Tugboat crews easily read a vessel’s size, shape, function, and features, while deciphering at a glance the mysterious numbers, letters, and symbols on a ship’s hull. To non-mariners, the markings look like hieroglyphs.
Hakai magazine on coastal science published a really cool article that helps you decode all the interesting markings, paint schemes, and functions of the interesting and strange things you see on big ocean-going vessles. I had no idea there was so much interesting information – and that paint schemes are far, FAR more complicated than marking water lines. Give it a read.