BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Just three days before he died in a plane crash outside of Madison, Wis., Otis Redding recorded the number one hit “The Dock of the Bay” about a person that was fed up with a hectic life in Georgia and traveled to the San Francisco Bay to just sit on a dock. There is just something alluring about docks, some element that captivates our attention, draws us in, and triggers some distant emotion that is embedded deeply within. The allure may be tied to the merging aspect of a dock that allows us to move from land to sea, to experience the water from a more intimate perspective. However, I don’t think anyone can really put their finger on exactly what it is, although many have spoken of this allure through song, poetry, paintings and other forms of art. In fact, if you do a GOOGLE search on “poetry about docks” you find more than 1.2 million hits.
So, whether you have left your home in Georgia and are “sittin’ on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away, watching the ships roll in”, simply “wastin’ time”, hosting a barbeque or securing your boat down for the evening, there are certainly things that are important about your dock. One such matter of importance is that you generally don’t want your experience of the water to include falling into the water as the deck collapses. More specifically, in constructing docks, especially those that are accessible to the public, safety and longevity are of utmost concern. Unlike Darwin’s theory that chaos moves towards order, items that are constructed, such as docks, decks, etc, generally decay or degrade over time due to wear-and-tear, weather stress, use stress, rust, or the like. As a result, a dock that may have originally been constructed in accordance with stringent safety requirements, may deteriorate to a point at which the dock is simply unsafe. To prevent such deterioration, the dock should be periodically maintained. However, it is desirable to construct docks and other items in a manner that maintains the structural integrity and safety with a minimum amount of maintenance or up keep.
One of the developments in industry that addresses this need in the art was the application of aluminum in the construction of docks and decks. Aluminum is truly the ideal structural material for dock systems. Aluminum demonstrates excellent weathering characteristics as a result of its rust prohibiting properties and exceptional structural strength. This combination of properties virtually eliminates maintenance and greatly increases the longevity of a dock or deck. Moreover, when used for decking, aluminum flooring is cool to the touch and splinter free. Thus, aluminum docks never require sanding, sealing, staining or painting.
When building a dock or a deck out of wood, the required building blocks are readily accessible in most large scale home improvement centers such as LOWES or HOME DEPOT. The supply of treated two-by-fours, four-by-fours, six-by-sixes, one-by-six planks, etc., can be easily purchased and cut as necessary to construct the dock or deck. However, to construct a dock or deck out of aluminum components is a different story. Unlike the lumber industry, there are no standard building blocks that are readily available for constructing such a structure out of aluminum. Further, working with aluminum is completely different than working with lumber. Working with aluminum requires different tools and most likely even requires welding. All of these factors have tended to remove aluminum construction from the hands of the typical do-it-yourself handy-man. What is needed in the art is a technology that enables the construction of aluminum structures, such as decks and docks in a manner that is safe, efficient and structurally sound. In addition, it is desirable for such a solution to also include a standard set of components that can be easily inventoried in a supply store without overwhelming the retail companies with larger number of components. Furthermore, it is desirable for such a solution to enable the do-it-yourself handy-man to build a structure out of aluminum.