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Changing Your Boat’s Name

When you purchase a new boat, you need to decide if you want to keep the boat's name, or change it to something new. While we liked our sailboat's former name, Fortune Cookie, we made the decision to change it to Mahi. What tipped the scales for us was the length of the previous name.

Once the boat purchase is complete, you need to remove the old name and then add on the new. Last weekend, with the boat hauled out, it was time for us to do this. I borrowed the boat yard's scaffold, gathered my supplies, and had at it. Here is a tutorial for any boat owners or cruisers who also need to know how to do this. It was very easy to remove.

Supplies needed for removal:

Hair dryer, extension cord, clean cotton rag, ScrapeRite plastic razor blades, and 3m Adhesive remover, plastic gloves.

To begin, you need to have access to the old vinyl boat letters. If the boat is afloat, most people will work from the dinghy, some will use a bosun chair or climbing gear and hang off the boat side. Since we were hauled out in the yard, I was able to use a big scaffold to easily reach the boat name letters and hailing port on the stern.

For applying heat, I prefer a hair dryer over a heat gun because it doesn't become too hot to damage the hull. The hair dryer heats up the adhesive under the vinyl letters and makes it easy to remove. I turned my hair dryer on high, and heated up the first letter. Then I used the plastic razor blade. called ScrapeRite, to scrap the edge of the vinyl up so I could grab and peel.

The vinyl needs to be warm to peel off easily. Think, "heat, peel up edge, heat and pull."

The plastic razor blade is used in place of a metal one because the metal would scratch and damage the fiberglass. The plastic razor blade is also better and has a sharper edge than a plastic putty knife.

If removing the letters leaves behind any adhesive residue, just heat it up and scrape it off. Anything left over will be removed by the 3M adhesive remover when you are done with a cotton rag. This stuff is noxious, so I wore surgical gloves and took care not to breathe it in as I worked. Once the adhesive residue was removed, I used a clean, damp rag to wipe the 3M product off the boat's hull.

Here is a good shot of the before and after:

As evident in the pictures, once you remove the vinyl letters, there will be "ghosting" underneath. Sometimes, there will be evidence of several font changes underneath, too. Sadly, buffing the hull will fade the ghosting only a tad. The only sure way to remove it completely is to paint the hull. This is not cheap, the bid I received was $15,000 to paint our hull. Ouch! We could paint the boat ourselves, but lack the time to do so.

This means you need to think creatively. You can 1. Keep the original name of the boat, or 2. cover it up with new vinyl artwork or letters. I've decided to go with option 2. I am going with a font called "Happy Monkey" for our boat name, and our hailing port is in Arial Caps. To assist in distracting the eye further, we may be adding a Mahi artwork. 

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