and from the water on a variety of surfaces, and narrow, non-metallic spokes to minimize the cross-sectional area presented to a crosswind, to prevent the wheels from possibly acting in the fashion of an aircraft rudder, thus interfering with the paddler’s desire to maintain a particular course heading. The legs 122 may be formed as a unitary structure having at least three segments 126. For example, substantially parallel segments 124 which may include a cross-member 127 as best shown in Fig 5, though in some embodiments the segments 124 may be provided angled relative to the cross-member 127 at an angle other than about 90 degrees (for example, outwardly from top side to bottom side of the hull of the watercraft). The cross-member is engaged with the bushing 125, which secures it for rotation about a bushing axis D-D (see Fig. 3). Some embodiments will allow for vertical or lateral translation of the bushing axis D-D complementary or otherwise in addition to the rotational movement. Each of the legs 122 may, in some embodiments include a plurality of sub-segments 124. The legs 122 may be linear or in some embodiments non-linear. In non-linear embodiments discussed or shown herein, references to a long axis of such legs may be understood to mean, for example, a straight line from about the point of attachment of the leg at its first end 122a to the centre of the wheel 126 at its second end 122b - see Fig. 2 (for the purposes of understanding and discussing how far the legs have been rotated about the bushing axis D-D as depicted in Fig. 3). The legs 122 are adapted for movement between and retention at each of a retracted position (shown in Fig. 2 as the end of rotation in direction A ) and a lowered position (shown in Fig. 2 as the end of rotation in direction B). The movement may comprise rotation about the bushing axis D-D shown in Figure 3 (which is in some embodiments colinear with the long axis of the cross-member 127) or, in embodiments without a cross-member, rotation about a notional axis similarly positioned and substantially normal to the long axis A-A of the craft 100. The legs 22 may rotate simultaneously or there may in some embodiments be lag or disparity between movement of the legs 122, with them nonetheless reaching the desired retracted and lowered positions.

In the retracted position, the wheels 126 are positioned above the bottom side 1 12 above the level of water 101 (in Fig. 2) when the watercraft 100 is in use, so as to not impede movement of the watercraft 100 or obstruct the actions of the user 102. In the lowered configuration, shown in Figs. 2 and 3, the wheels 126 are operationally positioned below the bottom side 1 12 to support rolled movement of the watercraft 100. More specifically, the wheels 126 are positioned to allow the watercraft 100 to be rolled with the legs 122 as support, retained by retention members 132. The retention members 130, 132 may be provided as part of a wing unit 131 that is attached to the hull. The wing unit 131 may preferably be affixed to the hull via bolts 146, 148 or other rigid fasteners as well as via load plates 142 (see, Fig. 5) preferably positioned on a vertical side of the hull. Such placements aids in load distribution when considering, for example, the weight of the watercraft 100 when rolled with the legs 122 in the lowered position and retained by the retention members 132 and the bushing 125.

The legs 122 may be attached to the watercraft 100 via a base unit 136 attachable to the watercraft 100 by way of, for example, forward attachment bracket 154 and wing 131 (see Fig. 5) at a base position aft of the opening 108, with the base unit 136 interposed between the first end 122a of each of the legs 122 and the watercraft 100. The legs attach to and are adapted to complete the movement about the base unit. The axis about which the legs rotate may preferably be substantially normal to a long axis of the watercraft.

The apparatus further comprises retention members for engagement and retention of the legs 122 in the lowered position and the retracted position. These members may be provided as part of the base unit 136, attached to the watercraft 100 (for example, see 131 and 142, Fig.5), formed with the watercraft 100 (see, Fig. 8A and 8B), or formed with the legs 122. In some embodiments, the members may comprise complementary sub-members formed with or attached to the legs 122 and one or more of the base unit 136 and the watercraft 100. The sub-members mate when reaching the retracted and/or lowered positions. The retention members may include recessed channels 132a (as shown in Fig. 5) defined therein for receiving the legs 122 in each of the lower and retracted positions.

Further, in the retracted position, a long axis of at least one of the legs may in some embodiments be positioned substantially parallel to the long axis A-A of the watercraft (to facilitate retention thereof in that position even if not restrained). An angle theta between retracted and lowered positions is about 45 to about 1 10 degrees, as shown in Fig. 2 and preferably about 60 degrees.

In some embodiments, such as in Fig. 8 A, 8B, the elevated slot for insertion of rotation bushing 225 that secures legs 122 is formed integrally with the watercraft 100. Again, the retention members 230 and 232, with retention clips 229 may also be formed integrally with the watercraft 100.

To provide for maximum versatility and compatibility with a variety of kayak configurations, the base unit 136, joined with wing 131 to form a single structural unit, may be hinged 155 at attachment bracket 154 with removable hinge pin 160 to swing up and forward when structural pins 133 are removed that connect main hull attachment load plate 142 to wing 131 (see Fig. 5). Swinging the unit upwards allows for easy exposure of the upper hull surface beneath, where the kayak may be equipped with storage compartments and hatch covers that user 102 needs to access. Removing hinge pin 160 and structural pins 133 also allows the entire apparatus, which may consist of both the retractable wheel apparatus and capsize recovery system, to be quickly removed for transport, maintenance or storage.

There is also disclosed herein watercraft including a capsize recovery system 201 and capsize recovery systems for attachment to personal watercraft. Looking to Figs. 9-10, the system 201 includes an inflatable bladder 140, at least one compressor 240 in fluid communication with the bladder 140, and a control unit for activating the compressor 240 for inflating the bladder 140 from a stowed configuration (see 140 at Fig. 5 upper left) to a deployed configuration (see 140 at Figure 5, lower left, and the notional elevation depiction in Fig. 2 along with further depictions in Figs. 6A-D showing a progression from stowed to deployed). The system 201 includes a base unit, to which the bladder 140, compressor 240 and control unit are attached.

In some embodiments, the control unit comprises a manual activation trigger 135. In other embodiments, sensors 128 are provided for determining attitude and orientation of the base unit 136 (and, when installed, the watercraft 100). The sensors 128 may include, for example, gyroscopic sensors. The control unit will trigger inflation of the bladder 140 if the sensors 128 indicate substantial inversion of the base unit 136 has occurred. The manual trigger 135 may also be provided in embodiments with sensors 128 for safety and redundancy. In some embodiments, the control unit may be adapted for electronic communication with an electronic device (for example, positional or orientation sensors of the cellular or smart phone of the user 102). Referring again to Figures 9 and 10, the basic elements of the control unit are the molded structural composite base 294, to which the bladder 140 is attached by way of integral bladder flange 278 to the upper perimeter 298 of base 294 with pressure gasket 274, secured by screws 272 to form a unitary pressure-tight component. Typically, the unit will be subject to manual control by the operator 102, using the activation handle 135 by which the capsize recovery bladder is inflated by opening valve 254 allowing integral molded air channels 250 to convey a flow of compressed air provided by replaceable and rechargeable cannisters 240, with main or reserve cannister being operator- selected by way of valve 248. Adequate pressure for operation of the system 201 may be confirmed by the operator 102 by observing pressure gauge 262; in the event of over-inflation a pressure-relief valve 260 prevents rupture of the bladder 140; the valve 260 may also be incorporated on the lower face 271 of the bladder 140 itself. After deployment, the bladder 140 may be deflated and repacked for future use by opening deflation valve 258, allowing air to exit through internal exhaust port 280 to external exhaust port 264, which valve may alternatively be attached to the lower face 273 of the bladder 140.

The aim of the deployed bladder 140 is to aid recovery from a capsize condition by exerting force on the watercraft 100 via buoyancy to promote rotation away from the capsize position. The bladder 140 may be provided in a variety of shapes. These include, without limitation, substantially cylindrical, arrowhead, spherical, rectangular, barbell shaped, light bulb shaped or of a triangular inflated shape (noting that it is preferable for the higher volume end of the shape to be distal from the watercraft 100 when in the deployed configuration). An end 170 of the bladder 140 distal from the base unit 136 when in the deployed configuration may be flat, rounded or pointed. Looking more particularly to Fig. 7, the bladder may be shaped to have a vertical segment 170 and one or more protrusions 166, 168 extending laterally therefrom when in the deployed configuration.

The lateral protrusions 166, 168, which may be two in number and extend in opposite direction from each other (though other numbers may be employed), further promote rotation from a capsized position. The protrusions 166, 168 may be positioned substantially at the end of the bladder 140 operationally distal from the base unit 136, which serves to maximize the torque on the craft 100 by the bladder 140 attached at bladder flange 278 (see also Fig. 10). The bladder may preferably be shaped in the form of an arrowhead (see, Fig. 7 A and 10).

The bladder 140 may include an interior wall 162 having a valve 164 defined therein, as shown in Fig. 7. The valve 164 slows inflation of a section of the bladder 140 defined by the interior wall 162, such as one of the protrusions, as shown notionally in Figs. 6B, 6C. This slowed inflation promotes rotation of the capsized craft in the direction of the more rapidly inflating protrusion (140a, Fig. 6B), which effectively exerts a pull in its direction as a more rapidly increasing buoyant force prompts movement of it towards the surface. The lesser-filled protrusion effectively adds a push when it is finally inflated, part way through the rotation of the watercraft towards the surface (140a, Fig. 6C and 6D). This complementary action can serve to ensure more rapid commencement and completion of corrective rotation by preventing the buoyancy of the otherwise symmetrical lateral protrusions from acting in opposition to one another . To the same end, the bladder may include a plurality of chambers, defined by one or more interior walls, and the compressor and control unit may be adapted for selective inflation of one or more of the chambers.

Some embodiments may feature a second compressor 240 (as shown in Fig. 9) in fluid communication with the bladder 140 and responsive to the control unit 294, for purposes of safety, redundancy or to support multiple deployments. In embodiments such as that shown in Figs. 9 and 10, the control unit 294 may include a second control unit for deflating the bladder, which may comprise a manually activated exhaust valve

Systems for use with personal watercraft and personal watercraft themselves may be provided in embodiments including the rotating legs and the selectively inflatable bladder discussed hereinabove, such as shown in at least Figs. 1, 2, 4 and 5.

The disclosed systems 200 and apparatuses 201 are generally aimed at reducing the skill and strength required to maneuver a kayak, canoe or other personal watercraft to or from the water.

The legs 122 are provided such that the operator 102 may manually lower or raise the wheels 126. In the embodiments disclosed herein, the raising and lowering may be completed by the operator 102 while the watercraft 100 is in the water (for reasons such as increased safety and control in unpredictable wave conditions in a marine environment, the operator may typically opt to be outside the watercraft when raising or lowering the wheels in shallow water).

In use, the wheels 126 may preferably be retracted after launching of the craft 100 and extended prior to landing. Such use limits any need for the operator 102 to haul the watercraft across shore terrain, a practice that can cause injury to the operator and/or damage to the watercraft, especially when it is loaded with supplies.

In some embodiments, the base unit 136 may be affixed (e.g., bolted by way of attachment bracket 154, see Fig. 5, or molded as an integral element of the watercraft 100) to the deck of the watercraft 100. For example, the base unit 136 is affixed aft of the cockpit, as seen in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2. The base unit 136 may preferably provide a base for the elevated, transverse bushing 125, having an opening 123 therein for receiving the cross-member 127. The bushing 125 enables the legs 122 (in some embodiments, the segments 124 forming a substantially U-shaped competed article; and while other materials may be used, comprised of stainless steel) and wheels 126 attached thereto to move through a range of motion including the retracted position and the lowered position. Such movement may, again, be by way of rotation, with such rotation being in either direction (see arrows A, B in Fig. 2; and H, I in Fig. 8B), depending on particulars of the given design implementation. Rotation in either direction may be facilitated by providing the retention members 130, 132 - in some embodiments, square or round tubes held (and adapted to slide laterally) within a transverse structural member. When the members 130, 132 are in a withdrawn position, the legs 122 can be lowered directly without being swung through as great an arc; when the members 130, 132 are extended, they may intercept the legs 122 in the same manner as, for example, a fixed stop. As shown in Fig. 2, the range of motion is, again, a substantially circular arc about the bushing 125 (which is co-linear with the bushing axis D-D - see Fig. 3), moving from the retracted position to the lowered position. The magnitude of the arc between retracted and lowered positions may in some embodiments comprise about 300 degrees about the bushing 125 (or, the axis D-D), such that the retracted and lowered positions are notionally separated by about 60 or 300 degrees of rotation; however, disclosed embodiments are not limited to such arc magnitude and may have varying degrees of rotation. The retracted position may preferably be such that the legs 122 are positioned substantially parallel to the long axis of the watercraft (or, substantially horizontal when the watercraft is in the water; see, for example, Figure 5). Non-linear versions of the legs 122 may be positioned so as to not interfere with movement of the watercraft 100 and operationally remain in the retracted position.

The members 130, 132 may be provided integral with the bushing 125, e.g., one such embodiment using operable locking tabs within the bushing to fix the legs 122 at the lowered or raised position(s), and requiring no other mechanism to intercept the legs 122 and transfer the load borne by the same. In other embodiments, members 130, 132 may be affixed to the base unit 136 (e.g., bolted) aft of the bushing 125, and extending beyond the sides of the hull, to intercept the legs 122 when in the lowered position, effectively transferring the load of the craft to the wheels (when those are touching an opposing surface). Retention members 130, 132 may, again, be retractable, such as in embodiments where tubular stops are provided that are adapted to slide laterally within a closely fitted larger tube of similar cross-section (e.g., square, triangular or circular), and can retract inward to allow the legs 122 to swing within a limited arc, and then extend to intercept the leg 122 and transfer the load. Another embodiment may feature separate left and right legs 122 swinging downward through an arc members that are, for example, spring-loaded and retractable to allow the leg 122 to pass as it moves through the arc; but, in their natural extended position limit the upward movement of the leg 122 in order to contact the leg 122 in the manner of a fixed stop and transfer the load to facilitate rolled movement of the watercraft 100. Some embodiments of the stop mechanism may utilize a substantially rectangular open-frame structure approximately the width of the watercraft hull (see Figure 3), oriented in a vertical plane with load-bearing stops for the lowered legs extending beyond the vertical edges of the hull at the lower corners of the rectangular structure, and support points with locking clips at the upper corners of the rectangular structure to support and hold the legs securely in the retracted position. This structure may incorporate attachment points for useful and necessary devices such as a bailing pump; the upper horizontal member of the structure can also provide an easy and mechanically advantageous point for gripping or lifting the watercraft.

In use, the weight of the watercraft 100 would serve to maintain the wheels 126 in the lowered position by forcing the legs 122 against the members 132 thereby holding the legs 122 in the lowered position. In some embodiments, the bushing 125 is adapted to lock in one or more of the retracted and lowered positions. In some such embodiments, members may be molded in with a hull made of, for example, plastic or thermoplastic. Further, the hull may feature attachment points for bolting on componentry such as capsize recovery systems 201 disclosed herein.

In use, the legs 122 facilitate operator 102 movement of the craft 100 (e.g., kayak) into the water when in the lowered position. The legs are then moved to the raised position for paddling. The process is substantially reversed in the landing sequence, enabling the operator to easily pull the supported craft ashore and move it on sturdy, supportive wheels to the desired location (e.g., vehicle, campsite, storage facility).

When in the lowered position, the apparatus 200 facilitates wheel-assisted ease of movement from point of origin (for example, and without limitation, vehicle, campsite, cottage, storage facility, residence, etc.) to the water. Similarly, it also facilitates movement from the landing point to the landed destination. This is accomplished without need of assembly or attachment of a separate wheeled device to the watercraft 100 while in operation (e.g., as has been available in the past), and which wheeled device is typically not attached to or removed from the watercraft while it is in the water; that is, the watercraft used with such devices needed to be dragged a final distance to or from the water without benefit of wheel-supported movement. The wheels 122 may be operator 102 selected from options including but not limited to hard or balloon treads, large or small diameters, as may be desirable in a given application. Leg shaping may preferably be U-shaped (when viewed along the long axis A-A of the watercraft when in use); however, other shapings may also be employed. For example, and without limitation, legs 122 shaped to the curvature or profile of the hull of the watercraft 100 to minimize protrusion therefrom when in the retracted configuration.

The legs 122 may be hinged about the axis D-D, as discussed herein, including by way of the bushing 125 (which may comprise, for example and without limitation, nylon or elastomer bushings). The location of the interface between the legs and the watercraft is preferably, in a kayak example embodiment, at the upper deck surface, aft of the cockpit (see for example, Fig. 1 and 2).

As noted previously, the upper horizontal member of the wing 131 (shown in Figs. 3-5) may in some embodiments act as a gripper, for ergonomic lifting of the watercraft, when lifting is necessary. In embodiments where an elastomer bushing such as 125 (shown in isolation in Fig. 5, and in an assembled configuration in Fig. 3) is utilized for the front rotational axis D-D of the assembled leg segments 124, the bushing 125 may also function as a shock absorber.

The disclosed apparatus 200 may also in some embodiments include the capsize recovery system 201. The system 201 is comprised of the bladder 140, as discussed above, which may but need not necessarily attach to a substantially rigid plate attached to an aft, upper horizontal surface of the platform 136. In operation, the bladder 140 may be rapidly inflated by the compressor 240 (which may comprise cylinders as shown in Figs. 5, 9, 10), and a valve assembly that may preferably be attached to an aft face of a support pillar below the bushing 125. A forward face of the support pillar, which preferably slopes away from the position of the operator, may preferably contain an easily-reached control (e.g., a ball handle 135 (in Fig. 5) that may be pulled for activation; or a button that may be pushed) that, when activated, operates an inflation valve, triggering inflation of the bladder 140. Inflation may be completed by operation of the cylinder 240 (shown in Figs. 9-10). Such tanks 240 may but need not necessarily have capacity to complete multiple recoveries. In other embodiments, activation of inflation may be triggered automatically in response to one or more sensors 128 or external devices monitoring for example and without limitation, watercraft orientation, water levels, positioning and/or orientation given by a user wearable device, etc.

With the bladder 140 in a deployed configuration (see, for example, Figs. 6C and 6D) the natural tendency of the kayak will be to return quickly to the upright position with minimal operator 102 assistance, skill, or positive steps beyond deployment. The operator 102 may then focus on remaining braced securely in the craft 100, which may promote relative calm in a stressful time and increase chances that the operator 102 will not panic (which could result in premature detachment of the sprayskirt, or other counterproductive measures). In practice the operator 102 may not detach a sprayskirt immediately but may instead mentally count off a pre-determined number of seconds after which it would be obvious whether or not the bladder 140 has deployed normally; if there were a malfunction of some type the operator 102 would quickly reach a decision point at which a“wet exit” would be performed.

Secure attachment of the bladder 140 to the watercraft 100 (including via intermediary articles) allows for efficient and effective rotational acceleration of the hull as a result of buoyant forces exerting a lateral rotational acceleration force to the hull of the craft 100. The lateral projections of the inflated bag, extending beyond the vertical trunk of the bag serve to create the “arrowhead” shape, and continue to produce a lateral force after the vertical trunk has reached the surface of the water, thus rotating the centerline of the kayak above a horizontal plane, where the natural tendency of the kayak will be to assume the upright position with minimal operator assistance. It also provides a measure of insurance against the kayak sinking, in circumstances where the kayak’s storage compartments are heavily loaded and the cockpit has flooded following a capsize.

Given the preference and need to accomplish multiple goals via use of common space on watercraft, particularly personal watercraft, the watercraft, systems and apparatus disclosed herein may also be provided with additional features and functionality as discussed below, each of which may be provided in a standalone manner in some disclosed embodiments. The flat base of the platform (for example, 200 in Figure 2) may in such embodiments preferably be attached to the deck of the watercraft (e.g., kayak) parallel to the waterline aft of the cockpit. The platform may preferably sit approximately 18 mm. to 50 mm. (3/4” to 2”) above the surface of the deck, to permit function with a variety of deck surface cross-sections, e.g., from substantially flat to convex. This adaptability also allows compatibility with a variety of hull configurations, for example and without limitation, where pre-existing features such as a compartment with hatch cover may need to be accommodated.

There is also disclosed herein a Self-Rescue System (“SRS”) utilizing a gripping mechanism 204 that may, in some embodiments, be comprised of rubber configured in a sandwiching arrangement as shown in Fig. 5. The SRS may preferably be located between lateral lower edges of the base unit 136 and the top side 1 10 of the watercraft 100. The SRS may preferably receive and retain an at least substantially flat paddle blade (as one skilled in the art will appreciate, cupped or highly curved blade sections may be incompatible with this system as may be the case with most outrigger self-rescue attachments), which paddle may have at its other end a paddle float. This creates, in effect, an outrigger assembly serving to enhance stability of the watercraft 100. This enhanced stability permits easier re-entry from the water if the operator 102 has had to exit the cockpit (e.g., as a result of capsizing). The space beneath the left and right edges of the platform (136, Figures 2 and 5), extending inward approx. 75 to 150 mm. (or less or more, depending on needs of the particular embodiment) from the edge of the platform toward the centerline, is occupied by the rubber sandwich members of the gripping mechanism 204.

Using the SRS system in difficult wave conditions is made easier due to the opposing beveled edges of the (preferably brightly coloured) rubber sandwich, creating a tapered and easy to identify mouth into which the blade may be inserted with minimal operator skill or dexterity. With the paddle blade gripped by the rubber SRS system, rigidity of the resulting outrigger system is considerably improved over existing SRS systems utilizing deck-mounted cords, by virtue of the rubber gripping mechanism attached to the rigid lower surface of the platform above the inserted blade. This improved SRS can also act as a backup to the Capsize Recovery System in the event of malfunction, environmental damage, or compressor depletion. There is also disclosed herein a system for enhancing visibility for watercraft during operation thereof. This system may be utilized in, for example, harbours and areas of marine traffic. In some disclosed embodiments, the support pillar for the wheels 122 may incorporate an insert threaded or otherwise adapted for attachment of a substantially vertical plastic or composite mast 114 (see, Fig. 1) of, for example and without limitation, 1 to 2 metres in length. The mast 114 may be adapted for attachment thereto of a coloured pennant 1 16 or other visible indicia aimed at assisting in or alerting other marine traffic to the operator’s presence. This system may also comprise lighting 1 18 at or about the tip of the mast 114, which lighting 1 18 may preferably comprise a flashing strobe light (which may preferably be battery operated). This lighting 1 18 helps other boaters see the watercraft 100 in, for example and without limitation, congested traffic areas, fog, low light or darkness. Lighting 1 18 or other highly visible indicia may also assist, for example, search and rescue personnel or other members of an expedition should the watercraft 100 become lost in unfamiliar waters. The mast 1 14 may also or alternatively be fitted, in some embodiments, with a radar reflector to alert radar-equipped vessels to the operator’s presence in low visibility situations or more generally.

There is also disclosed herein a substantially watertight deck storage system 205. This storage system 205 may be used, for example and without limitation, to store electronics and sustenance. In some embodiments, a modular, removable watertight storage container (preferably comprised of one or more molded plastic pieces), with space adequate for such items as cellphone, camera, miniature binoculars, GPS receiver, energy bars, etc., may be attached to the forward face of the support pillar. In other embodiments, the watertight storage compartment 205 may be formed integrally with or into the forward face of the support pillar of the platform. An exemplary storage system 205 with transparent watertight cover is depicted in Figures 3, 4 and 5.

There is also disclosed herein one or more attachment points for accessories. The forward face of the support pillar, and the horizontal surface of the platform may be provided with one or more openings or otherwise adapted for attachment of accessories (the openings or other means of attachment/placement may be spaced strategically to accomplish a given purpose. Further, in some embodiments, attachment means may be moveable). For example, holes on the left and right sides of the support pillar or the lateral stop mechanism, particularly the rectangular embodiment described herein, may serve as attachment points for, for example, lines connected to the upper or lower corners of a compact spinnaker, for running with the wind. These same points may be used as handholds for moving the watercraft on land when the leg assembly is retracted, or as attachment points for a rope suspension system by which the watercraft may be hung from a ceiling or wall during storage.

While various embodiments in accordance with the principles disclosed herein have been described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way of example only, and are not limiting. Thus, the breadth and scope of the invention(s) should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments, but should be defined only in accordance with the claims and their equivalents issuing from this disclosure. Furthermore, the above advantages and features are provided in described embodiments, but shall not limit the application of such issued claims to processes and structures accomplishing any or all of the above advantages.

It will be understood that the principal features of this disclosure can be employed in various embodiments without departing from the scope of the disclosure. Those skilled in the art will recognize, or be able to ascertain using no more than routine experimentation, numerous equivalents to the specific procedures described herein. Such equivalents are considered to be within the scope of this disclosure and are covered by the claims.

Additionally, the section headings herein are provided as organizational cues. These headings shall not limit or characterize the invention(s) set out in any claims that may issue from this disclosure. Specifically, and by way of example, although the headings refer to a“Field of Invention,” such claims should not be limited by the language under this heading to describe the so-called technical field. Further, a description of technology in the“Background of the Invention” section is not to be construed as an admission that technology is prior art to any invention(s) in this disclosure. Neither is the“Summary” to be considered a characterization of the invention(s) set forth in issued claims. Furthermore, any reference in this disclosure to“invention” in the singular should not be used to argue that there is only a single point of novelty in this disclosure. Multiple inventions may be set forth according to the limitations of the multiple claims issuing from this disclosure, and such claims accordingly define the invention(s), and their equivalents, that are protected thereby. In all instances, the scope of such claims shall be considered on their own merits in light of this disclosure, but should not be constrained by the headings set forth herein.

The use of the word“a” or“an” when used in conjunction with the term“comprising” in the claims and/or the specification may mean“one,” but it is also consistent with the meaning of “one or more,”“at least one,” and“one or more than one.” The use of the term“or” in the claims is used to mean“and/or” unless explicitly indicated to refer to alternatives only or the alternatives are mutually exclusive, although the disclosure supports a definition that refers to only alternatives and“and/or.” Throughout this application, the term“about” is used to indicate that a value includes the inherent variation of error for the device, the method being employed to determine the value, or the variation that exists among the study subjects.

As used in this disclosure and claim(s), the words “comprising” (and any form of comprising, such as“comprise” and“comprises”),“having” (and any form of having, such as “have” and“has”),“including” (and any form of including, such as“includes” and“include”) or “containing” (and any form of containing, such as“contains” and“contain”) are inclusive or open- ended and do not exclude additional, un-recited elements or method steps.

As used herein, words of approximation such as, without limitation,“about”,“substantial” or“substantially” refers to a condition that when so modified is understood to not necessarily be absolute or perfect but would be considered close enough to those of ordinary skill in the art to warrant designating the condition as being present. The extent to which the description may vary will depend on how great a change can be instituted and still have one of ordinary skilled in the art recognize the modified feature as still having the required characteristics and capabilities of the unmodified feature. In general, but subject to the preceding discussion, a numerical value herein that is modified by a word of approximation such as“about” may vary from the stated value by at least ±1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12 or 15%.

The term “or combinations thereof’ as used herein refers to all permutations and combinations of the listed items preceding the term. For example,“A, B, C, or combinations thereof is intended to include at least one of: A, B, C, AB, AC, BC, or ABC, and if order is important in a particular context, also BA, CA, CB, CBA, BCA, ACB, BAC, or CAB. Continuing with this example, expressly included are combinations that contain repeats of one or more item or term, such as BB, AAA, AB, BBC, AAABCCCC, CBBAAA, CABABB, and so forth. The skilled artisan will understand that typically there is no limit on the number of items or terms in any combination, unless otherwise apparent from the context. All of the compositions and/or methods disclosed and claimed herein can be made and executed without undue experimentation in light of the present disclosure. While the compositions and methods of this disclosure have been described in terms of preferred embodiments, it will be apparent to those of skill in the art that variations may be applied to the compositions and/or methods and in the steps or in the sequence of steps of the method described herein without departing from the concept, spirit and scope of the disclosure. All such similar substitutes and modifications apparent to those skilled in the art are deemed to be within the spirit, scope and concept of the disclosure as defined by the appended claims.