I'm afraid that my data for the US is somewhat dated, for the last time we departed there was in 1989, and was from San Francisco
. At that time I tried to find some official who would issue the outward clearance document, but no one was interested in dealing with yachts. Fortunately, our initial landfall was in Mexico
, and they were well used to the situation and there were no problems.
We left Mexico
a year later and there did the usual outward clearance, and have done so in each of the many following countries we've visited... and each new country DID require that we present those documents.
So, the answer to your query is generally yes, you should have outward clearance, and no, I don't know how one obtains it in the US these days. A call to Customs might well help...
In our wanderings about the Pacific, we've encountered a variety of attitudes about paperwork for small yachts. It is always a good idea to find out ahead of arrival about procedures , visa requirements and any fees
that may be involved. For instance, it is a big no-no to arrive in Australia
without a visa for each crew member
, and currently the fee for your quarantine inspection
is a cool 330 Aussie dollars. That is, IF you arrive during business hours, M-F. At other times it jumps to an astounding 660$. Sadly, this greedy bureaucracy is driving many cruisers to skip our favorite off-shore country, but I digress...
Obtaining this sort of info is not always easy. An obvious start is the Consulate or High Commisioner for the to-be-visited country, if there is one that you can access! Many countries maintain websites that may contain useful data, but they seem to not always address the case of small yachts. Cornell's Noonsite often has info, but it is likely to be out of date. And if there are other yotties about who have recently been there, they will have on-scene info.
This sort of exercise, while sometimes aggravating is part and parcel of cruising. With the right attitude and a bit of patience it can be sorta fun... sometimes! We've actually made personal friendshops with a few Customs officers over the years, and they are often very interesting folks to talk to once the paperwork is done.
Incidentally, good onya for thinking of this before starting out. Many newbies don't, and as a result get into strife with officials, and these days getting crosswise with them in one country often follows you wherever you go.
Cheers and good luck,
Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II lying Gladstone Qld Oz