US 3709184 A
Method and apparatus for cleaning the underwater hull surface of a floating vessel. Hull cleaning means is arranged in a path along the hull and yieldable carrier means is disposed in supporting relationship with the cleaning means. Means are provided to create relative movement between the vessel and cleaning means. In one embodiment a pincer unit is provided to deflect the tensioned return reach of an endless conveyor and utilize the resulting reaction force for urging the working reach into conformity with the hull surface. In another embodiment vertically spaced actuator arms yieldably urge rotary or belt-type cleaning means into conformity with the hull. In another embodiment flexible, buoyant belts of cleaning elements are oscillated in contact with the hull. In another embodiment a plurality of rotating float elements with peripheral cleaning bristles are arranged in series along a path adjacent the hull surface. In another embodiment flexible, inflatable containers are provided with cleaning means on their inwardly confronting working sides and support means holding the containers so that the working sides yieldably conform to the hull surface of a vessel moved between the containers.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 1 Laney Jan. 9, 1973  METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR CLEANING VESSELS AFLOAT Henry J. Laney, 5950 LaSalle Avenue, Oakland, Calif. 9461 l  Filed: Sept. 28, 1970  Appl. No.: 75,961
Related US. Application Data  Continuation-impart of Ser. No. 748,532, July 29,
1968, Pat. No. 3,541,988.
Primary Examiner-Milton Buchler Assistant Examiner-Gregory W. OConnor AttorneyFlehr, Hohbach, Test, Albritton and Herbert 5 7 ABSTRACT Method and apparatus for cleaning the underwater hull surface of a floating vessel. Hull cleaning means is arranged in a path along the hull and yieldable carrier means is disposed in supporting relationship with the cleaning means. Means are provided to create relative movement between the vessel and cleaning means. In one embodiment a pincer unit is provided to deflect the tensioned return reach of an endless conveyor and utilize the resulting reaction force for urging the working reach into conformity with the hull surface. In another embodiment vertically spaced actuator arms yieldably urge rotary or belt-type cleaning means into conformity with the hull. In another embodiment flexible, buoyant belts of cleaning elements are oscillated in contact with the hull. In another embodiment a plurality of rotating float elements with peripheral cleaning bristles are arranged in series along a path adjacent the hull surface. In another embodiment flexible, inflatable containers are provided with cleaning means on their inwardly confronting working sides and support means holding the containers so that the working sides yieldably conform to the hull surface of a vessel moved between the containers.
8 Claims, 11 Drawing Figures PATENTEDJMI 9197a 3,709,184
sum 1 OF 8 FIG 1 INVENTOR HENR J. N EY BY adj:- W
ATTORNEYS SHEET 3 BF 8 #m mm Lwwm No Q #00 Q mm mm mm mm Ow @N a. NO N: 9 fin INVENTOR. HENRY J. LANEY ATTORNEYS PATENTEDJAN 9:915
SHEET l [1F 8 INVENTOR. HENRY J. LANEY ATTORNEYS PATENTEU JAN 9 I975 3, 709,184
\ ATTORNEYS PATENTEDJAN 91975 3.709.184
SHEET 7 0F 8 INVENTOR.
HENRY J. LANEY ATTORNEYS PATENTEDJAM 9|973 3.709.184
SHEET 8 0F 8 INVENTOR. HENRY J. LANEY ATTORNEYS METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR CLEANING VESSELS AFLOAT CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION This application is a continuation-in-part of copending application Ser. No. 748,532, filed July 29, l968now US. Pat. No. 3,541,988 issued Nov. 24,
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to method and apparatus for cleaning the underwater hull surface of a floating vessel. The problem of marine fouling on the underwater surfaces of vessels has been a costly and continual problem to navel, commercial and pleasure craft. Marine fouling occurs first as a soft, more-o'r-less invisible slime collects on the vessels hull in the first few days of immersion, followed by yielding growths such as moss and grasses, and then rigid, heavier organisms such as shells and barnacles. This fouling results in a reduction in speed, an increased cost in fuel for powered craft, and the loss of time and money. in attempting to remedy the fouling.
Conventional measures to alleviate marine fouling include those of dry-docking the ship for maintenance, application of anti-fouling paint, scrubbing by a scuba diver, docking the boat in a hull-sterilizing tank into which a chemical agent has been added, or manual dockside brushing. These prior art methods have many disadvantages and limitations. Dry-docking is relatively expensive, especially for commercial ships. The use of anti-fouling paint is not only costly and of limited protection in time, but also only serves to retard, and not stop, marine growth. Scrubbing by a scuba diver is also expensive and time-consuming, and has largely been limited to relatively small-sized boats, such as sailboats. The hull sterilizing tanks present the further problem of the need to clean fouling from the tank itself, and in addition, the toxic chemical agents used in the tank are neutralized by sunlight, requiring periodic replacement, are expensive, and pollute the water. With dockside brushing it is difficult to apply adequate contact pressure against the hull, and it is hard to-reach and clean the ships keel or the hull portion having a reverse curvature. 7
Accordingly, the need has been recognized for method and apparatus which will more efficiently clean marine fouling from the underwater surfaces of a floating vessel with reduced expense and downtime without 7 harm to the hull surface.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION AND OBJECTS It is a general object of the invention to provide improved method and apparatus for efficiently cleaning the hull surface of a floating vessel.
Another object is to provide method and apparatus of the character described which is effective to clean marine fouling from a vessels hull of varied cross-secv tional size and shape, such as with a reverse curvature.
Another object is to provide method and apparatus of the character described which efficiently and inexpensively removes marine fouling without the requirement for drydocking, anti-fouling paint, hull sterilization tanks, or manual scrubbing and the like.
Another object is to provide hull cleaning method and apparatus of the character described which operates without damage to the hulls paint, such as hard bottom paint or anti-fouling paint, and does not harm hull protuberances such as propellers, speed indicators or discharge outlets.
The foregoing and other objects and advantages are provided in the invention by method and apparatus in which hull cleaning means is moved along a path with a working reach along the hull surface and a spaced return reach. Yieldable carrier means is disposed in supporting relationship with the workingreach and a pincer unit deflects the tensioned return reach so that the resulting reaction force urges the working reach into conformity with the hull surface, such as in the area of the hulls reverse curvature. Another embodiment provides vertically spaced actuator arms which yieldably urge cleaning means into conformity with the hull. In one modification of this latter embodiment this cleaning means is in the form of an endless belt against which the actuator arms operate, and in another modification the cleaning means comprises a plurality of rotatable brushes mounted on respective distal ends of the actuator arms. In another embodiment hull cleaning means together with buoyant means urging the same into conformity with the hull are oscillated to provide the cleaning action. In another embodiment float elements with peripheral cleaning bristles are arranged in series along a vertical path adjacent the hull surface with means to simultaneously rotate the float elements. In another embodiment, a pair of inflatable, flexible containers provided with cleaning means on their inwardly confronting working surfaces are adapted to yieldably conform to the hull surface of a vessel moved between the containers.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective underwater view of one embodiment of the invention as it is cleaning the underwater hull surface of a floating vessel;
, FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 during a no-boat condition;
FIG. 3 is a view similar to FIG. 2 illustrating operation of this embodiment in cleaning a boat;
FIG. 4 is a top-plan fragmentary view of one side of the apparatus of the embodiment of FIG. 1
FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view taken along the line 5-5 of FIG. 2;
FIG. 6 is a fragmentary elevation view of a modified form for the embodiment of FIG. 1;
FIG. 7 is a front elevation view of another embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 8 is a front elevation view of another embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 9 is a fragmentary front elevation view illustrating a modified form of the embodiment of FIG. 8;
FIG. 10 is a fragmentary front elevation view of another embodiment of the invention;
FIG. II is a front elevation view of another embodiment of the invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS In the drawings, FIG. 1 illustrates generally at 10 apparatus for cleaning the hull surface of a floating vessel 12. Apparatus 10 is adapted to be supported from a suitable stationary work platform or floating dock defining a slip or berth through which vessel 12 moves during the cleaning operation. Movement for the vessel may be provided by slowly towing the floating vessel forwardly through the slip or berth, such as by means of the winch arrangement described in copending application Ser. No. 748,532.
' disposed in supporting relationship with a correspond ing working reach and adapted to urge the cleaning means into conforming contact with the hull surface. Primary pincer means 30, 32 are provided on each cleaning assembly to force the working reach into intimate contact with the hull and insure complete contact along the cleaning path, especially in the hull portions having a reverse curvature such as the juncture of the hull 34 and keel 36 of the exemplary sailboat. Secondary pincer means 38, 40'are provided to urge the upper segments of the carriers together in the no-boat condition.
The cleaning assemblies 14,16 are substantially identical in construction and operation and it will sufflce to describe that for assembly 14. This assembly comprises an endless belt or link-type flexible conveyor 42 trained between a drive sprocket 44 mounted on work platform or dock 46 above the waters surface and underwater horizontally axised idler roller 48. The cleaning elements may comprise a plurality of outwardly extending flexible bristles 50 defining a substantially continuous brush-like belt. Groups of the bristles are mounted together in a series of laterally extending brushes supported by a series of battens 52 which in turn are secured to a pair of endless link-type chains 54,56 by suitable fasteners 57. Bristles 50 are preferably formed from a flexible plastic such as polypropylene having a sufficient length, on the order of 12 inches, to preclude damage to hull protrusions suchas propellers, speed indicators, or discharge outlets. The bristles are selected with a predetermined balance of stiffness, length, pressure and conveyor speed to insure complete brush contact over the entire hull surface including the keel sides and keel/hull transition areas, e.g. for sailboats.
Referring to FIG. 4 details of a preferred power unit 58 for driving cleaning assembly 14 are illustrated. It is desirable that the power unit provide automatic operation for driving the cleaning elements against the hull as the vessel is moved along the slip cleaning the entire underwater hull surface. Preferably the power unit provides constant power controlling speed as a function of load so that liner conveyor speed decreases in proportion to increased hull/brush friction forces as the boat advances. As an example, a power unit 58 could comprise a DC electric motor on the order of horsepower powering a drive unit 60 comprising a :1 ratio gearmotor chain and sprocket drive which in turn operates drive sprockets 44 driving link chains 54,56. Alternatively, the power unit could comprise a remotely located (such as on the shore or a fixed dock) AC motor driven 20 horsepower piston type variable displacement hydraulic pump, and with the drive unit, which would be mounted on floating dock 46, comprising a 5 horsepower constant displacement hydraulic motor connected through suitable conduits with the shore-located pump and driving the conveyor through the chain and sprocket reduction drive train. It will be apparent that still other suitable conveyor drive arrangements could be provided, such as a gasoline engine or the like.
As best illustrated in FIG. 3, each cleaning assembly 14,16 is operated so that the cleaning bristles move downwardly along their respective working reaches 18,20 intointimate contact with the underwater hull surfaces of the vessel. Flexible carriers 26,28 operate to urge the working reaches of the cleaning bristles against the vessels hull and into conformity with it. FIG. 2 illustrates the configuration defined by the two cleaning assemblies with no boat in the slip. The bristle ends of the working reaches are in confronting relationship along a vertical interface 62 along with the center line of the vessel is moved. As the vessel progresses through the slip, normally from how to stem, the'hull gently urges the two cleaning assemblies apart in the manner illustrated in FIG. 3, and the working reaches automatically conform to the hull surface throughout conveyor operation regardless of any variation in crosssectional size and configuration, within pro-determined size limits depending upon particular specifications and requirements.
Flexible carrier 26 is exemplary and comprises a train of buoyant cylindrical floats or roller members 64 each provided with horizontal axles 65 and in rotatable supporting engagement with the underside of conveyor 42 along the mid-span of working reach 18. The roller members can be hollow, water-tight cylinders, or filled.
with a suitable buoyant material such as styrofoam or polyurethane foam, each roller having a buoyant force on the order of 30 pounds. Opposed pairs of links 66,68 support the rollers in spaced-apart relationship along the length of the train. Three pairs of siderails 70,72,74 are mounted along carrier 26 and project outwardly along the sides of conveyor 42 for :insuring proper tracking,
Means including an anti-bunching linkage assembly 76 is provided to hold the lower end of the roller train with respect to the lower end of working reach 18 and at the same time accomodate vertical'displacement of the underwater rollers as the hull cross-section varies during the cleaning operation. The rollers at the upper end of the train are free to move in and out as the vessel progresses between the two conveyors. Linkage assembly 76 comprises a cylindrical float member 78 connected with the lower end of the roller train by means of a first pair of arms 80. and connected with idler roller 48 by a second pair of arms 82. In the noboat condition of FIG. 2 the arms 80,82 are in tension with a small degree of outward angulation holding the. roller train in its maximum vertical position. As the vessel enters the slip and pushes the working reaches aside the underwater rollers displace downwardlyand the presence of float 78 biases the arms 80,82 to pivot outwardly with a knee action where the float does not interfere with the conveyor.
The lower ends of the two opposing sides of the cleaning assembly conveyors are held down and tensioned against the buoyant action of the linked rollers and the dynamic tension of the respective conveyors by means of weight unit 84. This weight unit comprises a stainless steel box filled with a suitable ballast, preferably a lead ballast weighing on the order of 1200 pounds. Pairs of support arms 86,88 diverge upwardly from opposite ends of the weight unit for rotatable attachment to the axles 89 of idler rollers 48 on each cleaning assembly. Pairs of side guards 90,92 are mounted on these support arms on either side of the conveyors adjacent respective idler rollers to maintain tracking of the conveyors.
Means are provided to direct inward forces against the carrier means insuring intimate contact of the cleaning bristles against the hull surface, especially in the hull areas having a reverse curvature, such as the hull/keel transition area. This means includes the primary pincer units 30,32 provided for respective cleaning assemblies. Pincer unit 30 comprises a deflector roller 96 rotatably mounted at the juncture of a first pincer arm 98 and second pincer arm 100. The opposite end of arm 98 is rotatably connected with the axle of idler roller 48 and the opposite end of arm 100 is pivotally mounted with a force distributing support frame 102 which in turn is mounted on the axles of the lowermost adjacent pair of roller members. Intermediate side rails 74 project outwardly from the support frames 102 and side guards 104 project in an opposite outward direction from the end of arm 100 on either side of conveyor 42 for proper tracking along the deflector roller 96. With the return reach 22 of the cleaning assembly under tension during operation the outward deflection of the return path by pincer unit 94 creates an inwardly directed reaction force having a major force vector along arm 100 and support frame 102 to act against the lower most roller members and press the adjacent segment of working reach 18against the hull surface. The pincer an'ns 100 may be springloaded by suitable means such as providing a telescoping arm enclosing a compression spring, to provide a degree of resiliency in the reaction force acting-against the working reach.
The secondary pincer units 38,40 provided on respective cleaning assemblies create buoyant forces or movements urging the two working reaches together in the no-boat condition. Pincer unit 38 is exemplary and comprises a relatively large volume buoyant cylindrical float 108 interconnected through a pair of arms 110 with the axle 89 of idler roller 46 and through a pair of arms 112 with the axle of one of the roller members, shown as the third roller from the underwater end.
In the operation of the embodiment of FIGS. 1-5, the two power units 58 are energized to drive the conveyors downwardly along the hull. As the vessel is moved into the slip, the working reaches 18, engage the hull and are gently urged apart while the wiping action of the bristles removes the fouling. The buoyancy of the carrier rollers urges the working reaches into conformity with the hull, while the reaction forces created by deflection of the return reaches by pincer units 30, 32 are directed inwardly to act against the segments of the working reaches adjacent the reversely curved parts of the hull.
FIG. 6 illustrates a modified form of the embodiment of FIG. 1 incorporating a primary pincer unit 114 adapted to distribute the reaction force from deflection of the tensioned return reach 116 over a longer segment of working reach 118. Pincer unit 114 comprises a first arm 120 interconnecting idler roller 122 with deflector roller 124 and a second arm 126 interconnecting the deflector roller with a whiffletree assembly 128 comprising two pairs of triangular support frames 130, 132 each pivotally interconnecting the axles of an adjacent pair of the lowermost three roller members 134 in the carrier train. The inward end of pincer arm 126 is provided with a bracket 136 having diverging ends pivotally connected with the apexes of support frames 130, 132. The reaction force transferred from the pincer arm 126 is distributed onto the two pairs of support frames which in turn transfer this force to the three roller members which press against return reach 118 in the reverse curve area of the hull. As a result the reaction forces resulting from operationof the pincer unit covers a greater area against the hull surface.
Another preferred embodiment of the invention illustrated in FIG. 7 provides hull cleaning apparatus 138 comprising a pair of upwardly extending flexible hull cleaning belts 140,142 secured together at their common end to a weight or support 144 and with the belt upper ends unattached and adapted to freely displace. Each belt includes buoyant means such as a plurality of articulated buoyant floats 146. Cleaning elements comprising groups of long, flexible bristles 148 are mounted to the floats and project outwardly. for contact with the hull surface. Means is provided to both support weight 144 underwater below the keel of a floating vessel 150 and additionally impart an oscillating or vibrating motion to the cleaning belts. This means comprises a power unit or motor 152 and an eccentric drive 154. Motor 152 can be a conventional sealed electric motor powered through underwater cable 156. The motor is secured to the sea bed by anchor 158. Eccentric drive 154 comprises a rotating crank and connecting rod 162 which is joumaled to the bottom of weight 144. Alternatively, the belts can be oscillated by an above water drive with a separate power unit connected with a respective free end of the belts. With this arrangement the inboard power unit could be mounted on the main dock and the outboard power unit mounted on a floating dock free to move in or out responsive to changing hull size and configuration as the vessel progresses through the cleaning apparatus.
In the operation of hull cleaning apparatus 138 the belts 140,142 in the no-boat condition are urged by the buoyant action of floats 146 upwardly where they each assume essentially a right-angle position with the bristles on the underwater sections of the two belts in confronting relationship and with the above-water belt sections freely floating on the water surface in opposite directions. The operation is initiated by energizing motor 152 which imparts an oscillating up and down motion to the belts. The floating vessel is now moved or towed between the belts, normally from how to stern, so that the hull side surfaces gently move the belts aside. The buoyant force against the floats urges the bristles into close conforming contact with the hull surface while the oscillating motion cleans the fouling from the surface.
Another embodiment of the invention illustrated in FIG. 8 includes cleaning apparatus 164 comprising a plurality of opposed telescoping actuating rods 166,168 mounted within the water on suitable frames 170,172 to define a slip for receiving the vessel 174. The hull cleaning means for the apparatus comprises a plurality of horizontally axised cylindrical cleaning elements 176,178 journaled for rotation on respective distal ends of actuator arms 166,168. These cleaning elements preferably comprise long flexible bristles extending outwardly from a central hub 180 to define a cylindrical brush.
Actuating rods 166,168 are mounted in vertically spaced relationship in two opposed tiers lying in a plane transverse of the longitudinal axis of the vessel so that the cleaning elements contact a path extending downwardly along the hull sides. The actuating rods include biasing means providing horizontal forces acting in the direction of the vessels hull to urge the cleaning elements into intimate contact with the hull surface and at the same time yieldably recede or displace to conform with the hull cross-sectional curvature as the vessel is moved lengthwise through the slip. With this arrangement buoyancy for supporting the cleaning elements is not required. The yieldable biasing means may comprise suitable compression springs 169 enclosed within the telescoping sections of the actuator rods or the actuating rods may be yieldably extended by suitable pneumatic or hydraulic cylinders, not shown. To insure more complete hull coverage for the cleaning elements a second group of opposed actuating rods 182, 183 is arranged in a second tier behind the first tier and with the rods vertically staggered with respect to the first tier rods. Thus, actuator rods 182 lie behind and are staggered between rods 168 so that the associated cleaning elements 184 overlap the adjacent cleaning elements 178. While the rods are illustrated as being horizontally disposed, it is understood that they could be set at an upward inclination to the hull, as desired.
Drive means are provided to rotate the cleaning elements and move the bristles rapidly against the hull surface. The drive means may comprise suitable hydraulic motors, not shown, mounted in the cleaning element hubs 180 and operated under fluid pressure supplied through conduits 186. Other suitable power means, such as submersible electric motors or the like may also be utilized.
Another embodiment of the invention illustrated in FIG. 9 comprises a cleaning apparatus 188 including a plurality of vertically spaced horizontal force transmitting actuating rods 190 arranged in a tier and operating in cooperation with an endless cleaning belt 192.
Actuating rods 190 together with their triangular support frame 194 are mounted underwater in opposing relationship with a like tier of rods and cleaning belt, not shown, defining a slip for receiving the vessel 196. The actuating rods are of the type described in connection with the embodiment of FIG. 8 and comprise telescoping sections yieldably urged toward the vessels hull by spring, pneumatic or hydraulic means, not shown. The outer ends of the arms are slidably supported on frame 194 through suitable sleeve bearings 197. Bearing means 198 are provided at respective distal ends of the actuating rods to transmit a yieldable force to the cleaning belt and at the same time provide relative movement with the belt. In the preferred embodiment this bearing means comprises rollers mounted at the actuator rod ends in engagement with belt conveyor 200. Long, flexible bristles 199 secured to conveyor 200 extend outwardly to define an endless brush for contact with the hullsurface. A weight unit 202 connects the opposing cleaning belts together holding the same down in the water against conveyor tension. An idler roller 204-journaled to weight unit 202 is in rolling contact with the lower end of the cleaning belt. A drive roller or sprocket 206 is rotatably mounted at the distal end of upper actuating rod in driving engagement with conveyor 200. Power for operating the belt is supplied by means of a motor 208 mounted on platform 210 and connected to the drive roller by a suitable drive belt or chain 212.
In the operation of cleaning apparatus 188 all actuating rods are fully extended in the no-boat condition so that the opposed cleaning belts are in close spaced relationship in the slip. Motor 208 is energized to move the cleaning belt in the indicated direction downwardly along the working reach. As the vessel is drawn through the slip its hull surfaces gently urge the belts aside against the yielding force of the actuating rods. The actuating rods are effective to urge the cleaning belt into intimate contact with the hull even in its reverse curve area.
Another embodiment of the invention illustrated in FIG. 10 provides a cleaning assembly 214 including a plurality of horizontally axised buoyant float elements 216 222 disposed in spaced-apart series relationship along a path adjacent the vessels hull surface in a substantially vertical plane transverse of the longitudinal axis of the vessel. Each float element is provided with outwardly projecting, long flexible bristles 224 arranged around the floats periphery to define a cylindrical brush. Means are provided interconnecting the float elements in their spaced-apart relationship. and for simultaneous rotation comprising a plurality of endless drive chains 226, 228, 230 trained between sprockets 232 which in turn are mounted for rotation with the float elements. A weighted cross-link 234 rotatably supports the lowermost float 222, together with the correspondinglowermost float of an adjacent series of buoyant float elements and cleaning bristles, not shown, in underwater relationship on either side of the hull of a floating vessel. The float elements are adapted to rotate in unison through the drive chains responsive to rotation of at least one float element. Preferably, the uppermost float 216 is rotated through a drive arrangement, not shown, operated from a motor on a floating dock or the like. To provide more complete hull surface coverage a second train of float elements, not shown, similar in construction and operation to that described would be disposed in side-by-side relationship to assembly 214 and with adjacent float elements vertically staggered to provide overlap cleaning operation on either side of the hull.
In the operation of assembly 214 the float elements and bristles are rotated in unison clockwise as viewed in FIG. 10 moving the bristles downward along the hull,
surface of a vessel moving lengthwise through the slip above crosselink 234. The vessel-s hull gently urges the float elements aside as it progresses along the slip; and
the buoyant force of the float elements acts to urge the bristles into intimate contact with the hull surface even in the hull areas with a reverse curvature.-
Another embodiment of the invention illustrated in FIG. 11 includes cleaning apparatus 236 comprising a pair of side-by-side, inflatable, flexible containers'or bags 238, 240 having confronting working sides 242, 244 and support sides 246, 248. Means are provided supporting the containers underwater comprising a pair of support frames or strongbacks 250, 252 with their adjacent underwater ends articulated together at 254 and their above-water ends mounted for lateral displacement with respect to vessel 256 on a pair of platforms or floating docks 258, 260. A weight 262 holds the adjacent ends of the support frames underwater beneath the vessels keel.
Containers 238, 240 preferably comprise large rubber or elastomer bags inflated with a suitable fluid such as water and/or gas (e.g., air) and adapted to flex and conform with the varying cross-sectional size and configuration of the hull of a vessel moved lengthwise between the two bags. The bags are secured at their support sides 246, 248 to the support frames 250, 252 to submerge the bags.
The cleaning means for apparatus 236 preferably comprises a plurality of long, flexible bristles or bristlelike projections 264, 266 which are secured to the bag working surfaces 242, 244 and project outwardly for contact with the hull surface. While one bag for each hull side is shown as preferred, it is understood that two or more adjacent bags for each side could be provided, as desired.
In the operation of apparatus 236 the weight of a vessel moving between the bags 238, 240 gently spreads the working surfaces apart so that the inflation pressure in the bags provides yielding conformity for the cleaning bristles against the hull surface. Relative motion of the bristles with respect to the vessel as it is moved or towed lengthwise along the slip between the bags provides the cleaning action to remove the marine fouling.
While the foregoing embodiments are considered to be preferred, it is understood that numerous variations and modifications may be made therein by those skilled in the art and it is intended to cover in the claims all such variations and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention.
' I claim:
'1. The method of cleaning the underwater hull surface of a floating vessel comprising the steps of moving a plurality of cleaning units arranged in a substantially continuous belt downwardlyv along a working reach into contact with said hull surface, buoyantly urging the moving cleaning units against the hull surface for conforming contact therewith, directing the return reach of the continuous belt upwardly in the water along a path spaced outwardly from the working reach, deflecting the return reach outwardly at an intermediate region thereof to produce a reaction force toward the vessel, and directing said reaction force against an un derwater segment of the cleaning unit working reach to provide additional force for urging the working reach into conforming contact with the hull surface.
2. Apparatus for cleaning the underwater hull surface of a floating vessel comprising the combination of hull cleaning means arranged in an endless path including a working reach disposed in an upstanding plane, the working reach extending along a side portion of the hull surface, and a return reach spaced outwardly from the working reach, yieldable carrier means disposed in supporting relationship with the working reach and adapted to urge the cleaning means along the working reach into conforming contact with the hull surface, means to outwardly deflect the path of cleaning means moving along the return reach to create an inwardly directed reaction force, said deflecting means directing said reaction force against a segment of the carrier means urging the same together with an adjacent segment of the working reach against the hull surface, and drive means to move the cleaning means downwardly along the working reach and upwardly along the return reach to create tension in the latter.
3. Apparatus as in claim 2 wherein the means outwardly deflecting the path of the cleaning means comprises pincer arm means extending transversely between the working and return reaches with one end of the arm means connected with the flexible carrier, and a roller mounted on the other end of the arm means in rolling engagement with the return reach to transmit said reaction force from the deflected return reach to the arm means.
4. Apparatus as in claim 3 wherein the yieldable carrier means includes a plurality of buoyant roller members axised transversely of the endless path and in rotatable supporting engagement with the hull cleaning means together with an idler roller rotatably supporting the lower end of the working reach, the means deflecting the return reach includes a deflector roller member rotatably supporting and outwardly deflecting an intermediate segment of the return reach, and the pincer arm means includes first arm means pivotally interconnecting the deflector roller with the idler roller and second arm means pivotally interconnecting the deflector roller with an underwater segment of the roller members.
5. Apparatus as in claim 4 and including means distributing a part of the reaction force received from the second pincer arm means onto at least an adjacent pair of the carrier roller members.
6. Apparatus as in claim 5 wherein the reaction force distributing means distributes said reaction force over at least an adjacent three of said roller members, said means linking the roller members together includes at least, first and second support frames each pivotally interconnecting an adjacent pair of said three roller members, and said reaction force distributing means in cludes means pivotally connecting said second arm means with said first and second support frames.
7. Apparatus as in claim 2 wherein the yieldable carrier means comprises a plurality of buoyant roller members axised transversely of said endless path, means linking the roller members togetherin an articulated train extending along said working reach, and means holding the lower end of said roller member train with respect to the lower end of said working reach whereby the distal end of the roller member train is free to displace for accomodating vessels of variable cross sectional configuration and size while urging the cleaning means into close conformity with said hull surface.