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Old 19-01-2008, 15:18   #1
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Does Florida Really want us there?

The following is a C&P from cruisernet.net and should be of interest to anyone heading to Floriduh

The combination message and reproduction of correspondence below comes to us from Captain Bob Austin. The collective hats of the cruising community should be off to Captain Bob for delving into this complex, and seemingly dynamic situation. The most alarming aspect of this in-depth, and at times hard to follow discussion, is that there is a good chance the 90 day grace period before it was necessary to register your boat in Florida (i. e. obtain a Sojourners Permit), may be a thing of the past in certain circumstances.
All of us at the SSECN strongly suggest that you read Captain Bob's data, and the reproduced messages from the state's Captain Alan Richard below, and form your own informed opinion. By the way, Captain Alan Richard IS a friend to the cruising community as well. It was, in my opinion, his testimony in the Marco Island Anchoring Controversy trial that resulted in Judge Crown's ruling in favor of cruisers' interests!
WE WOULD WELCOME MORE INPUT FROM THE CRUISING COMMUNITY REGARDING THIS COMPLEX SITUATION!!! Plesae make a posting if can shed any light on this matter, either me sending me e-mail at
CruisingWriter@CruisersNet.net or by clicking the "Contribute Cruising News" link found near this top center on this, and most Net pages!

Many of us understood that there was a 90 day peroid for out of state boaters to enjoy Florida waters, without registering their boat in Florida The FWC web site says:

"Florida recognizes valid registration certificates and numbers issued to visiting boaters for a period of 90 days. An owner who intends to use his vessel in Florida longer than 90 days must register it with a county tax collector. However, he may retain the out-of-state registration number if he plans to return to his home state within a reasonable period of time. "

However recent correspondance from Captain Alan Richard, assistant General Counsel of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states that a documented vessel which is not registered in another state (ie have a decal or registration certificate), must either obtain registration in his home state (even if it is not required or available for a documented vessel), or register in a state where he is in transit in route to Florida. He states that "There is no grace peroid". Here are some of the correspondance from Capt. Richards which documents this stand:

"The Florida certificate of registration is a seagoing tax receipt and the decal is a seagoing equivalent of a tax stamp. The certificate of registration issued for a documented vessel does not have an "FL" number on it. Instead of a Florida issued number, the certificate will list the vessel's federal documentation number. The issue is one of taxation, not identification of the vessel or proof of its ownership and liens. A documented vessel is only exempt from titling and numbering. Unless exempted under some other provision of law, all documented vessels must be registered (pay the tax for their use of Florida's waters).
One of the exemptions to the registration requirement provided in Florida law is for vessels (documented or numbered) that have paid a similar tax in another state. The owner of a federally documented vessel must have either: 1) Paid the Florida registration tax and have a Florida certificate of registration that is in full force and effect; or 2) Paid a registration tax to another state and have a certificate of registration that is in full force and effect from that other state. Otherwise, operation of the vessel upon the waters of this state is unlawful. Although the term "state" includes the District of Colombia, Puerto, and all U.S. territories and possessions, it does not include foreign countries such as Canada or the Bahamas.
The only grace period provided in the registration statutes is for newly purchased vessels. If one has purchased a vessel within the preceding 30 days, and if the operator has on board and available for inspection a bill of sale that lists all twelve items of information required under section 328.46(1), Florida Statutes, then that vessel may be operated during the first 30 days following purchase. This 30-day period does not, however, apply to vessels recently arriving within the state unless coincidentally they have also been recently purchased. If an officer encounters a documented vessel and that vessel does not have a current and valid registration from Florida or from another state, the officer will only "need to determine whether [thirty] days had passed between the purchase of the vessel and the issuance of the citation for failure to register the vessel." State v. Efthimiadis, 690 So. 2d 1320, 1323 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997)."

I pointed out to Captain Richard that there was a catch 22, in that if the boat was required to have a registration number upon arrival in Florida waters, it would be difficult to obtain. For example in Pensacola, if you docked at one of the two marinas, it would take a $60 taxi ride to a tax collectors office plus the cost of staying at the marina, perhaps for several days, if you arrived in Florida waters during days when the tax office was not open. An alternative would be to moor at the down town (Palafox Pier) and walk the 5 blocks to the tax office.
I also pointed out that this year was the first time that I had heard that boaters had complained on first arriving in Florida waters of being stopped and asked for proof of registration. We even had a case where a boat sailing in from Mexico was stopped and asked for their sticker. I also commented on the preception that there was overly agressive enforcement by the FWC officer in Venice Florida.
His response to my reply was:

"The resolution to the “Catch 22” situation you mentioned is very simple: register your boat in your home state (or any other state through which you transit) before coming into Florida. Then you need do nothing further unless you intend to stay more than 90 days. If you do intend to stay in Florida more than 90 days, simply fill out an Application to Register Non-Titled Vessels (Form HSMV 87244), available at any county tax collector’s office (the “tag office”), and pay the applicable registration fee. Your document number or out-of-state registration number will appear on the Florida registration certificate. You do not get a Florida “FL” number; you just keep your out-of-state number or federal documentation number. Realistically, we do not enforce this against any vessel with a current and valid out-of-state registration because we would have to prove the vessel had been in Florida without leaving for more than 90 consecutive days. Generally, the only vessels against which this is enforced are those that are owned by a Florida resident who registered the vessel in another state to evade paying sales tax in Florida.
You are mistaken about this “not being enforced except by one officer in Venice.” I have personally been enforcing this requirement for more than 30 years. I, and most other officers, use the following enforcement technique:
1. The first time we encounter your boat (and sometime even the second or third time), we will stop you and explain the requirement. Education is always the preferred technique for obtaining compliance, and most boat operators will comply with any law once they are made aware of it and understand it.
2. The next step is a written warning. A few people simply will not comply with any requirement until the officer “puts it in writing.”
3. Finally, if all attempts at education, persuasion, and warning have failed, the officer will issue a citation. For example, the officer in Venice has issued less than 10 tickets for violating this law. That is 10 tickets cumulatively over several years. Some people would have you believe that he cites every vessel that passes through Venice. This is simply not true. He does not do it, and neither does any other officer that I know."

I responded: "Captain Richard, Thank you for your response. With all respect, I beg to disagree that the answer is simple to the registration for documented vessels when they have first arrived in Florida without state registration. The following ten coastal and inland states which many boats which travel to Florida travel from and do not have any state registration (decals) for documented vessels are: California, Deleware, Kentucky, Lousiania, Massachusetts, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. (For example I came directly from California via the Panama Canal in 1996). There are over 1000 boats each year doing the "loop". There are also a certain number of "delivary" boats brought down by crews from the Great Lakes.
There is no reason, and may not be a mechanism, for a documented vessel to register in their home state where it is not required, nor to register in a state where they are only transants. To my knowlege NO other state requires transcient vessels to register in their state. South Carolina allows 60 days without registration, North Carolina allows 90 days without registration, Georga allows 60 days without registration, Alabama allows 90 days without registration. A concern is that you state in the earlier communication that: "The Florida certificate of registration is a seagoing tax receipt and the decal is a seagoing equivalent of a tax stamp." The question has been brought up if this "Tax" is consistant with the Federal Motor Boat Registration act?
You do not address the Sojouner Pass. The tag offices are issuing this to boaters who are staying more than 90 days, and returning to their home state.
I do accept your explaination that the officer will only issue a warning. I was told by several vessels that they were stopped by FWC this last fall and told that they needed to immediately obtain the Florida registration sticker. One of these vessels was comming in Pensacola Pass from a long ocean voyage.
Thank you for the reference to the statute. Several years ago the tag office refused to register my documented vessel without a copy of the document--and I have to postulate that the personal were not familiar with the specifics. I am taking the liberty of posting the essence of your comments on some widely read boating forums. It needs to be widely desceminated. This is the first year that I was aware of wide spread enforcement in the North West area. I host a number of vessels each year for the last 10 years.

I will post any further correspondance I recieve from Captain Richard (the same person who testified in the Marcos Island mess).
Bob Austin
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Old 19-01-2008, 15:30   #2
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I have a gut feeling that this is the new enforcement tool to prevent anchoring out outside of a mooring field. This enforcement seems to coinside with the Florida cities having to comply with the new state laws on anchoring.

Very creative and evidently effective as well. OK, who wants to challenge this one?
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Old 19-01-2008, 15:50   #3
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Hmmmmmm

Do enforcement officers have wifi access when out inspecting boats? Do they have an immediate means of running and checking registration numbers?

The pirates approach might be to print up your own FL registration numbers and stick them on the boat?



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Old 19-01-2008, 16:23   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tspringer View Post
Hmmmmmm

Do enforcement officers have wifi access when out inspecting boats? Do they have an immediate means of running and checking registration numbers?

The pirates approach might be to print up your own FL registration numbers and stick them on the boat?



Terry
I suspect if you piss them off they can always use the old tried-and-true radio.

If they get really pissed, you are in cuffs and however your boat is at that moment is the way it stays till you can get back.
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Old 19-01-2008, 16:30   #5
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I suspect if you piss them off they can always use the old tried-and-true radio.

If they get really pissed, you are in cuffs and however your boat is at that moment is the way it stays till you can get back.

Yes.... all true. I suspect if they really want too they can just shoot you, throw your body overboard and say they found the boat empty. They can do whatever they want.. if they want too.


But if they saw a FL reg. number on the boat when patrolling how likely are they to check number and can they even do so easily? There is always risk when it comes to a bit of civil disobedience, the question is how much risk. Rather than just live as sheep... I at least prefer to evaluate the risks.


Terry
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Old 19-01-2008, 16:32   #6
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This looks like a good argument for seasteading, and leave Florida to the Megayachts and their Megabucks.
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Old 19-01-2008, 16:49   #7
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No matter how one views it....this issue, the State of Florida is "passive" regarding this issue. I know it for a fact. I am a "Florida Native", and I am a boater and liveaboard/cruiser in FL. I recently bought a 44' trawler in Annapolis and moved it south back to my slip in SW FL.

I was "looked at" by more than a couple of "water-cops" after crossing into FL, and even got a finger wag from a deputy at the New Smyrna side of Ponce Inlet in the ICW...I was a hair over "idle speed". Not once was I boarded or checked by anyone. I moved only in daylight...in the ICW in FL. From Mayport, FL all the way to Biscayne Bay....then through the Keys, then open water up to Charlotte Harbor. Not once was I bothered. There were no "stickers" or numbers on the boat. She is documented. In fact...the original name and hailing port of Annapolis, MD was on the boat until we laid over in Fort Pierce and changed her to her new name and hailing port. I reiterate, not once was I bothered during the entire trip.

Now, had they hailed me and boarded.... it would not have been a problem, as my closing agent handled all of my paperwork, and did the re-documentation, to include the name change, and submitted the paperwork and funds paying the FL Sales Tax on the vessel, and I had a copy of the documents to prove it. I would have gone on my merry way.

I have owned boats all my life....and I have NEVER been hassled.

Now, what I am about to say will not score me points with some people, but so be it.

Stop whining!! The State of Florida relishes the income from the revenue that boaters provide the economy. The nonsense that occurred in Marco Island and few other select areas was centered around the fact that some people who bought "waterfront" properties thought they owned the water, which is a fallacy....and they used their wallets to press local officials. A judge beat them down. That kind of nonsense is not happening anymore.

Read the court decision here: http://www.cruisersnet.net/docs/judgement.pdf

Plus every county judge in the state now has a copy of the ruling. And the State knows that if enough people stay away from FL....a lot of businesses will fail, sales tax revenues will drop, and a lot of people will end up unemployed....not only in the boating industry.

Its just a bit arrogant for people who can afford expensive boats to whine about paying a small tax....and yes, it is a small tax to get a "Sojourner's Permit" to keep a boat in Florida waters. I believe its $100.00 to $120.00, good for a year and thats less than the average couple spends on a good meal in an decent restaurant. And its less than you would pay for one night in a Fort Lauderdale marina for a 44' boat.... I was quoted $2.83 a foot, plus electric and sales tax! Hellsfire, my Florida sticker cost more than $120.00. Including the county fee...it was about $136.00 and that was on top of the sales tax.

Everybody wants to come to paradise....but no-one wants to buy a ticket.

If you want to complain....move your boat to South Carolina and pay an annual tax of 6% of the value of your boat....just to have it there. THEN you will be entitled to "whine".
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Old 19-01-2008, 16:55   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tspringer View Post
Hmmmmmm

Do enforcement officers have wifi access when out inspecting boats? Do they have an immediate means of running and checking registration numbers?

The pirates approach might be to print up your own FL registration numbers and stick them on the boat?



Terry
Trust me on this one............ (born and raised in Florida ALL my life!)

Florida officers from FDLE (Florida Dept of Law Enforcemnt), DOT (Department of Transportation), Florida Interstate Commerce officers, FHP, Florida Marine Patrol and any body else I've left out DO NOT depend on wifi and DON't have it!

Just like most states, they have access to ALL law enforcement databases in the U.S.

I know we don't seem too intelligent sometimes down here,(especially after the ballot voting issues, but I digress, those were Fort Lauderdale YANKEES, not FLORIDIANS!) but we're NOT STUPID!
So, to answer your question, any of 'em can check anything they like!

Best thing to do is MOVE to FLORIDA like everybody else......
JEEEEEZZZZZZ...this state changed for the worse the last 30 years!
This used to be a BEAUTIFUL place, but I can't criticize ANYBODY for wanting to move here.... I guess I was just lucky the RAILROAD brought us here in the 1800's from Wilmington, N.C.!

I was offshore Key Largo several months ago and it was as beautiful as ANYTHING in the VIRGIN ISLANDS!..........
AND, you can still park your dinghy anywhere and NOT have it stolen, not like in the islands........ don't forget whose in the ISLANDS!

If I was a little "coarse" I meant NO offense to anyone!....
I love to see sailors from all over the world here, and we DO!
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Old 19-01-2008, 16:55   #9
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Everybody wants to come to paradise....but no-one wants to buy a ticket.

If you want to complain....move your boat to South Carolina and pay an annual tax of 6% of the value of your boat....just to have it there. THEN you will be entitled to "whine".
Of course you are correct.

I wonder if the value of SC boats has plummeted.
Mine would.
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Old 19-01-2008, 16:58   #10
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Hmmmmmm

Do enforcement officers have wifi access when out inspecting boats? Do they have an immediate means of running and checking registration numbers?
I would venture to say... yes they can within a certain distance of the shore....via Cellular/GPRS or other electronic means. My cell phone worked quite a ways off shore all along the coast, so I have to guess that my laptop's cellular aircard would have as well.....

Quote:
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The pirates approach might be to print up your own FL registration numbers and stick them on the boat?
Can you say...."immediate stuff and cuff"? It might work, but then if caught....the real question would be: Could you afford to lose the boat and your freedom. Its not only tax evasion, but fraud, and counterfeiting... to boot. Not a good idea. Probably cost more to do it than the Sojourner's Permit.
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Old 19-01-2008, 17:02   #11
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From the best I can tell this matches Texas law in most respects (other than enforcement which I suspect is lax around here). I wonder how many boats tie up in Clear Lake for more than 90 days and never bother to drop by the tax office. It seems that the argument above hinges on the very few states that do not tax USCG documented boats and boats arriving from out of the country. Would not most legal boats visiting Florida already have the proper documents on hand?

TPWD: FAQ - Boat Registration and Titles
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Old 19-01-2008, 17:04   #12
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Of course you are correct.

I wonder if the value of SC boats has plummeted.
Mine would.
Not sure if the values have plummeted....but there are certainly a lot of boats for sale in SC.....
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Old 19-01-2008, 17:14   #13
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From the best I can tell this matches Texas law in most respects (other than enforcement which I suspect is lax around here). I wonder how many boats tie up in Clear Lake for more than 90 days and never bother to drop by the tax office. It seems that the argument above hinges on the very few states that do not tax USCG documented boats and boats arriving from out of the country. Would not most legal boats visiting Florida already have the proper documents on hand?

TPWD: FAQ - Boat Registration and Titles
The answer to that question is "yes" and "no".... It all depends, just as it is in Texas....on how long the boat will be in FL waters. The only difference I can see between TX and FL...is that TX does not bother with USCG Documented Vessels, whereas FL does, but TX requires the "registration and titling" of an outboard motor. FL does not...unless it is on a boat or a dinghy, then it is actually a part of the boat or dinghy...and the entire boat has to be registered. A rowboat, canoe, dinghy and such does not require registration or titling.

On the other hand to show another difference between the two states: Some years ago I temporarily moved to Mission, and when I went to get my registration, etc for my vehicle....even though the FL sales tax was higher than TX...they charged me a $45.00 sales tax fee. FL does not if your sales taxes paid previously were equal to or greater than FL's.
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Old 19-01-2008, 17:18   #14
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The good Captain Richard is correct that his is and has been the favored FWC interpretation of Florida law. He is wrong in claiming that it is not selectively enforced by the notoriously arbitrary FWC. This interpretation is also just plain wrong and contrary to Florida law:

1. State v. Efthimiadis, 690 So. 2d 1320, 1323 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997) involved a cruise-to-nowhere gambling ship which was owned by a Florida corporation and whose home port was in Florida. This case has no application to a transient sailboat.

2. Fla. Stat. 328.46 cited by the Captain, applies "except as specifically exempt"

3. Fla. Stat. 328.58 states:


"328.58 Reciprocity of nonresident or alien vessels.--The owner of any vessel already covered by a registration number in full force and effect which has been awarded:

(1) By another state pursuant to a federally approved numbering system of another state;

(2) By the United States Coast Guard in a state without a federally approved numbering system; or

(3) By the United States Coast Guard for a federally documented vessel with a valid registration in full force and effect from another state

shall record the number with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles prior to operating the vessel on the waters of this state in excess of the 90-day reciprocity period provided for in this chapter. Such recordation shall be pursuant to the procedure required for the award of an original registration number, except that no additional or substitute registration number shall be issued if the vessel owner maintains the previously awarded registration number in full force and effect."
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Old 19-01-2008, 19:39   #15
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... is that TX does not bother with USCG Documented Vessels, whereas FL does,...
I'm not sure that I'm following your comment. There was only a short period, long past, when USCG documented boats in Texas were not subject to TPWD registration and tax. I suspect that a documented boat entering Texas (from Mexico for example) would face simular issues of registration that one would entering into Florida.
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