After months of working on the boat I finally got around to removing the old name and putting the new name on. We haven’t done the renaming ceremony yet, but tradition says that the old name has to be removed and the new name added (but covered) before the ceremony can be held. So a little champagne and we’ll be ready.
U.S. cruisers heading to foreign countries usually get their boat registered with the Coast Guard. This registration is more recognizable internationally than, say, Oklahoma licensing and so provides an advantage when checking into a country. Coast Guard rules say that for pleasure boats (after a day of working on the boat I think this is a strange way to define pleasure but we’ll let that go!) the name and hailing port must be posted someplace visibly on the hull with letters at least 4″ tall. (The boat number, posted permanently inside the boat, requires letters 3″ tall). So, we are now finally legal, our name matches our documentation.
Ordering Your Boat Name
There are lots of services online to get vinyl letters, or for top-notch results work with a graphic professional in your area. If you decide to order online the service you need will be dependent on how picky you are about the design. If you have a particular font in mind (mine is Lithos Pro which I think has an appropriate Greek look about it for my Greek Goddess) you will need to find a service that supports that font. And if you have a logo or swoopy letters or an actual design you will need to find a service that allows you to upload a prepared graphic drawing to their specifications. Here are some I’ve tried or looked at but there are dozens more:
- DoItYourselfLettering is the one I used this time. I decided to keep it simple and just do it in my chosen font. Finding Lithos was not easy, but this service had dozens of well-known named fonts instead of the ten or twelve some services provided. They also provide 22 colors, and fancy effects such as custom letter spacing and other options. Like most services they also provided for borders and shadows and other special effects. Best of all, if you’re doing two lines of text you can use the advanced designer to separately size and style each line and yet see how they look together, to scale.
- BoatsUS Boat lettering is a well-known service. They also provide quite a list of named fonts, just not the one I wanted. They have a nice interface with different tabs for name, port, and registration numbers and as you fill out each tab the combined result shows on the right. However they are not to scale which is annoying. I like to balance the name and hailing port (but you knew I was picky).
- Signs.com provides the full service – it has both boat lettering, and full-color boat decals which you can either upload from your original design or use one of their stock items. If you have a combined name / graphic this is the way to do it.
Removing the Old Name
Removing the old name was surprisingly easy once I figured out a few tricks. These methods might not work on really old lettering, but this was 10-12 years old, not that fresh. Stick on letters are made of two parts – the vinyl letters themselves (sometimes in several layers for shadowing and borders) and an adhesive layer underneath. I’ve never been able to remove these layers at the same time – it takes two passes. You will need a heat gun and some goo gone or similar citrus oil cleaner as well as a scraper. Don’t use razor blade knives or steel scrapers with sharp edges – you don’t want to inadvertently dig into the gel coat. I used an anodized aluminum scraper that I picked up in a paint store and that worked great. Plastic putty knives would be fine as well.
First step is to remove the vinyl lettering. Fire up the heat gun and soften one edge of the first letter. Nothing needs to bubble or burn, just keep poking with your scraper until the letter starts to peel up. At this point, if you’re careful and the vinyl is still flexible you can simply pull up the letter in one (or two) pieces. If not, just keep heating and scraping until the colored vinyl is gone.
Now the messier bit – the adhesive. I used a citrus oil cleaner applied with a scotch-brite pad while wearing rubber gloves. I hate that stuff on my fingers! If you slop it on the adhesive for the first letter and rub a bit you’ll see the edges softening and disappearing. Now is the time to use your scraper again. Push the scraper against the softening edge and you might be able to peel up great swaths of the adhesive. If this works, great, it will save a lot of time. Otherwise keep rubbing with the pad and plenty of lemon oil and the adhesive will soon be gone. Repeat for all the rest of the letters and rinse with water.
Putting on the New Name
The next step is easy if nerve-wracking. You will need blue painting tape, a small spray bottle with water and a coupe of drops of soap, and the squeegee that (probably) came with the letters – a plastic wide putty knife will do but the one I got with my lettering has a nice foam edge for smoothing without catching. First use the squeegee on the letter sheet on a flat surface and make sure the letters are well-adhered to the liner. Then take the sheet(s) to the boat and tape them up. Find something level on the boat (I used our boot top stripe) or an actual level line that you draw (lightly!) on the hull. Measure down from the line to the tops of the letters making sure the name is level. Tape only the TOP of the sheet. Do the same with the hailing port if they are in two pieces. Check it from a distance to make sure it looks right.
Start from the lowest line you will be putting on – usually the hailing port. Pull the sheet up so the letters are upside down and the back is showing, but don’t disturb the tape line. Remove the backing while keeping the letters held up away from the hull. Lightly spray the hull where the letters will go as well as the back of the sheet with the backing removed. Don’t use too much water, just a light misting. Carefully lower the sheet, starting at the center, and smooth to either side. The moisture will allow the letters to move slightly if one gets wrinkled. When it is all squeegeed down leave it for a few minutes until you think the moisture is dried. Don’t wait more than a few hours. Then remove the front paper and the blue tape. Repeat for the top line of lettering.
After you are done, if you are going to have a renaming ceremony, you should cover the name with a towel until the reveal during the ceremony. This way you introduce the new name to Neptune in proper fashion.