I have been collecting hull numbers on the owners registry page, in part to try to track how many boats Columbia made of each model and how many they made each year. Many of you have asked where to find your hull number and what it means. Here is a fairly complete description of the federal hull numbering rules and how Columbia implemented them.
There are three hull number "eras":
I've also added in some extra info:
Until 1972 there were no federal or state regulations that I am aware of that governed hull numbers. Manufacturers were free to number hulls as they saw fit - if they numbered them at all. Early Columbias have their hull numbers located in two places. On the small models the rudder shaft passes through a casting on the cockpit sole. There is a small relief cast into this part and the hull number is often stamped in it. All models had a 2" x 3" blue, brass plate with the model, serial number (hull number), and engine number (inboards only) stamped in. This plate is usually mounted on the kick panel between the cabin sole and vee-berth or somewhere in the head. Don't forget that the hull number was usually on the original main sail.
The plate on the left is from my '65 Columbia 40. It's hard to see in the picture but the logo below the engine number is for Glass Marine Industries. The plate on the right is from a Challenger built in '63. Interestingly it has the Columbia logo even though it's older. I think my boat was built in the Portsmouth, VA plant and this Challenger in the Costa Mesa, CA plant. The plate in the lower right is for a Columbia 10.7 built by Hughes.
Columbia also stamped the hull number into a cast plate that is attached to the cockpit sole by the rudder post. This is an example of one of at least two styles. It came from Challenger #325. You can see the number stamped in the oval at the lower part of the plate. The other style had depressions where the number could be stamped.
Also of note is Columbia's early model numbering scheme. During the mid-sixties Columbia made three 24 ft models concurrently: the C 24, the Contender, and the Challenger. They also made two 29 foot models concurrently: the C 29 and the Defender. To differentiate among the 24s and the 29s, Columbia used the following model numbers:
C 20 Challenger C 23 Contender C 24 Columbia 24 C 28 Columbia 28 C 28 Defender C 29 Columbia 29 C 32 Sabre ?? 5.5 ?? Constellation
The Safe Boating Act (of '68? '71?) standardized Hull Identification Numbers (HIN) and required all manufacturers to afix them permanently to each boat.
The number must be at least 1/4" high and affixed to the starboard side of the transom within two inches of the top. On double-enders or boats where it is impractical to attach the number to the transom, the number is attached to the starboard side of the hull within one foot of the stern and within two inches of the top of the hull. A second copy of the number is to be affixed to the boat, presumeably inside the hull.
I was always under the impression that the hull number was molded into hull, but evidently at some point Columbia was attaching a tag to the transom. According to one owner:
"Serial # of my (1977) 8.3 is...Engraved on a plastic plate held with screws to upper starboard transom..."
The number is 12 characters in length and conforms to one of the two following patterns:
ABC 12345 1172 or ABC 12345 M72D
In both cases, ABC is a three letter combination assigned to the manufacturer. Columbia's designation is CLY. Sailcrafter, the kit versions of the Columbia models is SLC. This is the manufacturer's identification code (MIC).
The next group of five characters is a number used by the manufacturer to identify a specific hull. I have seen two cases used by Columbia. The first is in the pattern CNNNN where C is a letter and NNNN is four digits. The second pattern I have seen is NNNNN. Columbia seems to have started numbering hulls for each model at 001 and continued in sequence throughout that model's production run. The examples that I have seen lead me to believe that the last three digits in this middle part of the number are the actual number of the hull. In other words, if the HIN starts CLYnn123... then this is the 123rd hull built of this model. Starting in the mid-70s Columbia began adding in the last digit of the year so that the HIN starting CLYn8123... would have been built in '78 and is the 123rd hull built of that model.
Columbia made more than 999 copies of only a few models. I think that in some cases the first two characters, CN or NN, distinguished one model from another. This last is only supposition on my part.
The final portion of the number is where the formats differ. Not only do they differ, but the last four characters designate the year and month of manufacture or model year designation. Thus a 1978 model manufactured in late 1997 could have a 1998 year displayed. I don't know if Columbia opted for date made or model year and I think either format could be used for either designation. The keys to this portion of the number are:
Starting Aug. 1, 1984, the feds changed the format slightly. The new format retained the same meaning for the first 8 characters. Thus, in the number: ABC 12345 C385, ABC is the manufacturer's code. In the example, ABC is CLY designating Columbia. As noted above, the next five characters, 12345, identify the hull. I have seen 12 as two digits or a character and a digit on Columbia numbers and I think they designate the model. The final three, 345 were the actual number of the hull. Thus the boat in the example would be the 345th hull made in that model line. In the final four characters, C385, C is the month, and 85 is the year of manufacture. I have no idea whether the 3 had any significance. The key for deciphering the month is A = Jan, B = Feb,...L = Dec.
Confused yet? Read on. Columbia always had some sort of model number to identify each boat model. Prior to the federal HIN standard, Columbia practice was to use "C" plus the nominal hull length for most models. With the advent of the federal HIN standard, Columbia started tacking the model number on the end of the federal HIN. Thus your HIN might look like CCC XXXXX XXXX-NNN where NNN is the Columbia model number. The NNN has no legal significance in the federal HIN that I am aware of. My information is by no means complete, but here are some of the model numbers:
There appears to be at least a loose correlation between model number and LOA.
Don't forget that the original sail number was usually the hull number.
Hull Indentification Number (HIN) Information
The Coast Guard assigns MICs at the manufacturer's request. The MIC for Columbia is CLY. As far as I know, this is true for all Columbias. Why wouldn't it be? To distinguish boats made in Canada from boats made in the US, Canadian MICs start with Z or Q. As I am sure you are aware, the Hughes Columbias were made in Canada. I think the feds let Hughes retain CLY as the Columbia MIC.
However - I know of one C-31.5 owner whose HIN starts with HBW - Hughes Boat Works. What's more interesting is that his HIN indicates model/manufacture date of Oct '82, but the plate in the cockpit says the boat was made in Jan '82. The Coast Guard says they retired HBW as the Hughes designation in Dec '81. An '82 MODEL started in Oct '81 and completed in Jan '82? Who knows? There is also the possibility that some Columbias made by Aura can have ZBW or AUY as the MIC.
I recently did some research on vessel documentation and found a site where you can search for vessels by name or documentation number. I searched by number using a strange number associated with one of the boats on the owners registry. The search returned a vessel of the correct name, but the HIN starts with SLC. I searched on SLC and came up with the following:
Primary Company Name: SAILCRAFTER YACHT KITS Address: 257 MCCORMICK AVE COSTA MESA, CA 92627 Contact: REJPOOLE Phone: 714 540 7070 Fax: Parent Company: Parent MIC: Date in Business: 9/27/72 Date out of Business: 11/21/83
I should also mention Coronado yachts here. Whittaker purchased Coronado and many subsequent Coronado models were based on similar Columbias. The Coast Guard website lists the following information:
CNY was CORONADO YACHTS 275 McCormick Ave. Costa Mesa, CA 92626 They produced Types 11 & 14. OOB 780218. 08/31/2001 OOB PER RNI
Pretty interesting? How about this:
CYV is: COLUMBIA YACHT CORP COLUMBIA YACHTS INC 1615 MARINERS DRIVE NEWPORT BEACH, CA 92660 In Business: 9/10/01 Type: Sailboats, (with or without engine) Catamarans, Trimarans
Here are a few interesting facts about MICs:
Home made boats are not issued a unique MIC. They are to use a combination of the state where the boat was made and the letter Z. When I built home made kayaks in Ohio, the MIC was OHZ. In very rare cases, the Coast Guard will issue the MIC HQZ.
MICs are not all unique. Since 1972, approximately 12700 MICs have been assigned. Factoring out 50 for home made boats and one for the HQZ, I calculate there to be a maximum of 16899 possible MIC combinations. I would guess that the Coast Guard has some MICs that they do not want to use, like III or XXX or OOO.
About 4700 of the MICs issued are active manufacturers. Approximately 400 manufacturers go out of business or into an inactive status, and about 400 new manufacturers, or inactive manufacturers go into business yearly. When a company goes out of business, the Coast Guard retires the MIC for 10 years before reissueing it to a new manufacturer.
Manufacturers Identification Code (MIC) Information
I don't know too much about documented vessels, except that documentation means you don't have to display a state registration. Your boat's name and home port displayed on the hull are sufficient identification in place of state registration numbers.
A typical documentation number is 6 or 7 digits, the letters NET and more digits. The first six or seven digits are the documentation number. That number remains the same as long as the documentation is kept current. The digits following the letters NET reflect the vessel's displacement, but the number seems to be coded somehow. For example, NET12 doesn't mean the boat weighs 12 tons or 12000 lbs or any other number starting with a 12.
Not all vessels can be documented. There are some minimum requirements that a vessel has to meet in order to be documented.
Director, National Vessel Documentation Center 2039 Stonewall Jackson Drive Staff Symbol:NVDC Falling Waters, WV 25419-9502 phone: (800) 799-8362 fax: (304) 271-2405
Here are links to a website where you can search for documented vessels:
Documented Vessel Search by Documentation Number.
Documented Vessel Search by Name.
Port State Information eXchange an alternate Documented Vessel Search by Name, Documentation Number and other parameters.