Years ago, when we first saw Scat, we really didn’t like her name. We figured that if we ever bought her, that would be the first thing to go (turns out the first thing to go would be the marine toilet, but that’s another story). By the time we actually got her, the name had kind of grown on us, but we still asked friends and family if they could think of a better one for a cat-rigged boat. There were some good suggestions, but we had to make a decision quickly since we were documenting her with the United States Coast Guard instead of the California Department of Motor Vehicles and ended up sticking with Scat.
The Coast Guard has some fairly strict requirements for the name on a boat: The name and hailing port for a recreational vessel must be displayed together on a clearly visible exterior part to the boat (for a commercial vessel, they must be on the stern, with the name again on each side of the bow unless the vessel is square hulled – it gets quite complicated). All letters in the name must be at least 4 inches tall and the letters of the hailing port must be at least three inches. Once the Coast Guard processes the application, they assign the vessel a unique number which remains with the boat for the rest of it’s “life” no matter how it is registered by future owners.
§ 67.121 Official number marking requirement. The official number of the vessel, preceded by the abbreviation “NO.” must be marked in block-type Arabic numerals not less than three inches in height on some clearly visible interior structural part of the hull. The number must be permanently affixed to the vessel so that alteration, removal, or replacement would be obvious. If the official number is on a separate plate, the plate must be fastened in such a manner that its removal would normally cause some scarring of or damage to the surrounding hull area.
Although we applied as soon as we bought Scat (before we even moved her from Alameda in September), we didn’t get the official documentation until January. Bob tracked the progress for months. Finding a “clearly visible interior structural part of the hull” that allowed for a fairly long number “not less than three inches in height” was not as easy as you might think on a 26 foot boat. We settled on an area just behind our companionway steps in front of the engine.
Bob wanted to get stencils, but I insisted my printing would be good enough. He seemed dubious. I lay on my stomach and printed with an erasable pen, measuring to ensure each character was three inches. Then it was Bob’s turn to lie on his stomach and trace my lettering with a dremel drill. Then I got back down and filled it in with a sharpie. Not bad, if I do say so myself! We make a pretty good team.
Next came new lettering on the transom. We had designed and ordered the decals from BoatU.S. back in September, but it had either been raining or we had had other boat projects (there are ALWAYS boat projects) while we were there, so we didn’t actually get to it until a couple of weeks ago.
We found that a plastic razor blade and a carefully used heat gun work well for old decal removal without harming the gelcoat finish. The heat gun has actually been one of the most used tools on the boat. We’ve also used it when we replaced the toilet and to heat-shrink quite a few electrical connections. Removing the bolted-on transom ladder steps involved me becoming a bilge rat while Bob tried not to drop them as they came off. Once we got the old letters off, we washed, buffed, polished, and rewashed the entire transom.
When we filled out the documentation paperwork, we didn’t know where we would be keeping Scat!, so we put our hailing port as Placerville. We decided her name needed some pizazz so we added an exclamation point.
Unfortunately, you can still see the shadow of the previous lettering even with all the buffing. If you look really really really closely, you can still see the shadow of her original name – Catbernet. We reinstalled the ladder rungs and took a look. At this point she was finally completely legal. She just needed one more thing. Actually 9 more things.