All correct regarding the need to be a US citizen to federally document a vessel in the US... however anyone can register a vessel in any state of the US and probably any nation, as well.
I'm a roving Yank sailor and (up until now) have never bothered with federal documentation. Our state registrations were accepted in every foreign port across the Pacific, SE Asia
, Indian Ocean
, Red Sea, Mediterranean
... even though they had long expired.
On the rare occasion when a port official mentioned the fact that the registration was out of date - I simply apologized and and said we were "just trying to get home, Sir".
It was NEVER a problem.
(mostly in harbour pubs) that some French Territories have a problem with US state registrations and I've heard tales of fines, bonds, cheap
wine and nuclear testing, etc... but have yet to actually meet anyone who has had any first hand problems with French officials in this regard.
From my own personal experience with "the Check-in Shuffle" the vast majority of officials look at us pleasure sailors as a fly on their cake when my wife and I walk into their office and would much rather not have to be bothered with us. Their main concern is cargo, commerce, smuggling and big shipping
matters and we yachties are just more paperwork.
For example: The "official" word while traveling the Greek Isles is that "one must check into every
port" but when I asked about this "necessity" while checking in at Rhodes... the man in uniform looked me in the eye and said "Don't Ask" and gave us a wink & a smile.
The same was true with Malaysia
time flags were ever
mentioned by any uniformed officials was in regard to our yellow Q Flag.
time registrations were ever a real issue was when we'd been in a US port long enough and that we really should register the boat locally... which we gladly do.
I carry old flags and boat registrations from California
& the US Virgin Islands
(Guam was cheapest) and I freely admit that I'm usually guilty of operating vessels with expired registrations within a year of departure. I always do my best to comply with local requirements, yet I certainly do not believe I'm guilty of any real "crime" other than having too much fun to be bothered with keeping paperwork up-to-date.
Furthermore - I freely admit that I've flown flags of many colors whenever the notion suited me (one would be crazy
to fly the Stars & Bars in the Persian Gulf right now) including a big Peace Sign and a Don't Tread On Me flag.
And foreign officials have never made an issue of it anytime, anywhere.
From my experience - most Port Authorities (including customs & immigration) are primarily interested to see that the names on the boat documents match at least one of those on the passports.
If you have nothing to hide and stay out of trouble, you have little to worry about.
In a Perfect World there would be no Flags or Borders... or people giving me $#*t for not doing things their
That's why Aye prefer life at sea!