Protect Your Floating Home
Use Street Numbers on Dock Ends
It is starting to get dark on a beautiful summer evening on your dock. You look out at the houseboat across your channel and suddenly you see a flicker of light through the windows. Your neighbors are not at home, so you wonder, is it a fire? Is it a prowler?
Quickly you call 911, and then you call Harbor Patrol at 206.684.4071.
At Harbor Patrol they promptly swing into action, dispatching one of their boats to the area. The officers on the boat know roughly where this dock is, but as they approach the area of your dock they see a clearly marked sign with the street number posted on the end of the dock, and so they are able to find this dock without delays. They rush to the houseboat and find a smoldering fire, which they quickly put out!
This hypothetical story is a success because of your quick thinking and the fast Harbor Patrol response, but it was also a success because your neighbor's dock had a clear sign at the end of the dock identifying the street number. While most Harbor Patrol officers know major landmarks on the lake, it can be difficult to identify individual docks, particularly in the dark or during poor visibility, so those signs identifying your dock street number are a key factor in their ability to respond to emergencies rapidly.
This spring, Sergeant Michael Pugol and Officer Chuck Aller gave FHA board members Marilyn Robertson, Linda Valentine and Larry Logue a tour on a harbor patrol boat. The purpose of the tour was to confirm the status of identification signs on Lake Union and Portage Bay. What they found was most docks do have identification signs but some are missing, some are poorly located and some are so faded or obscured the numbers are difficult to read.
The FHA and Harbor Patrol strongly urge you to check your individual docks and make sure you have a clearly readable sign with your dock street number.
Here are some guidelines on what makes a sign readable.
1. The sign should be at least 18" wide by 6" to 8" high.
2. The best colors are a white background with black or red lettering.
3. The numbers should be at least 5" high, and around 1" thick.
4. The number should be placed where it is clearly visible from the front of the dock, as it is being approached from either side.
5. Make sure your sign is clean and not faded or otherwise obscured.
Here is an example of a dock with a clear and visible sign (1), and another example of a dock where the sign is missing or not clearly visible (2) .
As an interesting side note, most of our houseboats have a number or letter on the front (dock side) so that visitors can locate individual houseboats, but we don't think about having a similar number/letter on the channel side (3). If you want Harbor Patrol to easily identify your houseboat you might want to think about adding a number/letter where they can see it from your channel as well.
If you have any questions about how to make your dock or houseboat more identifiable to Harbor Patrol email Larry Logue at firstname.lastname@example.org.