Your rowing shell is keeping secrets from you.
Important secrets…things you need to know.
And there’s a simple way to learn those secrets.
Your Rowing Shell’s Hull Identification Number
Your shell has a hull identification number (HIN). Its also frequently called the “boat serial number.”
The HIN is a 12 character that identifies your specific boat. It’s stamped into the hull. All boats made after 1972 are mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard to have an HIN, and its illegal to alter the number in any manner.
What secrets can your HIN unlock? To name just a few:
- correct riggers
- boat-weight classification
- designed boat weight
- price when new
I know, you can try to unlock those secrets all on your own (“Yo Bob, ya remember when we bought this boat?”). But why waste time doing it that way?
Instead, locate your HIN, call the manufacturer, and get the correct information.
You save yourself time, get the right info, and look smarter by knowing the secrets of your boat.
So let’s find and make the most of your HIN.
How To Find and Use Your HIN (hull identification number)
Problem: You need to know more about your boat
Needed: Access to your hull, flashlight, camera or pen/paper, manufacturer’s phone number
Action 1: Locate your hull identification number.
By law, boats made after 1972 should have a HIN. Where it actually is located on your hull can be a mystery.
Older boats just had to have the number, and it could be located just about anywhere. I’ve seen it located both inside and outside of the hull.
However, since 1984, HINs location have been standardized. Currently, a primary HIN should be permanently affixed to the outboard side of the hull, aft within one foot of the stern and within two inches of the gunwale.
Boats should also have a duplicate secondary HIN affixed somewhere on an unexposed location inside the boat. That secondary number might be on a sticker.
Let’s find it. Go to your boat. Locate your HIN. Write it down. Or even better, snap a picture of it.
Action 2: Can’t find your HIN?
Just because there’s a law specifying where a HIN should actually be, it doesn’t mean that’s where your HIN actually is. Because of an accident repair, aftermarket paint job, or age, you might not find your number.
For example, I spent time searching for a HIN on a boat with no luck, to later learn that the stern of the shell had been crushed in an accident, and the replacement stern did not have the number.
The theory is your HIN should be there. Your reality might be quite different.
What to do if you can’t find it?
First, possibly your hull has a “production plaque.”
Boats built after January 1998 should have (again, that’s the theory) a production plaque or equivalent, visible and permanently affixed inside the boat. The plaque will have the name and address of the boat builder, year the boat was constructed, and possibly information such as the average weight of the crew for which the boat is designed, and the weight of the boat on construction.
Second, the riggers might have identification numbers stamped into them. That number, if the rigger is still on the correct boat (which sometimes it is not) can help unlock the secrets.
Third, if you don’t find the production plaque, or rigger numbers, then record as much information about the boat as possible (manufacturer-from stickers on the boat, size, color, notable marking such as numbers stamped on riggers, etc.) and contact the manufacturer.
See what they can tell you. And if they can tell you the actual HIN, then record it.
Action 3: Unlocking your rowing shell’s secrets.
Assuming you have found your hull’s HIN, what does it tell you?
The first three characters are the manufacturers identification code (MIC). That’s important because it tells you who made the boat.
I can’t tell you how often there’s confusion about who-made-what shell. Keep this in mind, color is NOT a good indicator of who made the boat (NOT all yellow boats are Empachers. And NOT all Resolutes are black). The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a list of all MIC, which you can access here. Pop in your information, and see what comes up.
The remaining characters in your HIN can tell you things ranging from year built, to mould type. Those bits of info can be helpful; however, the real value in the HIN is what the builder can tell you once they know the number. So…
Action 4: Call the rowing shell manufacturer.
Contact the shell builder, and share the number with them. Ask for boat details.
Here are a few items they may be able to tell you about your shell:
- Price of boat when new
- Boat weight classification (mid-weight, light-weight, etc)
- Date built
- Beam (width of boat at widest point)
- Rigger identification numbers (which riggers go with the hull, helpful especially in large boathouses)
- Paint identification numbers, helpful matching color in instances where the hull needs paint work
- Flex/stiffness numbers
There’s value in that information, and there maybe other bits they can tell you.
Action 5: Make a record.
Take the information you’ve learned and record it. Then store it someplace safe.
I stick mine in an Evernote file. I’m constantly surprised how often I use it.
Your rowing shell has secrets. A small investment of time unlocking those secrets can help you get more from your boat and your rowing.