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post #1 of 14 Old 03-15-2013 Thread Starter
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Question USCG Certificate of Documentation

I just purchased a W27, which at some point in its life was registered with the US Coast Guard and given a Certificate of Documentation.

If you have experience with this, please chime in. What are the benefits?

I'm not operating as a business or trading. Just recreation.

Fairwinds, Ryan
s/v Miss Marisol
1978 Watkins 27

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post #2 of 14 Old 03-15-2013
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Re: USCG Certificate of Documentation

If you're planning on leaving the country on your boat you will need documentation. Most other countries don't recognize or care about state registration, they will want to see federal documentation of the boat. Think of it as kind of like a real estate deed, it's more of a verification of ownership.

If the boat is documented, then you don't have to put state registration numbers on the hull (actually you are not supposed to put state reg. numbers on the hull of a documented vessel). You still have to register the boat and display the sticker (in most states, Florida included), but you don't have to worry about displaying numbers.

Also, most banks require federal documentation before they will write a mortgage on the boat. You would have already dealt with this if you were getting a loan for the boat though.

If you are not planning on leaving the country then it's not really necessary, but many people still document their boats, especially if they've been documented before. It also helps trace ownership, as long as every owner documents.

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post #3 of 14 Old 03-15-2013
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Re: USCG Certificate of Documentation

Argyle38 nailed the response.
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post #4 of 14 Old 03-16-2013
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Re: USCG Certificate of Documentation

It only costs about $100 to document your boat and that is a one time fee. Renewals are free.
If you live in a state that doesn't require state registration of a documented boat, it will save you some money. I live in VA that doesn't require it. I'm on my 3rd documented boat and have never paid for registration.
Also, love not having state numbers plastered on my bow.
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post #5 of 14 Old 03-16-2013
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Re: USCG Certificate of Documentation

Ryan, CONGRATULATIONS! Somehow I missed the fact that you'd bought a boat. That's AWESOME!

I'm going to be going through this process, too, so thanks for starting this thread!
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post #6 of 14 Old 03-17-2013
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Re: USCG Certificate of Documentation

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Originally Posted by SoOkay View Post
Argyle38 nailed the response.
Although it should be noted that many states now do not recognize Federal Documentation. In theory, it is registration for vessels that are too itinerant to be considered based in a single state, those engaged in international or coastal trade, etc. It is also supposed to be the gold standard of proof of ownership.

My boat is documented in a non-title state (Maine). If I were to decide to move to Maryland, the documentation would not be accepted as proof of ownership. I would have to go back to my storage unit in Maine (I’m a full time liveaboard), dig out my original title from Michigan and the whole paper trail of bills of sale since in order to register. I left all that paperwork there because I thought I had the ultimate proof of ownership when the majesty of the U.S. government was put behind my ownership. Wrong.

Although it is enforced rarely, if you have a documented vessel without a state registration, you are subject to a heavy fine by any local cop the minute you cross the border into Florida. This has been covered by Cruisers.net and here:

I'll Never go to Florida Again - SailboatOwners.com

The presents a problem for cruisers like myself since my home state does not have a registration system for documented vessels. Owners of Maine documented vessel are supposed to pay a local excise tax and receive a decal but I’ve never seen the decal on a boat up there. Florida laws are so poorly explained and understood by the sometimes aggressive local law enforcement that I expect you could spend considerable time and money proving that the decal, which does not come with any state paperwork you can show, constitutes “state registration”. It’s really local registration.

The only way I can cross the Florida border 100% legally, it to go to Florida ahead of time and apply in person at a county tax office for a Florida state registration for which I need to have a physical Florida address, i.e., a street and not a mail box in the county at which I appear to make the application. Note that this is a county function whereas it is not clear that Florida accepts the local Maine excise tax as “state registration”.

Obviously, there are lots of Maine documented vessels and others without state registration cruising in Florida without a problem. However, every once in a while, a local cop gets questioned about how much time he’s spending running around in the town police boat and needs to go out and bring in some money to justify it. The state registration issue has been used often to fund BIU (Boating In Uniform).

BTW don’t bother mentioning the Sojourner’s Permit. It’s a separate issue and you can’t get it without complying with the above.

It is only inconsistent and infrequent enforcement that prevents this whole situation from being a big problem for full time cruisers. As states budgets get squeezed and they look for additional revenue, it will become worse. A wandering snowbird like myself, even with a documented vessel, could have three or more states claiming the need to register due to different requirements, legal residence, 30 day stay, 90 day stay, preponderance of use (Maryland), lack of other state registration (Florida), etc. You can only register in one state so 100% compliance with the law could have you sitting at borders for days while the paperwork gets done. I don’t even know when I enter a state whether I might become subject to registration requirements because I don’t have any fixed plans. It’s crazy.
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post #7 of 14 Old 03-17-2013
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Re: USCG Certificate of Documentation

Roger, the Florida laws are all on the web. They require registration of motor vehicles, including boats with auxiliary engines, within 90 days of arrival. You do not have to go there in advance, and if some bubba sheriff tries that con on you, he knows very well that he's wrong but that's one reason why Southern Justice is so well respected in much of the US. (Not.)

Florida is not the only state with that reputation. Motorists on I95 have complained about rip-offs for decades. Maryland has three school zones established on roads where there are no schools, or residences, simply in order to double speeding fines. Virginia still band radar detectors, even though the USSC spanked CT for doing the same thing over 20 years ago, and CT dropped their ban as a result.

Scoundrels and bullies are all over, not just among Florida watercops.
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post #8 of 14 Old 03-17-2013
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Re: USCG Certificate of Documentation

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Roger, the Florida laws are all on the web.
Yes, but read them carefully and then see the interpretations obtained directly from the FL tax people in the threads I provided links to.
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post #9 of 14 Old 03-17-2013
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Re: USCG Certificate of Documentation

No need to chase URLS in long threads that link to more URLS, Roger.
Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes : Online Sunshine

That's the Florida law and if you notice it mentions the "90 day reciprocity period". You've got 90 days to obtain Florida numbers if you already have other state numbers, or a USCG documentation because your home state doesn't issue state numbers.
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Re: USCG Certificate of Documentation

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
No need to chase URLS in long threads ..
The problem, according to the FL tax people in the URL's you didn't chase down, is that Maine does have a numbering system, but not for federally documented vessels. Therefore, #2 does not apply.

They could be completely wrong about this legally but proving it would cost a lot more than the fine and take a few years the way the court system works.

Their position is that, since I could give up my documentation and come to Florida with Maine numbers on the bow, my documentation does not constitute reciprocity.

The whole thing is completely screwy and it is quite possible that, the next time someone checks with the tax office, they'll be told you are right. However, given the bad law enforcement climate in Florida, I don't want to be arguing the point with some local cop.

Last edited by Roger Long; 03-17-2013 at 04:18 PM.
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