“What’s in a name, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
                                                                                      William Shakespeare

   There is often more than one nautical term for the exact same thing on a boat. This includes the boards showing the boat’s name and its port of registration. The board carrying the name can rightly be called the name plate, or the stern board, or the aft board, because they are usually mounted on the stern, the transom, or aft section of the boat. These boards are not to be confused with quarter boards, which show the ships name on either stern quarter, not actually on the stern. A boat will normally also have a board showing its port of registration, also known as the port-of-call, or registration board, (but not it’s the home port, which is different), and which can also be mounted on….. well you get my drift.

POC-board   When I bought my Down East 45 she had another name and was registered as an American vessel in San Diego, CA. In due course I un-documented her and re-christened her Britannia, probably the oldest name of any British ship, going back to Roman times. Registration is now in the Isle-of-Man, a picturesque island in the middle of the Irish Sea, between England and Ireland and part of the UK.

   Both boards therefore needed new letters and restoration. They were heavy solid mouldings in glassfibre resin, fastened to the transom with stainless screws and lashings of adhesive caulking. It was very difficult to lever them off, even using 2’ foot long pry-bars, and it left a big mess, which I then had to clean up and polish—the whole transom.

boards   The original name and port-of-call were simply white vinyl letters, stuck on the blue painted boards. I sanded the boards with my belt sander, which made short work of all the letters and smoothed out the globules of paint and varnish, which had been applied over the years. I then undercoated both boards with two coats of two part epoxy primer from Jamestown Distributors, Total Boat range, (, rubbing down between coats with 120 grit sandpaper. I then rolled three coats of Total Boat Flag Blue on each board—again rubbing down between coats, and finishing with 250 grit, which produced a glass like hard finish.

GoldStirrer   Both boards had a ½” inch wide cove stripe inlay along the top and bottom, which I carefully painted with Total Boat metallic gold paint. This actually contains copper dust to give it it’s gold color, but the heavier metal sinks to the bottom of the tin, so it needs constant vigorous stirring. Rather than stir the paint with a wooden stirrer which Jamestown Distributors includes with every paint order, (along with a mixing pot, gloves and a filter), I wetted my ½” inch brush from the thicker paint in the bottom of the tin, using the stirrer. This gave me more gold on the brush, but it still took four coats to produce the simulated gold leaf effect I wanted, which was very striking against the dark blue background.

   Finally I painted two coats of Total Boat clear varnish over the whole board, which further increased the shine of the gold paint.

Letter-template   For the actual name BRITANNIA I purchased nine gold colored 4” inches high moulded acrylic letters from  At $12.00 each they were not cheap, but the gold color is impregnated into the acrylic moulding and I was assured they will never tarnish. I ordered my letters to be fitted with threaded nylon bushes in the back of each letter to enable them to be fastened through the boards with 3/16” inch stainless steel set screws. The company offer other methods of fixing the letters to any type of stern or board. There is stud mounting, wire mounting, flange mounting and outside brackets.

   I first made a template of each letter by tracing the outline on art board and cutting them out, then I pressed through the template with a pencil to mark the position of the studs. I then aligned each template evenly on the curved boards and marked the center of the stud holes. I drilled through with a ¼” inch drill and fastened the letters to the board from the back.

Applique   As an added adornment I bought a set of four ornamental appliqués for $16.65 from Home Depot’s website. The two larger scrolls were for the name board and the smaller scrolls were for the port-of-call board. They are made from ¼” inch thick plywood, so they had to be thoroughly waterproof sealed, first with epoxy undercoat, then gold painted, before being glued to the boards with epoxy adhesive.

   For the port-of-call I had nine 3” inch letters cut from self adhesive gold vinyl, by a local sign shop. These were only $35.10 for the whole lot and the same typeface as the name letters. The sign shop also stuck them down accurately on the curved board, which was something I was doubtful I could do with the same accuracy.

   The boards were then ready to fasten back on the transom. I coated the backs with a liberal covering of Total Boat SEAL caulk, which also sealed the screws—this is half the price of 3M caulking, which I normally use.

When both boards were screwed tightly back where they came from there remained a total of 29 screw heads to be filled in and smoothed into the cove stripes, then painted over with gold. I am a believer in “not spoiling the ship for two pennyworth of tar” or effort.

After removing excess caulk with a sharp knife, the job was done.


Articles by Roger appear regularly in these boating magazines, about improvements to Britannia and other nautical matters

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