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Old 01-04-2008, 18:58   #16
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Starting with the assumption that one is a US citizen who travels frequently by their own boat in and out of US waters, USVI and BVI is a prime example, one can show up at a US Customs and Immigration office and request a Local Boaters Option Card. You will need to have your passport with you and your boat's paperwork. A form will be provided for you to fill out with basic information about your home address, homeport, telephone number and vessel info. The officer will input all of this into the computer system and then create a "card" that has your name and a card number on it. On the back of my card is a list of numbers to call depending on where I am entering the USVI at, there is St John, St Thomas, St Croix, and at least four numbers for Puerto Rico. With this in hand you are allowed to sail into the US and call in to clear customs over the phone as long as the following conditions are met.

You were on a boat that is registered in the system
All persons on vessel have a "card" and number
You check in within 24hrs of making US landfall
You are recreational boaters and not commercial

The system works well, the call takes less then a minute. The cpatain can call for all passangers. I think in the fine print it says that US Customs have the right to inspect vessel if they choose to which has never happened to me in more than a year and many uses. There is no fee for the card and it works well for locals, thus the "Local Boaters" is in the name. In BVI if you are very polite they can clear you in and out at the same time if you are not going to be there for more than four days, they have been kind enough to make exceptions in the past. Which makes long weekends in the BVI a breeze for doing it "right".

If you have any further questions feel free to ask.
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Old 01-04-2008, 19:15   #17
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The system works well, the call takes less then a minute. The cpatain can call for all passangers. I think in the fine print it says that US Customs have the right to inspect vessel if they choose to which has never happened to me in more than a year and many uses. There is no fee for the card and it works well for locals, thus the "Local Boaters" is in the name. In BVI if you are very polite they can clear you in and out at the same time if you are not going to be there for more than four days, they have been kind enough to make exceptions in the past. Which makes long weekends in the BVI a breeze for doing it "right".

If you have any further questions feel free to ask.
Thank you.
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Old 02-04-2008, 03:54   #18
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Rubikoop,

Good information! The Local Boaters card is new since I was there. When using it, do you still have to have the annual US Customs decal ($25/yr) for the boat when you call in?

In the BVI, the best I could get for check in/out at the same time was the statutory 24 hours, no matter how nice I was. Have you been able to get that concession at all customs/immigration locations, or one in particular?

Thanks,
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Old 02-04-2008, 05:18   #19
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Rubikoop,

Good information! The Local Boaters card is new since I was there. When using it, do you still have to have the annual US Customs decal ($25/yr) for the boat when you call in?

In the BVI, the best I could get for check in/out at the same time was the statutory 24 hours, no matter how nice I was. Have you been able to get that concession at all customs/immigration locations, or one in particular?

Thanks,
Hud3

I have never heard of the annual US Customs decal. So I guess the answer is NO. None of my local boating friends have the Customs decal. What is it?

Here is a link to some info regarding the Local Boaters Option Card, please read and confirm that the info I have given you is correct as I was doing it from my poor memory Local Boater Option Registration Available for PGSC

At Jost Van Dyke I have never had a problem getting a three day clear in and out, last year got one much longer just by asking. At Roadtown last year cleared in and out for a Thursday to Monday trip with no problems. The Jost people may recognize me from using their office more than a dozen times last year. I am always very polite, make small talk about the weather or whatever, have all forms filled out on boat before entry and thank them for their efficiency profusely when they are done. Perhaps by having forms completed correctly and in hand with enough small bills in my possesssion so that the correct change is available it helps, I don't know.
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Old 02-04-2008, 12:26   #20
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Thanks for the info, Rubikoop. Here's some regarding the customs decal.

When I sailed over to Culebra from St. Thomas three years ago, if I had not had a decal number to quote over the phone to PR customs, I would have had to physically go to an office to clear in. Here's some more info on the US Customs decal, from their website (some irrelevant stuff edited out).

User Fee Decals and Transponders - CBP.gov.

Decals are stickers that are placed on all private aircraft and private vessels (30 feet or more in length) as proof that the User Fee for entry into the U.S. has been paid for the calendar year. If a vessel or aircraft does not have a decal upon entering the U.S., an application must be completed and a User Fee purchased when reporting to CBP. The decal will be mailed from the processing center.

User Fee Payment Required
Payment of the User Fee is required if:
  • You operate a private vessel that is 30 feet or more in length that enters the United States.
  • In order to qualify as a private vessel requiring a decal, the vessel cannot carry passengers who pay a fare.
Cost of Annual User Fee
2007 costs of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) User Fees are as follows:
  • Private Vessel Decal (30 feet or more in length): $27.50 (U.S.) per calendar year
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Old 02-04-2008, 19:21   #21
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Thanks for the info. I have a feeling the Local Boaters Card eliminates the need for the decal. I forwarded your info to some friends here with boats and none of them had heard of it either. Many of them may not always clear in and out as required by law too. The penalties for getting caught are too much to justify a nominal fee and a few minutes of time, at least to me anyway.
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Old 06-04-2008, 07:20   #22
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You will need the decal to return to US territory. I do the Bahamas run from Florida and the system works great. Saves allot of time and expense.
I did not know I could use it to go from BVI to USVI, I was told by one of the custom officials that it was good for Florida residence only. Just goes to show you how messed up the customs and immigration office is.
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Old 06-04-2008, 07:33   #23
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We enjoyed a New Years Eve celebration at Foxies in 2001 but were anchored off the Maho Bay Campground. Rather then taking the boat to Foxies we travelled via cab and ferry. Lotta fun except for clearing back in at 3 in the morning.

I would think a day trip by ferry would be much more pleasant.
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Old 06-04-2008, 08:13   #24
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Well I guess I was one of the first to get on the local boaters option plan. Turns out that it started with just Florida residents in 2006 and is now open to all US residents. Here is the goverment link by location. U.S. Customs and Border Protection - Travel
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Old 06-04-2008, 08:25   #25
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Good link, Scott. It's got everything you need to know.
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Old 22-04-2008, 13:18   #26
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Well today I applied and received my Local Boater Registration under the Local Boat Option (LBO) program. I had called my local customs office several times and initially they indicated if was for only for Florida residence who were returning by boat from Bahamas. I was using the Panama City Customs and they really don't get many if any recreational boaters coming in as the first port of entry so they were a bit out of date with the changes. After some time I was able to get an appointment and it took about half an hour because they had never done it before but it was not a problem. They were very interested in learning about it and the changes since they had received training on the subject.

With the Ships Documents and my Passport we were able to finish the process and I'm ready to go. I'll be giving the system a try in about two weeks when I return to Tortola and make a single handed run to Red Hook. Hopefully I will not have to fight my way into Cruze Bay and make my way to the Customs Office anymore... just no place to anchor and ferry traffic is heavy.

I've asked my more frequent "crews" to apply to their local Customs offices as the program appears to allow none masters to also obtain the registration.

We will let you know how all this works out when we get the opportunity.
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Old 22-04-2008, 13:25   #27
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...Hopefully I will not have to fight my way into Cruze Bay and make my way to the Customs Office anymore... just no place to anchor and ferry traffic is heavy.

We will let you know how all this works out when we get the opportunity.
Well, that will be a BIG improvement! Look forward to hearing how it goes for you.
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Old 22-04-2008, 14:24   #28
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Reality Check you should have no problems. I used the card 10 days ago and the person answering the phone did not even bother to ask any of the usual questions. Such as: Where did you and your vessel enter the VI? When did you enter the VI? What was your last port of call? They are either getting more relaxed or are beginning to recognize my boat name and no longer bother to ask so many questions. Do you keep your vessel at AYH?
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Old 22-04-2008, 14:38   #29
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I keep it at Nanny Cay on Tortola but like to take a mooring at Waterlemon for a few days and snorkel and hike. After checking out of BVI in West End, It was always a real bummer to have to go all the way to Cruze Bay and back to Waterlemon when it is less than a mile from West End to Waterlemon.

AYH isn't a big fav of mine... had a credit card taken by the office staff during check out and I didn't notice it until almost at Yost Van Dyke. By the time I got back in to Red Hook... they didn't have the card but several relatively small charges appeared on my bill, some shoes and home supplies... all in all about $300.00 but the card company took the off... seems it was not the first time this has occurred at Red Hook's AYH.

By the way... it appears you do still need the Boarder Crossing Decal even with the Local Boaters Registration... And Red Hook AYH in the winter is a really rough place to be, wind and seas plow into the place constantly with no breakwater. I only go when I have to pick up someone who isn't coming to BVI via ferry.
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Old 22-04-2008, 15:58   #30
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I've never actually been in Watermelon. Frequently take day trips to Francis and for longer trips we go on to the BVIs. It looks like a nice protected area. I just reread all of the info regarding the Border Crossing Decal and it would appear that I should have one. Even if only by 1' on my 31' sailboat. In the past couple of years my boat has cleared back into US (USVI) waters from the BVI dozens and dozens of times and I have never been asked about it upon my return home. My close friends on both power and sailing vessels have done likewise and they were not aware of any decal either until I brought it up to them from this thread. Now that we all have and use LBO cards we never even see CBP face to face.
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