How to Apply Boat Numbers

How to Apply Boat Numbers

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All boats are required to clearly show their registration number on the forward half of the hull in letters that are at least 3 inches high. While some states only require that the boat numbers be shown on the port side, it is a good idea to take the time to apply them to both in case you travel. Vinyl lettering is the easiest way to apply boat numbers. You will need to have two sets made, each reading from left to right, or you can buy individual letters and apply the boat numbers one by one.

Items you will need

  • Liquid dishwashing soap

  • Water

  • Bucket

  • Sponge

  • Masking tape

  • Vinyl transfer numbers (2 sets)

  • White marine paint (optional)

  • Paint brush (optional)

Step 1

Mix a small amount of liquid dishwashing soap in a bucket of water. Use a sponge to clean the hull where you will be placing your boat numbers. Pick a location that is on the forward half of the hull, above the water line, for the placement of your boat numbers. Let the surface of the hull dry completely.

Step 2

Place a strip of masking tape 3 inches down from the top edge of the hull and running parallel to the edge. This will be the top guide for your numbers to help keep them straight as you apply them.

Step 3

Place a strip of masking tape parallel below the one you just put on the hull the exact height of the letters you will be applying. The minimum letter size that you can use is 3 inches. If you are using the minimum size, then you would place the second strip of masking tape 3 inches below the bottom edge of the first. Again, this will help you affix the boat registration numbers to your hull in a straight line.

Step 4

Peel the wax paper off the "reverse" side of your vinyl numbers. You should still have a wax paper covering on the side that will face out from the hull.

Step 5

Press the vinyl letters onto the hull, smoothing each letter onto the surface. If you are applying individual numbers, remember that you must maintain one "letter" space between each letter applied (and not "I"). If you are using pre-made sets, this requirement will have already been taken care of.

Step 6

Peel the remaining wax paper off the front of the vinyl letters. Let the adhesive dry for an hour before using the boat.


  • Do not use a boat that does not have registration numbers clearly visible on it; this could cause you to be stopped and boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard.


  • If your boat has a dark hull or a hull with a pattern graphic, paint a white rectangle on the hull of your boat where you will place your boat number so it is clearly visible.
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