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Title:
A WATER VESSEL HULL PROTECTOR AND METHOD OF CONSTRUCTION
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/051632
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A water vessel hull protector including a support frame defining an internal volume within which a watercraft can be removably located and at least one barrier skin configured to extend across the internal volume of the support frame, and mounted to the support frame to extend above the waterline to separate the support frame from an external water body in order to prevent fouling of the support frame by marine growth.

Inventors:
BARBER MARK (AU)
Application Number:
AU2019/050968
Publication Date:
March 19, 2020
Filing Date:
September 10, 2019
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
SEA PEN HOLDINGS PTY LTD (AU)
International Classes:
B63B59/04; B08B17/04; B63C1/02
Foreign References:
US7455023B22008-11-25
US3685477A1972-08-22
JPH0796891A1995-04-11
US5549069A1996-08-27
US7047900B22006-05-23
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SPRUSON & FERGUSON (AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . A water vessel hull protector including:

a support frame defining an internal volume within which a watercraft can be removably located; and,

at least one barrier skin configured to extend across the internal volume of the support frame, and mounted to the support frame to extend above the waterline to separate the support frame from an external water body in order to prevent fouling of the support frame by marine growth.

2. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 1 , wherein the support frame includes a number of frame members which are generally attached together or relative to one another in order to define the internal volume.

3. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the frame members are provided in the form of inflatable and debatable members.

4. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the support frame bounds a docking zone dimensioned to receive the hull of the watercraft in the use condition.

5. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the frame members are elongate and/or hollow.

6. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the frame members are submergible or partially submergible.

7. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the frame members are made from a flexible and sealable material.

8. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the support frame includes a forward portion and a displaceable rear gate portion.

9. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 8, wherein the rear gate portion is attached relative to the forward portion about a hinge, or similar assembly, on each lateral side of the support frame.

10. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 8 or claim 9, wherein the forward portion is approximately two thirds of the length of the support frame and the rear, gate portion makes up the other approximately one third of the length of the support frame.

1 1 . The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of claims 8 to 10, wherein one or more weights are provided in association with the gate portion to ensure that the gate portion moves into a submerged position when deflated.

12. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of claims 8 to 1 1 , wherein the rear gate portion is inflated and deflated in order to move the rear gate portion between the floating, use position and a submerged or partially submerged condition.

13. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of claims 8 to 12, further including one or more inflation valves on each of the forward portion and a rear gate portion.

14. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of claims 8 to 13, further including one or more inflatable and debatable pillows provided at a forward end of the forward portion.

15. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 14, wherein the pillows attach to the inside of the support frame.

16. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, further including one or more mooring rings provided about at least an upper portion of the support frame, on an underside of the support frame, or both about at least the upper portion of the support frame and on the underside of the support frame.

17. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the support frame is a floating support frame.

18. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the support frame supports the at least one skin barrier.

19. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin is mounted to the support frame about an outer, upper side of the support frame.

20. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin is water impermeable.

21 . The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin is made from a polymeric or plastic material.

22. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims when dependent on claim 4, wherein the at least one barrier skin spans the docking zone of the support frame.

23. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin is generally v-shaped or u-shaped with at least one lower spine portion at least toward a forward end of the barrier skin.

24. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin includes a pair of upper side edges.

25. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin is mounted to the support frame at a position above the waterline of the support frame when the support frame is in the raised, use condition.

26. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin is mounted in an over-the-top configuration where the at least one barrier skin extends around the outside of the support frame member and back onto an upper, or upper either side of the support frame.

27. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 25, wherein the at least one barrier skin is mounted to an outer upper side of the support frame.

28. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin is releasably attached to the support frame.

29. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin is securely attached relative to the support frame.

30. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the at least one barrier skin is mounted to the support frame using an attachment mechanism.

31 . The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 30, wherein the attachment mechanism is in the form of hook and loop fasteners.

32. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 30 or claim 31 , wherein a portion of the attachment mechanism is provided on the or each a least one barrier skin and a corresponding portion of the attachment mechanism is provided on the support frame.

33. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of claim 32, wherein the

portion of the attachment mechanism provided on the at or each at least one barrier skin is provided along an edge of the or each at least one barrier skin.

34. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of claims 30 to 33, wherein the corresponding portion of the attachment mechanism provided on the support frame is or includes at least one attachment flap provided with a corresponding hook or loop fastener portion.

35. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 34, wherein responding portion of the attachment mechanism provided on the support frame is or includes a pair of opposed attachment flaps.

36. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 35, wherein the pair of opposed attachment flaps are hinged relative to one another.

37. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 35, wherein the pair of opposed attachment flaps include an inner attachment flap provided facing outwardly and an outer attachment flap provided facing inwardly.

38. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, further including a drainage sheet above the or each at least one barrier skin.

39. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, further including at least one pump.

40. The water vessel hull protector as claimed in claim 39, wherein the pump is

provided within the internal volume.

1 . The water vessel hull protector as claimed in any one of the preceding claims when dependent on claim 2, wherein the support frame members are manufactured from a drop stich fabric.

Description:
A WATER VESSEL HULL PROTECTOR AND METHOD OF CONSTRUCTION

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates to an apparatus for protecting the hull of a watercraft and more particularly, to an apparatus for protecting the hull of a watercraft from fouling while the watercraft is moored and to prevent fouling of the apparatus itself.

BACKGROUND ART

[0002] Fouling of a watercraft hull significantly reduces both performance and economy. It is both time-consuming and expensive to lift a watercraft from the water to remove barnacles and other foreign matter from the bottom of the watercraft.

[0003] Devices for protecting the hull of a watercraft from fouling are available including the applicant's previous invention which was the subject of Australian patent number 2006200663. In that patent, an apparatus for protecting the hull of the watercraft was provided the apparatus including a support, a submersible barrier assembly connected to the support and display symbol with respect to the support between an inoperative, submerged position and an operative surface position. The barrier assembly is configured to cover at least a submerged portion of the hull of the watercraft in the operative position. A displacement mechanism is operable on the barrier assembly to displace the barrier assembly between the inoperative and operative positions.

[0004] This device, whilst effective in protecting the hull of the watercraft from fouling, was itself exposed to fouling which affected the operability and efficiency of the device.

[0005] It would therefore be a significant advance in the art to provide a device which not only protected the hull of the watercraft but also minimise fouling of the protective device itself.

[0006] In this document, the term "watercraft" has been used to apply to all forms of floating and under water craft. In this specification, reference is made to "boat" for the purposes of convenience only and such reference is not to be considered as limiting the scope of the invention in any way. [0007] It will be clearly understood that, if a prior art publication is referred to herein, this reference does not constitute an admission that the publication forms part of the common general knowledge in the art in Australia or in any other country.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0008] The present invention is directed to a water vessel hull protector, which may at least partially overcome at least one of the abovementioned disadvantages or provide the consumer with a useful or commercial choice.

[0009] With the foregoing in view, the present invention in one form, resides broadly in a water vessel hull protector including a support frame defining an internal volume within which a watercraft can be removably located and at least one barrier skin configured to extend across the internal volume of the support frame, and mounted to the support frame to extend above the waterline to separate the support frame from an external water body in order to prevent fouling of the support frame by marine growth.

[0010] The support frame is preferably provided from a number of frame members which are generally attached together or relative to one another in order to define the internal volume. Preferably, the frame members are provided in the form of inflatable and debatable members.

[0011] The support frame typically bounds a docking zone dimensioned to receive the hull of the watercraft in the use condition.

[0012] The support frame may have any shape but in a particularly preferred shape, will be substantially rectangular.

[0013] The frame members will typically be elongate. Any cross-sectional shape can be used for example generally cylindrical but a generally rectangular cross-sectional shape is preferred.

[0014] It is preferred that the frame members be hollow is such that the frame members can be filled with air in order to inflate the frame members. This will increase the buoyancy of the members and cause the members to float.

[0015] In some preferred forms, the frame members may be manufactured from a less buoyant material, such as metal for example but if the frame members are hollow, then the frame members will preferably still float if filled with air. The frame members can be submerged or partially submerged if required to allow access to the internal volume for a watercraft if the frame members are filled with water such as can be accomplished by pumping water into the frame members in order to submerge or partially submerged the frame members. This water can then be pumped out of frame members which preferably will return the frame members into the floating, use position.

If a metal material is used, it is preferred that aluminium be used.

[0016] Generally, each of the support members will be made from a material which is flexible but which is capable of being sealed in order to form an inflatable volume for each of the preferred number of frame members.

[0017] Typically, the support frame is divided into a forward portion which preferably remains inflated at all times and a displaceable rear gate portion. The rear gate portion is typically attached relative to the forward portion, typically about a hinge or similar assembly, preferably on each lateral side of the support frame. Typically, the forward portion is approximately two thirds of the length of the support frame and the rear, gate portion makes up the other approximately one third of the length of the support frame. One or more weights may be provided in association with the gate portion to ensure that the gate portion moves into a submerged position when deflated.

[0018] Typically, the rear gate portion will be inflated and deflated in order to move the rear gate portion between the floating, use position and a submerged or partially submerged condition which will typically allow entry and exit of a water vessel into the internal volume.

[0019] One or more mooring rings will typically be provided about at least an upper portion of the support frame and preferably, approximately six mooring rings are provided spaced about the support frame. The support frame may be provided with submerged mooring rings on an underside of the support frame and again, six mooring rings are preferably provided. In each of these embodiments, the number of mooring rings provided clearly depends upon the size of the support frame.

[0020] One or more inflation valves are preferably provided on each of the forward portion and a rear portion. Typically, more than one inflation valve will be provided in order to allow more rapid inflation and deflation of the rear gate portion in particular.

[0021] One or more inflatable and debatable pillows may be provided at a forward end of the forward portion. Typically, the inflatable and debatable pillows may be used to minimise or prevent damage to the entry end of the watercraft and/or to position or maintain the position of the watercraft within the support frame.

[0022] The pillows may preferably attach to the inside of the support frame, typically at or about the forward end of the support frame.

[0023] The support frame will preferably be a floating support frame. The support frame will typically be moored in a waterway or body of water and support the at least one barrier skin. As mentioned above, typically the rear gate portion of the support frame will be deflated in order to submerge or partially submerge the rear gate portion to allow a watercraft to enter and exit the surround frame at which time the rear gate portion can be re-inflated to close the surround frame and prevent further ingress of water.

[0024] The device of the present invention also includes at least one barrier skin configured to extend across the internal volume of the support frame and which is mounted to the support frame about an outer, upper side of the support frame.

[0025] The barrier skin may be of any type but the barrier skin will preferably be water impermeable meaning that once the support frame attaching the barrier skin is in the raised, use condition, the barrier skin and the support frame together define a water impermeable envelope or volume.

[0026] More than one barrier skin may be provided but typically, a single barrier skin is provided.

[0027] The barrier skin is usually manufactured of a polymeric or plastic material as these materials are typically water impermeable. The polymeric or plastic material of the barrier skin will typically be more resistant to the growth or deposition of fouling material than the support frame. In some embodiments, the barrier skin can be provided with one or more layers or coatings to reduce fouling further.

[0028] The at least one barrier skin will typically span the docking zone of the support frame, mounted relative to the support frame on all sides.

[0029] Preferably, a single barrier skin is provided for the support frame mounted to the support frame to establish a fluid tight envelope within which a watercraft can be docked. The at least one barrier skin will preferably be generally v-shaped or u-shaped with at least one lower spine portion at least toward a forward end of the barrier skin. The at least one barrier skin preferably has a pair of upper side edges, and as will be explained below, at least a portion of an attachment mechanism is preferably provided extending over the length of each of the upper side edges.

[0030] The at least one barrier skin is typically mounted to an outer, upper side of the support frame. Preferably, the at least one barrier skin is mounted to the support frame at a position above the waterline of the support frame when the support frame is in the raised, use condition.

[0031] The at least one barrier skin may be mounted in an over-the-top configuration where the at least one barrier skin extends around the outside of the support frame member and back onto an upper, or upper either side of the support frame. In an alternative embodiment, the at least one barrier skin may be mounted to an outer upper side of the support frame.

[0032] This will locate the support frame within the barrier skin separating the support frame from the water body as well, protected by the barrier skin.

[0033] The at least one barrier skin is mounted to the support frame, typically attached, preferably releasably attached using an attachment mechanism. Normally, a portion of the attachment mechanism is provided on the or each a least one barrier skin and a corresponding portion of the attachment mechanism is provided on the support frame. Although any attachment mechanism can be used, it is preferred that the attachment mechanism allow releasable attachment of the at least one barrier skin relative to the support frame and preferably allows easy and quick attachment and detachment of the at least one barrier skin relative to the support frame. However, it is important that the at least one barrier skin is attached relative to the support frame securely such that it does not become detached or loose, even partially from the support frame as this will compromise the water impermeable envelope or volume within which the watercraft can be located.

[0034] For these reasons, a particularly preferred attachment mechanism is hook and loop fastener such as Velcro ®. Preferably, an attachment mechanism is provided along an edge of the or each at least one barrier skin, preferably continuously about the edge of the or each of the at least one barrier skins. Preferably an attachment mechanism is provided on both side surfaces of each edge. In a particularly preferred form, the attachment mechanism provided along the edge portion of one surface of a barrier skin has a first configuration and the attachment mechanism provided along the edge portion of the other surface of the barrier skin has a second, opposite

configuration. Preferably, a continuous length of hook fastener is provided on the edge portion of a first surface of the barrier skin and a continuous length of loop fastener is provided on the edge portion on the opposite surface of the barrier skin.

[0035] In a particularly preferred form, the attachment mechanism provided on the support frame is or includes at least one attachment flap provided with a corresponding hook or loop fastener portion. Typically, a pair of opposed attachment flaps are provided. Where more than one attachment flap is provided, it is preferred that the attachment flaps are hinged relative to one another so that they can be moved independently of one another. Typically, an inner attachment flap is provided facing outwardly and an outer attachment flap is provided facing inwardly.

[0036] Typically, each of the inner attachment flap and outer attachment flap have the opposite configuration to the attachment mechanism provided along the

corresponding edge of the or each at least one barrier skin. In other words, the inner attachment flap will typically have a loop fastener provided thereon if the inner side surface of the barrier flap has a hook fastener portion provided along the edge thereof and vice versa. Further, the outer attachment flap will normally have the reverse configuration given that the opposite side surface of the barrier flap will normally have the opposite configuration of hook and loop fastener. Generally, a continuous portion of hook fastener or loop fastener will be provided on each of the inner attachment flap and outer attachment flap respectively. In this way, the edge portion of the or each at least one barrier skin can be sandwiched between the preferred inner and outer attachment flaps.

[0037] Preferably, a number of separated attachment mechanisms are provided spaced about the exterior of the frame.

[0038] Preferably, a number of separated attachment mechanisms are provided spaced about the interior of the frame.

[0039] A drainage sheet may be provided above the or each at least one barrier skin in order to be interposed between the hull of the watercraft and the water impermeable barrier sheet. The drainage sheet will preferably allow or permit water to drain away from the hull. Typically, the drainage sheet will be substantially continuous. Preferably, the drainage sheet may be made of a woven material.

[0040] Typically, at least one pump is provided within the internal volume of the device of the present invention in order to pump water from the internal volume once the rear gate has assumed the raised, use position. The at least one pump is preferably provided at a lower portion of the at least one barrier skin and may be provided in a sump portion. The at least one pump is preferably connected to a conduit that allows the at least one pump to exhaust water from within the support frame above the barrier skin to outside the support frame.

[0041] Typically, at least one pump is also provided to allow the inflation and/or deflation of the support frame, especially the rear gate portion of the support frame.

[0042] In configurations where the support frame is rigid rather than inflatable and debatable, at least one pump may be provided to inject air into the rigid support frame and/or to pump water into the rigid support frame.

[0043] In a particularly preferred form, the support frame members are

manufactured from a material called drop stich fabric utilising a pair of spaced apart sheets of material, normally a fabric material held together using elongate drop stitches, typically of a robust material such as nylon. The sheets of material may have other sheets of material or layers mounted relative thereto to give the required exterior finish. The drop stitch interior allows for inflation with a high degree of strength.

[0044] Any of the features described herein can be combined in any combination with any one or more of the other features described herein within the scope of the invention.

[0045] The reference to any prior art in this specification is not, and should not be taken as an acknowledgement or any form of suggestion that the prior art forms part of the common general knowledge.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0046] Preferred features, embodiments and variations of the invention may be discerned from the following Detailed Description which provides sufficient information for those skilled in the art to perform the invention. The Detailed Description is not to be regarded as limiting the scope of the preceding Summary of the Invention in any way. The Detailed Description will make reference to a number of drawings as follows:

[0047] Figure 1 is a side elevation view of a water vessel hull protector according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0048] Figure 2 is a partially transparent view from the front of the water vessel hull protector illustrated in Figure 1 .

[0049] Figure 3 is a view from above of the water vessel hull protective illustrated in Figure 1 .

[0050] Figure 4 detailed is a view from above of the water vessel hull protective illustrated in Figure 1 .

[0051] Figure 5 is an isometric view of a barrier skin according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0052] Figure 6 is a sectional view of the support frame illustrated in Figure 4 along line A-A.

[0053] Figure 7 is a detailed view of the fittings portion of the support frame as shown in Figure 4 and identified using reference letter B.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0054] According to a particularly preferred embodiment of the present invention, a water vessel hull protector 10 is provided.

[0055] The water vessel hull protector 10 illustrated includes a support frame 1 1 defining an internal volume 12 within which a watercraft (not shown) can be removably located and at least one barrier skin 13 configured to extend across the internal volume 12 of the support frame 1 1 , and mounted to the support frame 1 1 about an outer, upper side of the support frame 1 1 in order to prevent fouling of the support frame 1 1 by marine growth.

[0056] The support frame 1 1 of the illustrated embodiment is provided from a number of frame members which are generally attached together or relative to one another in order to define the internal volume 12. Preferably, the frame members are provided in the form of inflatable and debatable members. [0057] In a particularly preferred form, the support frame members are manufactured from a material called drop stich fabric utilising a pair of spaced apart sheets of material, normally a fabric material held together using elongate drop stitches, typically of a robust material such as nylon. The sheets of material may have other sheets of material or layers mounted relative thereto to give the required exterior finish, for example, one or more plastic layers can be provided to make the material waterproof. The drop stitch interior allows for inflation of the support frame members with a high degree of strength.

[0058] As shown in Figures 1 and 4, the support frame 1 1 bounds a docking zone dimensioned to receive the hull of the watercraft when in the use condition.

[0059] The frame members will typically be elongate. Any cross-sectional shape can be used for example generally cylindrical but a generally rectangular cross-sectional shape as shown in Figure 6 is preferred.

[0060] As mentioned, the frame members are hollow such that the frame members can be filled with air in order to inflate the frame members. This will increase the buoyancy of the members and cause the members to float.

[0061] As illustrated, the support frame 1 1 is divided into a forward portion 14 which preferably remains inflated at all times and a displaceable rear gate portion 15. The rear gate portion 15 is typically attached relative to the forward portion 14, typically about a hinge assembly 16 (in the preferred embodiment, the hinge mechanism is an internal divider 50 between the forward portion and the rear gate portion which allows selective deflation of the forward or rear portion of the support frame), preferably on each lateral side of the support frame 1 1 . As shown in Figure 4, the forward portion 14 is approximately two thirds of the length of the support frame 1 1 and the rear gate portion 15 makes up the other approximately one third of the length of the support frame 1 1 .

[0062] A pair of deployment weights 17 are provided in association with the gate portion 15 to ensure that the gate portion 15 moves into a submerged position when deflated.

[0063] Typically, the rear gate portion 15 will be inflated and deflated in order to move the rear gate portion 15 between the floating, use position and a submerged or partially submerged condition which will typically allow entry and exit of a watercraft into the internal volume 12 of the protector.

[0064] A number of mooring rings 18 are provided about an upper portion of the support frame 1 1 . The support frame of the illustrated embodiment is also provided with submerged mooring rings 19 on an underside of the support frame 1 1 . Six of each type of mooring ring is provided in the illustrated embodiment. In each of these

embodiments, the number of mooring rings provided depends upon the size of the support frame 1 1 .

[0065] Inflation valves 20 are preferably provided on each of the forward portion 14 and a rear gate portion 15. Typically, more than one inflation valve 20 is provided in order to allow more rapid inflation and deflation of the rear gate portion 15 in particular. The inflation valve 20 is provided in a shaped portion 49 of the support frame member.

[0066] One or more inflatable and debatable pillows 21 are provided at a forward end of the forward portion 14 in the embodiment illustrated in Figure 3. Typically, the inflatable and debatable pillows may be used to minimise or prevent damage to the entry end of the watercraft and/or to position or maintain the position of the watercraft within the support frame 1 1 .

[0067] The pillows 21 preferably attach to the inside of the support frame 1 1 , typically at or about the forward end of the support frame 1 1 as shown. A similar attachment/mounting mechanism may be used to attach the pillows 21 as that used to attach or mount the at least one barrier skin 13 relative to the support frame 1 1 as will be discussed below.

[0068] The support frame 1 1 in the preferred embodiment is a floating support frame. In use, the support frame 1 1 will typically be moored in a waterway or body of water and support the at least one barrier skin 13. As mentioned above, the rear gate portion 15 of the support frame 1 1 will be deflated in order to submerge or partially submerge the rear gate portion 15 to allow a watercraft to enter and exit the surround frame 1 1 at which time the rear gate portion 15 can be re-inflated to close the surround frame 1 1 and prevent further ingress of water into the internal volume. The water in the internal volume can then be pumped out of the volume leaving the watercraft floating in the protector 10 but with the barrier skin 13 (at least) between the hull of the watercraft and the water. [0069] The barrier skin 13may be of any type but the barrier skin 13 will preferably be water impermeable meaning that once the support frame 1 1 attaching the barrier skin 13 is in the raised, use condition, the barrier skin 13 and the support frame 1 1 together define a water impermeable envelope or volume. Typically, a single barrier skin 13 is provided.

[0070] The barrier skin 13 is usually manufactured of a polymeric or plastic material as these materials are typically water impermeable. The at least one barrier skin 13 will typically span the docking zone of the support frame 1 1 , attached to or mounted relative to the support frame 1 1 on all sides.

[0071] In the most preferred form, a single barrier skin 13 is provided for the support frame 1 1 , mounted to the support frame 1 1 to establish a fluid tight envelope within which a watercraft can be docked. The barrier skin 13 is generally v-shaped or u- shaped as shown in Figure 5 with at least one lower spine portion 22 at least toward a forward end of the barrier skin. The barrier skin 13 has a pair of upper side edges 23, and as will be explained below, at least a portion of an attachment mechanism is preferably provided extending over the length of each of the upper side edges 23.

[0072] The barrier skin 13 is typically mounted to an outer, upper side of the support frame 1 1 , one preferred form of which is illustrated in Figure 6. Preferably, the barrier skin 13 is mounted to the support frame 1 1 at a position above the waterline of the support frame 1 1 when the support frame 1 1 is in the raised, use condition.

[0073] As mentioned above, the barrier skin 13 is mounted to the support frame 1 1 , preferably releasably attached using an attachment mechanism. Normally, a portion of the attachment mechanism is provided on the barrier skin 13 and a corresponding portion of the attachment mechanism is provided on the support frame 1 1.

[0074] Although any attachment mechanism can be used, it is preferred that the attachment mechanism allow releasable attachment of the barrier skin 13 relative to the support frame 1 1 and preferably allows easy and quick attachment and detachment of the barrier skin 13 relative to the support frame 1 1 . However, it is important that the barrier skin 13 is attached relative to the support frame 1 1 securely such that it does not become detached or loose, even partially, from the support frame 1 1 as this will compromise the water impermeable envelope or volume within which the watercraft is to be located. [0075] For these reasons, a particularly preferred attachment mechanism is hook and loop fastener such as Velcro ® . In the most preferred form illustrated, a Velcro ® portion is provided continuously along opposed edges of the barrier skin 13. Preferably Velcro ® portion is provided on both side surfaces of each edge.

[0076] In the particularly preferred form shown in Figure 6, the Velcro ® portion provided along the edge portion of one surface of the barrier skin 13 has a first configuration and the Velcro ® portion provided along the edge portion of the other surface of the barrier skin 13 has a second, opposite configuration. For example, a continuous length of hook fastener 31 is provided on the edge portion of a first surface of the barrier skin 13 and a continuous length of loop fastener 32 is provided on the edge portion on the opposite surface of the barrier skin 13.

[0077] In a particularly preferred form, the attachment mechanism provided on the support frame 1 1 includes a pair of opposed attachment flaps 24, each with a corresponding hook or loop fastener portion. The attachment flaps 24 are preferably flexible and hinged relative to one another so that they can be moved independently of one another. Typically, an inner attachment flap 25 is provided facing outwardly and an outer attachment flap 26 is provided facing inwardly.

[0078] Each of the inner attachment flap 25 and outer attachment flap 26 have the opposite configuration to the Velcro ® portion provided along the corresponding edge of the barrier skin 13. In other words, in a preferred form the inner attachment flap 25 typically has a loop fastener provided thereon and the inner side surface of the barrier flap 13 has a hook fastener portion provided along the edge thereof. Further, the outer the outer attachment flap 26 typically has a hook fastener provided thereon and the outer side surface of the barrier flap 13 has a loop fastener portion provided along the edge thereof. In this way, the edge portion of the or each at least one barrier skin can be sandwiched between the preferred inner and outer attachment flaps.

[0079] As shown, a number of separated attachment flap pairs 24 are provided spaced about the exterior of the frame 1 1 .

[0080] Preferably, a number of separated attachment flap pairs 24 are provided spaced about the interior of the frame 1 1 .

[0081] Other Velcro ® portions 27 are provided for the attachment of the pillows 21 or other components relative to the support frame 1 1. [0082] In the illustrated embodiment, a drainage sheet 28 in the form of a rope matt is provided above the barrier skin 13 in order to be interposed between the hull of the watercraft and the water impermeable barrier sheet 13. The drainage sheet 28 allows or permits water to drain away from the hull. Typically, the drainage sheet 28 will be substantially continuous and made of a woven material.

[0083] A pump 29 is provided within the internal volume 12 defined by the barrier skin 13 in order to pump water from the internal volume 12 once the rear gate 15 has assumed the raised, use position. As shown, the pump 28 is preferably provided at a lower portion of the barrier skin 13. The pump 29 is connected to a conduit 30 that allows the pump29 to exhaust water from within the support frame 1 1 above the barrier skin 13 to outside the support frame 1 1 .

[0084] Typically, a pump is also provided to allow the inflation and/or deflation of the support frame 1 1 , especially the rear gate portion 15 of the support frame 1 1.

[0085] It can be seen that by providing the attachment or mounting of the barrier skin in a position which locates the support frame within the barrier skin will also minimise fouling of the protective device itself.

[0086] In the present specification and claims (if any), the word‘comprising’ and its derivatives including‘comprises’ and‘comprise’ include each of the stated integers but does not exclude the inclusion of one or more further integers.

[0087] Reference throughout this specification to‘one embodiment’ or‘an embodiment’ means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, the appearance of the phrases‘in one embodiment’ or‘in an embodiment’ in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment. Furthermore, the particular features, structures, or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more combinations.

[0088] In compliance with the statute, the invention has been described in language more or less specific to structural or methodical features. It is to be understood that the invention is not limited to specific features shown or described since the means herein described comprises preferred forms of putting the invention into effect. The invention is, therefore, claimed in any of its forms or modifications within the proper scope of the appended claims (if any) appropriately interpreted by those skilled in the art.




 
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