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Old 02-03-2011, 10:38   #1
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Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

I have a question regarding a post by Bash on Berg's On My Way thread. Rather than derail that thread, I'll ask here.

Bash - Our friend just bought himself a lifetime of suspicion on every list maintained be the Department of Homeland Security. Even if he crews on someone else's boat, and that boat gets boarded by the US Coast Guard, that boat is going to be searched stem to stern for drugs.

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My questions is pretty simple. If stopped by the Coasties, do they run your registration, say like when you get stopped for a traffic violation? Do they check for warrants, by running your driver's license through their system? Will the crewmembers be checked out as well?

If you make port in another country, or if returning to the USA from a foreign country, will names on a crew list have a background check done on them? Will criminal records be discovered when the passports are checked in the system?

Bash's post seemed a bit far-fetched, but started me thinking....

Something to think about if you find yourself in need of crew someday. How can I, as captain, do a background check on a potential crewmember?
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Old 02-03-2011, 10:47   #2
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

I believe Immigration runs your passport numbers through their system when you check in, and that could spot issues with your crew. The Coast Guard in the past was notorious for not having a good system for keeping track of yachts, leading to things like multiple boardings and inspections of the same folks over and over again as they went down the coast. I suspect that these days they have a better system. I also know that they have low-flying aircraft that survey areas known for drug smugglers, etc., and I guess that they might somehow be keeping track of certain vessels in these areas. I once owned a boat that had the same name as some other boat that must have been on a watch list because I was stopped multiple times and questioned about where I had been, etc.
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Old 02-03-2011, 10:50   #3
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

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Something to think about if you find yourself in need of crew someday. How can I, as captain, do a background check on a potential crewmember?
Just like when you apply for lots of jobs, rent an apartment, etc etc...........you can get a release to have a background check run on a person. Ask at the local police station and I bet they can help with the needed form.

I never had thought about it much, but seems like a good idea before putting you boat and life in some unknown person's hands.
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Old 02-03-2011, 10:51   #4
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

The time I was stopped and boarded, they only wanted to see the "captain's" drivers license, which they only glanced at and gave back to me. Then they did an inspection of my fire extinguishers, holding tank, etc.

I don't think they ever even asked my passenger her name although one of the guys did chat her up for quite a while.

Then again, I didn't particularly look suspicious, I was obviously just day-sailing, and they stopped me because my bow light was on upside down. D'oh!
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Old 02-03-2011, 10:51   #5
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

It's like the regular police. They can just have a chat with you, they can run your registration, they can board and search you, or they can do pretty much anything else within the scope of their authority. And just as a reminder they have the right to board and search any vessel without a warrant; always have.

A few months ago we had them fly up on our stern and hang 20' off our beam in 25 knots of wind around midnight in open water, asking questions about our departure and heading, folks on board, etc.

We've been boarded at the dock just as part of a routine inspection. They looked for placards, flares, and checked the Y valve on the head (back before we went composting).

I wouldn't get tinfoil hat about watch lists and the such. If they want to charge you with something they will, and if it's a felony then you'll be a federal felon which will probably greatly reduce your chances of clearing into a lot of other countries (there was a thread on here about that a while ago). You could lie about it, but that carries its own risks.

Hire captains that are licensed with the USCG; you'll never have to worry about their legal status. Bring along friends and crew that you know quite well or can be otherwise vouched for. If you're really concerned you can spend ~$20 on a background check.
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Old 02-03-2011, 10:53   #6
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

I use this for checking out prospective tenants.... Prob good enough for crew too
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Old 02-03-2011, 10:57   #7
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

The Coast Guard has access to the National Driver Register (NDR) but I believe that they only use it for checking on mariner certifications. In Florida you are not required to have a driver's license to operate a recreational vessel (some other restrictions though may apply) only a photographic proof of ID.
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Old 02-03-2011, 11:05   #8
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

When USCG comes calling. Be polite, offer Coffe or a soda, If you was boarded recently then have proof of that boarding available. Assist them during the boarding and remember; Any faults they find with your vessel is a way of finding the weak points that you have overlooked in preparation of your voyage. Have your Identification on hand for their perusal. Did I say be polite? Yes be polite... You have to remember these are armed young men who are very nervous until you have provided your bonifides. So be Nice and have good to excellent coffee availabe.
This aways worked for me...
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Old 02-03-2011, 11:24   #9
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

There is no universal procedure which applies to all boardings in regards to "crew checks". Also, the level of "inquiry" will vary by jurisdiction based on the authoritive nature of each individual commander and how he chooses to run his station. Just as all land based police agencies are reflective of the local culture and the authoritative views of each individual Police Chief. Having experienced boardings on the West Coast, East Coast, and Hawaii I can tell you that each experience was decidedly different in the initial approach of the officers. But one thing which prevailed was that simple politeness and courtesy won the day on all occasions.

In as far as traveling internationally, the easiest way to conduct a background check is to have the person goto their local police station and have their prints ran and secure a report of their criminal history. Many places will require this if you care to apply for an extended stay Visa (more than 3 months). Each police agency will vary in the thoroughness of those criminal history reports (rap sheets). Some will only be local checks, whereas others will be simple NCIC reports (which really don't provide any detailed information outside of arrests and contacts (they don't detail case disposal information so you don't necessarily know if someone was actually convicted of anything after they had a contact with police). But the value to you, the boat owner, is it displays that you've engaged due diligence, and should suffice to remove any associative suspicion from you should a crew turn out to have a fairly well hidden, or old criminal history.
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Old 02-03-2011, 11:49   #10
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

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Then again, I didn't particularly look suspicious, I was obviously just day-sailing, and they stopped me because my bow light was on upside down. D'oh!
I don't know why that struck me as a funny infraction, but it did.
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Old 02-03-2011, 11:54   #11
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

Thanks for the nice replies.

Along with my recent invoice from our marina, there was a notice "Ticket Prevention Safety Seminar". I will get a Vessel Safety Inspection by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, and will be on my best behavior if/when I get boarded.
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Old 02-03-2011, 12:31   #12
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

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How can I, as captain, do a background check on a potential crewmember?
For US citizens, you can require a TWIC card. Have them fill out an application and submit it.
http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/layers...gram_info.shtm
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Old 02-03-2011, 13:02   #13
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

I second the notion about being as courteous and polite to them as they are to you.

I do not believe in unquestioning respect for authority but in the case of the USCG I suspect they are much more likely to be in their position because they like the water and boats than because they got rejected by Xe (Blackwater)

I'd also bear in mind that while you probably don't fear being shot or stabbed by them they have no reason to think that you might not try to do that to them. They are after all looking for things and people that can cause trouble.


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Old 02-03-2011, 18:04   #14
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

Never carry my wallet while on the boat unless I'm cruising, Just day sailing no I.D.
Never have been asked for it in 50 yrs of sailing USA waters, not that they might someday just never have checked it,
Just e polire and it will be over shortly.
I have a different opinion about some of the morons from DHS.
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Old 02-03-2011, 19:18   #15
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Re: Stopped by the Coast Guard - Now What?

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Never have been asked for it in 50 yrs of sailing USA waters, not that they might someday just never have checked it,
The very first time we took Senta II out, maybe 30 minutes after leaving the dock, we got boarded outside Mission Bay. The children (they looked to be in their teens, with a nice bow mounted heavy duty machine gun on the bow) had a brief discussion about who should board us. When I asked if we should put out fenders they assured us that wouldn't be needed ... they were wrong, but no visible damage

They did run both our drivers' licenses while they did the inspection.

Nice kids and for all I know it was their first inspection too



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