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castan 03-10-2004 04:37 AM

We''re in the US. I''m British, my wife is American so we can''t document our boat as joint owners (unless we form a company somewhere at significant expense). I now know that is not compulsory to document so my question to experienced cruisers is: What would be the advantages of documenting our boat ? ~ Chris

WHOOSH 03-10-2004 07:16 AM

Chris, it depends on where you intend to sail...and which official greets you at the dock, to some extent. E.g. some of the officials in the French Antilles (that would be St. Martin, Martinique, Guadaloupe etc.) get pissy when a boat shows up with U.S. state registration (I''m assuming that''s the alternative you are considering...) while other times it isn''t a big deal. Most Caribbean island nations are accepting of any paper, it seems, so as to clear you in and have you visit the shops.

If you''re heading further afield, you might want to check with the appropriate official - usually the naval attache'' - at the nearest Embassies (not Consulates) of a few major stops along your route (e.g. France, Australia, etc.).

Sorry to preach a bit outside sailing boundaries, but you really should have mutually arranged wills as spouses. And that will convey property outside of probate, in which case documenting in one partner''s name passes ownership to the other. That plus a Power of Attorney -or- a simple, notarized statement from your wife, allowing you to operate the U.S documented vessel as you see fit, should be all you need to cover emergencies outside the U.S.


castan 03-10-2004 08:08 AM

...well, I''m informed that we aren''t required to ''state register'' either. As we wont be in any particular state for any length of time we do not intend to state register.

So far, the only advantage I can see in documenting (and as I said, that would mean forming a company at significant expense) would be quicker / easier foreign port clearance proceedures. Our bill of sale is proof of joint ownership.

Am I missing something ?

hamiam 03-10-2004 10:05 AM

another benefit of documentation is that you can obtain a preferred mortgage on a documented boat and save some interest expense. also, by not registering with a state you will avoid state sales or use tax which can be significant.

WHOOSH 03-10-2004 08:58 PM

In my experience, documenting a boat these days defrays or avoids no state taxing, as the states have become fairly savvy at sharing info and establishing ''sticker'' registration programs for documented vessels. It may take them a bit of time to catch up with you but, unless you''re out cruising and moving fairly quickly thru each state''s waters, you will ultimately be assessed use tax - and it will apply in the state where you are caught vs. a state of yor choice with perhaps a lower rate.


WHOOSH 03-10-2004 09:07 PM


Ahh, just saw your second post. What you''re proposing is a stateless vessel. This will be a problem for you, eventually. Even if you don''t insure and don''t cruise for extended periods inside the U.S., you will some day stay long enough in another country or island nation which has enough of a regulatory presence to wonder why your vessel shouldn''t be registered (and taxed) in their country, since you haven''t done it anywhere else. There are also some protections you would enjoy from the U.S. govt. when in foreign waters, assuming U.S. documentation. But I think the primary benefit is that you instantly ''become'' one nation''s property and therefore be honored as such by all other nations.

E.g. here in the EU I think you''d quickly be challenged if ''stateless'', potentially be liable for VAT (a robust 17.5% here in the UK) and all the waterway and boating-related regulatory obligations forced on EU citizens would be applied to you as a result. These do not apply to us because, by reciprocal treaty agreement, we are considered to be in compliance with EU rules if we comply with our home country''s regulations. You would fall outside this protection when, some day, some bored or industrious local official decided your paperwork was incomplete. (We''ve now reached the subjective part of this discussion...but I would hate to cruise with that hanging over my head).


castan 03-11-2004 10:59 AM

Thank you Jack, but...well we''re not trying to evade or avoid ''taxes''? but we are retired, and will be without property on land, anywhere. We will be a stateless vessel as far as residency is concerned. We have no problem registering our boat with a state while we are in US waters, but... when we leave, and are cruising indefinitly away from the U.S. we will not be state registered because we''ll be out of state, gone, adios, probably never to return. We''ll be cruising and this is all we want. It should be simple but we''re honestly becoming fed up with rules.

Protection ! what kind of protection I wonder, that is not afforded by our repective countries by birth right, regardless of documentation or registration ?

Yes, we''d like to document our boat but we are not allowed to with both of our names on the bill of sale. We can''t document the boat in the UK because my wife is American. We can''t document our boat in the US because I''m a Brit. It''s crazy ! We are joint owners of our boat and we want to document it as such, but we are not allowed to, anywhere.

Arrrggghhhh !

928frenzy 03-11-2004 01:29 PM

Two ideas come to mind, but I don''t KNOW that either of them will work.

1) Perhaps one of you can sell their half to the other (at least on paper) so the 100% owner can then document it in their country.

2) Could a "Flag of convenience" suit your needs? I think Panama and/or Nigeria allow foreign vessels to register as theirs, and are thus able to get documentaion and insurance.

~ Good luck, and happy sails to you ~ _/) ~

WHOOSH 03-11-2004 08:10 PM

A follow-up of sorts to an earlier point I made: I had a lengthy chat just yesterday with a British couple who have extensive cruising experience thru-out Europe and who currently are in the Med. To my surprise, they mentioned that port clearance issues in Spain and France have now been modified significantly due to the increasing amount of yacht-borne drug trafficking the officials are seeing. This discussion was on the same day the 10 terrorist bombs were exploded in 3 Spanish railway stations (the equivalent of bombs going off in regional airports around the U.S.).

The discussion reminded me of how formalities, security issues, legal/police activity and other ''issues'' dealt with by cruising sailors continue to change and provide an uncertain climate at times. To carry Nigerian/Liberian/Panamanian paperwork into the midst this existing confusion and anxiety really does seem a poor idea. Perhaps I''ve previously understated the security that comes with your (or any boat) being flagged in a well-recognized country.


castan 03-13-2004 06:21 AM

I think we''ll form a ''Limited Company'' and register in the UK. It seems the easiest of the few options. We''ll fly the Red Ensign.

My wife is a little apprehensive about flying the US flag outside of US waters for fear of being more of a ''target''.

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