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Old 07-31-2002
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Paperwork Needed for Voyaging

In order to sail in US and/or international waters or in another country's waters, does one need any papers, I mean certificates or permits?

SailNet responds:
Thanks for your questions. The short answer is yes, but let us qualify that. At the very least, you need to have the proper documentation for your vessel no matter where you sail. That means having your boat registered in the state of it's homeport if you're simply operating in US waters. However, you can also opt to have your boat documented by the US Coast Guard, and in some states in the US that means you don't need to have it registered. This all varies state to state, so it depends upon the homeport of the vessel and the applicable state laws.

Now for yourself and your crew, you will at the very least need passports and a crew list if you're traveling to foreign waters. Depending upon where you voyage, you may also need visas. And in certain areas cruising permits are required as well.

Mark Matthews, one of our contributors, says that in his experience (which includes putting into many Central American ports and several in North Africa and Europe) "the more paperwork you have, the better."

For a more in-depth examination of this issue, have a look at Liza Copeland's article here on SailNet, Entering Foreign Waters. It's always best to check with the countries you're planning to visit before you go as some areas are subject to fluctuating practices and laws. You can also post an inquiry to this effect on the Cruising Message Board here at SailNet to see what other owners have learned. To do that, just log on to the homepage and click on Message Boards under Members' Center on the left hand menu. That will take you to the list of message boards and from there you can find the Cruisers' list pretty easily. Best of luck to you.