Make Sure Your Boat Lettering is Compliant Before You Hit the Water

by Mary Mills on June 27, 2013

Boat lettering is an extremely important consideration for all boat owners. Just like your car must have a license plate in order to legally drive on the roads, your boat must have a registration number displayed clearly before it enters the water. Boat lettering is important, but the confusing thing is that is also differs from state to state.

If you need to know about the specific boat lettering requirements in your state, it always pays to ask the experts. Local signage stores are well equipped to advise you on the size of letters you need to display on your boat, so ask them and heed their advice.

Bot LetteringHere is a rough guide to boat lettering requirements, but don’t forget to double check for your particular state regulations before hitting the water:

  • Boat lettering should be clearly visible and in the forward section of the boat.  If you go out on your boat and the lettering is not clearly visible, the U.S. Coast Guard may very well pull you in. If your boat is designed as such that any boat lettering would be difficult to see, you should display the registration numbers on a plate, which is attached to the forward section of the boat.
  • Boat lettering fonts must be clear, too. Some people might think that those pretty cursive script boat lettering kits add a little style to their boat. They can also attract the attention of the U.S. Coast Guard if the letters are not clearly distinguishable. It really isn’t about style, it isn’t about looking good . . . it’s about doing the right thing and abiding by the law. Make sure that your boat is in line with regulations before you head out onto the water. Federal law states that your boat letters must be a minimum of three inches tall and use only plain block characters.
  • Make sure that your boat lettering is clearly visible on both sides of the boat reading from the right to the left. This might come naturally when you are sticking your boat letters to the port side of your boat – simply start at the bow and work backwards. Some people find it a little more tricky to stick their letters on the starboard side but it really isn’t rocket science – just lay the letters and numbers out in the correct order starting at the bow of the boat and stick them on with the last number first.
  • Be sure that your boat lettering is in a color that contrasts with the color of your boat so that they are clearly visible.


Boat lettering is actually a very simple task that is often mistaken as a complicated undertaking. Don’t risk getting into trouble with the U.S. Coast Guard and make sure your boat lettering is correct.


This post was written by...

– who has written 188 posts on Signarama Blog.

is the Marketing Director at United Franchise Group and Signarama in West Palm Beach, Fl. She has an extensive background in marketing, communications and Public Relations as well as television news & video production.

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