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Old 15-04-2010, 13:27   #1
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US Flag - European Skipper . . . Sailing Bahamas..

Hi all:

Im intending an adventure in Bahamas... My plans are to buy a cheap boat at FL use it for few months and sale it again when back FL... But concerning legal issues I have many questions..
1- After buying the boat where do you have to inscribe you are the new owner??
2- Taxes to be paid on the purchase ..and where ??
3- (VIQ..very imprtant question).. To cross to bahamas what eqpmnt is legally required for an US/flag boat ( EPRIB, VHF, BLU... Liferaft..charts, books,etc .) I mean Legally... (logical terms -if not crazy- will make me to carry on as many as I can..). This question is due as We are used at EU to really tight regulations concernign boats certifications and equipment ( even more at Spain theese regulations are really hard to fulfill..)..maybe regulations are the same...(nice if you show me where can I find laws and bylwas of this)
4- Insurance of the boat... after buying a (cheap) boat is easy or not to contract an inssurance.. (previous survey is required...or any other pre-requisite).

Any other think to consider not to be arrested by the US coast Guard ???

Thks for your help and support to this crazy adventure....!!!

(remember... I am not english ... sorry for my short english !!)
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Old 15-04-2010, 15:02   #2
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your English is fine.

Equipment required by the USCG is not extensive for recreational boats. Some of it depends on the size of the boat. Here's a list that should get you going: Required Equipment for Recreational Boats -

If you pay cash for the boat, insurance would only be required by marinas you might want to stay in. You will undoubtedly need to have the boat surveyed as a condition of your insurance policy.

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Old 15-04-2010, 16:48   #3
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If you are going to buy a "cheap" boat in Florida AND sell it in Florida, probably the easiest thing to do is register it there. Sales tax is 6-7.5% of the purchase price (depending on County of purchase). Registration is $120 per year. There is no property tax and Florida doesn't care about your citizenship.

In addition to the recreational boat equipment previously mentioned, you must have red/green/white running lights and (I think) a masthead anchor light. You are not required to have an EPIRB, life raft, or as far as I know a radio. The horn can be a $10 air horn and you will never use it.

The entry fee for the Bahamas is $150 for one year for a boat less than 35 feet LOA. In the Bahamas they pretty much don't care about anything else, except guns - don't bring one. Fishing spears are OK, but not spearguns. No charts are "required." But if you are going to sail the Bahamas, you MUST have Explorer brand charts. You can order them online for about $70 per region - I think there are 3 - the Bahamas cover an amazing number of square miles. Also Pavlidis and Dodge cruising guides are very helpful.
"There's nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats."

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Old 15-04-2010, 18:11   #4
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Someone correct me if this has changed, but the USA REQUIRES only US citizens or US corporations can own a US Flagged vessel. We ran into this when my Australian partner and I bought a sailboat in Mexico. She was not allowed on the paperwork, so we just kept it in my name only, I'm American. We know a few Europeans that have bought boats in the Caribbean and kept them US flagged, but they might not have re-done the USCG (United States Coast Guard) paperwork to change title and owner's name. If they did not re-do the paperwork, I'm wondering how they did not have issues when checking into all the country's as they crossed the Pacific.

From my 2010 valid USCG "Certificate of Documentation" (Contact the "National Vessel Documentation Center" for more information at +1-304-271-2400) Here is the relevant paragraph from the back side of my official registration for my yacht.

"This certificate is not valid for operation of the vessel until the vessel is marked with the name, official number, and hailing port as shown on the certificate. The original certificate must be kept aboard the vessel at all times when in operation and must be presented upon demand of federal, state or local officials for law enforcement purposes. Vessels with only a recreational endorsement may not engage in commercial trade.

Documented vessels may be registered by states for tax and other purposes and may be required to display a state decal. This certificate is valid for one year. Renewal is the responsibility of the owner. This certificate must be surrendered to the National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC), 792 T J Jackson Drive, Falling Waters, West Virginia 25419, upon a change in ownership, change in state of incorporation, or a change in any other element shown on the certificate other than change of address. This certificate is invalid for any vessel other than one documented solely for recreation when the vessel is placed under the command of a person who is not a citizen of the U.S. The vessel and its equipment are liable to seizure and forfeiture to the U.S. government and the owner is liable for a civil penalty of not more than $10,000.00 per violation. Each day of a continuing violatoin is a separate violation.

Any change in address of the managing owner must be reported promptly to the NVDC. You may contact us at (304) 271-2400."

So you might be OK if you buy the boat in the USA and DON'T bring it back there to sell, or change it to your own country for flag of origin. The key might be the "solely for recreation"part of the above quote. But I still don't understand if a non-US citizen can register a change of ownership for a sailboat and leave it US flagged.

Like I said, we know several people who bought boats in the Caribbean, but none that I know of ever returned to the US, most continued on the Pacific crossing... just something to keep in mind if your plan to go ahead with a cheap boat from Florida.

Sydney, Australia
s/v Nemesis - C&C 41
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Old 15-04-2010, 18:47   #5
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Jeff, you are correcct - sort of. USCG documentation requires U.S. citizenship. Even if the owner is a corporation, the CEO/majority stockholders must be U.S. citizens. But USCG documentation is not necessary. If the purchased vessel has previously been documented, the certificate should be surrendered as part of the purchase transaction. But there is no requirement that the vessel be USCG documented by the new owner. This only becomes a problem when the certificate is not surrendered and the new non-U.S. citizen owner fails to register/document the vessel in a state or foreign country.

Florida registration does not require USCG documentation or U.S. citizenship, and Florida doesn't care where you live. All they care about is the money. Even USCG documented boats are subject to Florida tax/registration fees if they are kept in state waters.

Also, for the original poster: There are no Florida/Federal vessel certification or operating license requirements for recreational boats.
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Old 15-04-2010, 18:58   #6
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You are right about DOCUMENTED vessels but if he just buys it in FL and gets the FL # from them only he will be fine. The states treat it just like buying a car.
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Old 15-04-2010, 20:05   #7
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Hola Benares,

Primero, tiene buen ingles. Es cierto que vd habla ingles mejor que hablamos espanol.

My experience agrees with the other advise you have. You cannot get a US Coast Guard documentation for the boat but you can easily get a state registration, from Florida or another state if you prefer. US citizenship is not required for Florida state boat registration and the process is simple and not too expensive. The biggest cost will be to pay the state sales tax of 6-6.5%. Having only a state registration and not federal documentation with the Coast Guard is legal and will bring no risk that you have to visit the juzgado.

If you travel only to the Bahamas a state registration document will be perfectly acceptable for the boat.

The water is always bluer on the other side of the ocean.

Sometimes it's necessary to state the obvious for the benefit of the oblivious.

Rust is the poor man's Loctite.
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