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Old 03-25-2015, 03:36 AM   #1
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Documenting or registration

I am purchasing a trawler that has only been registered in Florida but I am told it is better to get the vessel CG Documented if traveling to bahamas and beyond!
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Old 03-25-2015, 04:25 AM   #2
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There was an extensive recent discussion on that topic, but I'd only add since then, the documentation was finally processed last week on a boat we bought in October 2014. For us it was just a transfer ("exchange") for a boat that had been previously documented, from one owner to the next. Prepare to wait about half a year to have the documentation processed.
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Old 03-25-2015, 04:49 AM   #3
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If you finance the boat it will probably need to be documented as a requirement of the loan. This gives the lender more rights when the boat is out of the US.


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Old 03-25-2015, 07:00 AM   #4
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documentation

I've had both. Boats documented and boats registered with the state. I prefer to be state registered. It's simpler when you sell. Plus, I don't need the government knowing my business, like where I am or where I'm going. But, that's just me. My present boat is financed and documentation never came up. You wont save paying sales tax in your state, so there is no benefit, in my opinion. Although, I have only been inside the USA with my boat.
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Old 03-25-2015, 07:50 AM   #5
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Greetings,
Mr. W. It is my understanding that documentation is a federal process whilst registration or licensing is a state process. If traveling to another country, it could be more acceptable to the other countries border officials if your boat had a "passport" (documentation) as opposed to a "driver's license" (registration) upon entry. What Mr. I posted is applicable as well.
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Old 03-25-2015, 08:30 AM   #6
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We bought our latest boat around the 1st of June of last year. It took the USCG until just before Christmas last year to send us the Documents and it was only a transfer.

In our case Documentation allowed us to avoid sales tax from our the state. It also in some states allows you to skip the states registration process. Documentation is a personal preference and like RTF said most countries ( if you travel outside the U.S.) prefer it over just a state registration. Your banker may too.

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Old 03-25-2015, 08:53 AM   #7
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I don't mean to keep harping on the delay issue, but the really troublesome thing is that they take a year and a half to process a satisfaction of lien. In other words if you finance your boat and the lender is recorded on your documentation, it will be a year and a half before the payoff is processed and reflected on the boat's documentation. With delay times like that, the ownership and all other data shown in the system is really meaningless, or even worse, an obstacle to subsequent sales transactions. If this situation affected more people it would get some media attention and be a national embarrassment.
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Old 03-25-2015, 10:03 AM   #8
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The words "Bahamas and beyond" make the decision for you. Many countries will not accept state registration for a US boat. And what is also important is that some customs agents see it as an opportunity to receive a tip.
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Old 03-25-2015, 10:13 AM   #9
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I agree with RTF especially when crossing borders and clearing customs. Documentation services can speed up the process. Can you do both? USCG Documentation is cheap, so if state registered the wait should not be an issue.
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Old 03-25-2015, 10:30 AM   #10
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An advantage to documenting a boat is that there is a permanent record of who's owned it. Our boat was documented by all its previous owners so it was easy to do a "title search," so to speak, to trace its history.

We documented the boat when we bought it. It was given the same number it had always had and the process was easy and quick.

Washington State requires a boat be registered even if it's documented. However a documented boat does not have to display the registration number, only the annual registration sticker.

Our boat has long been "on file" with Canadian customs. These days when we enter Canada at a POE I don't get any farther than telling the agent the name of the boat. At that point he or she reads me the boat's documentation number and our names and passport numbers. I confirm them, the agent asks the usual liquor, firearms and food questions and we're done and on our way.
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Old 03-25-2015, 12:12 PM   #11
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An advantage to documenting a boat is that there is a permanent record of who's owned it. Our boat was documented by all its previous owners so it was easy to do a "title search," so to speak, to trace its history.
Yes, but if that ownership information could be six or eight months or a year obsolete, you really can't rely on it for very much, so it doesn't do you much good other than for historical curiosity on long-past ownership.

Anyway, in answer to the question of doing both (state and fed), we did both. We transferred (exchanged) the federal documentation because (1) the previous owner documented the boat already, (2) we'll likely be taking the boat to the Canadian shore of the Great Lakes eventually (although Canada will most often accept state registrations anyway), and (3) frankly, I don't like state registration numbers cluttering the look of my hull -- although that's a silly reason I know. We also state registered it because (1) most states (although not quite all, as a previous poster said) do require state registration of documented vessels, as does our state, and (2) even it if weren't required, in this part of the country federal documentation of boats is very rare and I don't want the hassle of explaining and debating federal boat documentation to every water cop. As it is, I suspect I'm going to be fighting tickets for failure to display the state registration numbers. We also got a state title for it, which I know you're not supposed to do for documented vessels, but we simply can't wait six months to a year for a fed certificate. Around the time of the transaction itself you need a title or *something* for the bank if you have a loan on it, insurance, to pay the state sales tax (if your state assesses sales tax), to do the state registration, and to sell it to the next buyer if you don't hold the boat for very long.

And then even the delay aside, even after they finally processed our paperwork from last October, if you search our boat right now (USCG No. 116435, Xanadu), the expiration date in the database shows Dec 31, 2014, but my certificate shows March 31, 2016, and the tonnage shown is actually pounds, not tons, even though we reported it correctly and clearly on the exchange application.

I think it's already gotten to the point where federal documentation for recreational vessels -- unless you're going to leave North America entirely --is kind of a cute little relic of the original intent, a way to make your boat a little saltier or nautical, but unless and until they catch up and the information in the database is generally current and accurate, it doesn't serve much purpose -- and in fact can create a serious hassle if the liens, loans, and especially satisfactions are processed months or literally years after they took place. (processing 2013 for satisfactions currently)
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Old 03-25-2015, 12:16 PM   #12
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We've documented our last three vessels purely for vanity reasons. If we registered with the state we had to put registration numbers on the bow. Didn't like how it looked. Documented and put the #'s deep inside the boat instead.

With our travel plans we had to document anyways, but the real reason we "wanted" to document is above
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Old 03-25-2015, 12:21 PM   #13
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In addition to all that has be already said:

Federal documentation renewal used to be free. Now it costs $26 each year.

Federal documentation lets a transient live aboard never pay sales, use or property tax as long as he doesn't stay in any taxing state more than 3 months.

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Old 03-25-2015, 03:05 PM   #14
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Federal documentation lets a transient live aboard never pay sales, use or property tax as long as he doesn't stay in any taxing state more than 3 months.
Yes, on our documented vessel, we have never paid sales, use or property taxes. I believe Oregon has a sales tax free boat purchase arrangement. How and where to document/register can be a million + dollar decision for some big yachts.
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Old 03-25-2015, 03:35 PM   #15
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dj-your assertion that federal documentation protects a liveaboard from a state levying sales or use tax is incorrect. No state that imposes sales or use taxes that I am aware of exempts a boat based on whether or not it is documented. The only thing documentation does, in some states, is relieve you of the obligation to register in your state, as has been noted. All states that do impose such taxes do so based on (1) the time the boat is in the jurisdiction and (2) some determination of the boat's value. The required times in state can vary widely and the means of a state valuing the boat vary pretty widely.

The key point is all states that do levy such taxes is the location of the boat. That is the only issue those states care about. If the boat is located in such a state for longer than the statutorily allowed time, the owner is quite likely to be assessed required taxes and may, depending on the state, be required to register the boat in that state.

That said, some states do have some exemptions available and enforcement varies widely state to state. For instance, CA and FLA, especially CA, tend to be pretty forceful enforcers. My state, Washington, is becoming more interested in seeking out boats in the state longer than allowed.
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Old 03-25-2015, 03:51 PM   #16
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Yes, but if that ownership information could be six or eight months or a year obsolete, you really can't rely on it for very much, so it doesn't do you much good other than for historical curiosity on long-past ownership.
That's kind of the point. Our boat had four previous owners and the documentation information had the name of the boat with each owner and where they lived. Turned out that one of the previous boat names was known to our broker and we were able to contact that previous owner and get some information about the boat we had just purchased. We would not have been able to do this without the documentation record.
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Old 03-25-2015, 04:24 PM   #17
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Actually a lot of things are changing with documentation. Many of the delays were before moving the office and before enhancing the systems. Now there are many options. First, you may now file by email, using a PDF application. Second, you may now follow up on all paperwork and it's status online. This will show you the documents have been received and are being worked on. The TCOD (temporary certificate of documentation) is being discontinued with this in place. Third, they will expedite applications if contacted and told of an urgent need. For instance, you're going to be taking the boat out of the country.

As to current status, they are still considerably behind on non-expedited applications for recreational vessels. As of 3/20, they are processing the applications received on November 28. They have shortened that time and are working to shorten it further. Commercial and expedited applications are taking about 15 days. Mortgage and Lien Filings are still quite a bit behind.

They had a very bad situation and are being very transparent about it while working to improve it. I don't know what success they'll have but the fact one can look up applications online and also can look at where they stand on processing to me is at least a positive sign.

Now back to the original question. Many people to to other countries all the time on nothing but state registrations. However, it just takes one time that someone doesn't understand or doesn't want to accept to ruin a trip, so I recommend those traveling out of the country to document. Mortgages obviously require documentation. Vessels used in coastwise trade and vessels over 5 tons used for fishing (commercial) must be documented. Towboats and dredges must be documented.

Documentation won't save you money. At least not more than a registration fee in some states. Some states don't require registration of documented vessels. In Florida the only thing it changes is having to put the numbers on the boat. Instead you put a sticker.

Any vessel over 5 tons may be documented. If you don't fit in the situations described above, there's really no strong reason to do so. We do cruise to other countries so we did document.
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Old 03-25-2015, 05:18 PM   #18
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BandB- Thanks for the explanation of the current status of the documentation folks.
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Old 03-25-2015, 05:24 PM   #19
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Not sure what states allow tax free purchasing concerning sales tax but I know Fl and NJ didn't as of several years ago.

Be careful, states with use tax as in NJ have had its tax court basically laugh at registration and time in state issues.
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Old 03-25-2015, 05:31 PM   #20
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...a documented boat does not have to display the registration number, only the annual registration sticker...
We're in FL currently and it's the same down here. One sticker (for doc & state reg) or a bunch of letters and numbers on both sides plus the sticker for state registration only. An other reason to document.
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