Note despite what is being said here, Once you are not a Tax resident of teh EU, you are entitled to 18 months
before vat is due. ( the limit was raised from 6 months several years ago).
If you are a EU tax resident, you have no
period of grace, VAT is due at the point of import
immediately as it is on all goods. there are some wrinkles to this if you bond the vessel.
There is no
derogation from VAT using "yacht in transit" claims, "ship in transits" rules only apply to commercial
vessels. Interesting some chandlers still will allow "yacht in transit" VAT deductions but they should know better.
Some countries have specific "sail away" schemes that mean you do not have to pay VAT on a new boat , or its equipment, once you undertake to remove it from the EU within 3 months of purchase
. ( if you are a non resident you can then comeback for 18 months without VAT). Other countries have not worjed up such schemes, but VAT law entitles you to this and an application can be made to customs to sort this out.
Note that most dealers, still require you to pay the VAT which is held by them ( the dealer) until you show proof of export. This is because VAT is the responsibility of the seller.
Note there is NO requirement to apply for the 18 month VAt excemption, you are entitled to it by law. just maintain a log etc , in case you are ever challenged ( the risk is virtually zero)
Note the Schengen system isnt crazy, at its heart is a provision that is the same as the US, 90 days in 180, treating the EU ( Schengen area) as one country.( just like the US).
In practice as was mentioned, yachties are generally turned a blind eye to. Europe is a yacht friendly area and port officials arnt that interest in being difficult.
Airports are a different matter.
Its unfortunate that the issues are often clouded by people relating their own experiences often from periods past when the rules have changed.