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Old 28-07-2012, 14:48   #1
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Where to register, home port

Currently residents of Colorado, with a summer home in Western NY... Soon to be empty nesters. Planning on buying a liveaboard cruising cat. First two years we will be east coast sailors from VA coast to Bahamas / Virgin Islands etc. then expand. I know there are things to consider like tax base, registration fees, etc.. Any ideas or recommendations of where the best place to call our home port? If we keep our NY home, are we required to register our boat there? Please advise. Nick
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Old 28-07-2012, 15:12   #2
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Re: Where to register, home port

For international cruising purposes I suggest Federally register the boat via the USCG -- referred to as a "US Documented Vessel". See USCG National Vessel Documentation Center, Home Page for details. You can do this yourself or use a vessel documentation service.

One reason to do this is that officials world wide (at least at popular cruiser stops) know what a US Vessel Documentation form looks like while a State form may leave them scratching their heads and creating hassles for you.

For a Documented recreational vessel you can declare any "hailing port" that you want. This hailing port is listed on the USCG forms and should be properly displayed on the boat (typically on the stern).

If the boat is not physically in the waters of a given State then it does not need to be State registered also. If it is, then that State will want you to register so they can collect taxes on your boat. Details for course vary by State.
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Old 28-07-2012, 17:04   #3
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Re: Where to register, home port

No matter the mailing address on the documentation, the vesel tax goes to the State or County that the vessel is berthed in or spends most of its time in. So for example if you documented your vessel to a Florida address, but berhted it in New York for at least six months a year, you would be subject to NY Taxes...

As far as using State Registration or Federal Documentation... Documenting the vessel, will not relieve you of taxes since the USCG provides a list to the local Tax Assessors of all vessels registered in their jurisdiction. Most states also require Marinas to provide list of berthers to the Tax Assessors... So basically big brother is watching with his hand out...

This also becomes a little bit of a hastle when you live in one place and have the boat in another. In our case, our vessel was not in the county we lived in. Our county of residence made us prove to them, by dock bills, that the vessel was in berthed in another county. Not a big hastle, but a pain anyway.

Also, if you decide to obtain a mortgage on your new vessel, many lenders are requiring the boat to be USCG Documented in order to ensure they can repossess the vessel internationally.

As previously mentioned, most foreign ports will easily recognise a USCG Documention Certicficate, but many will look twice at a state registration card. If you are planning on traveling internationally, documenting the vessel will give you less headaches.

As far as hailing ports go... let your mind go wild! Any city or geographical location can be used... When we lived in San Francisco, there was a boat there called the Great Escape with a hailing port of Alcatraz Island.
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Old 28-07-2012, 17:18   #4
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Re: Where to register, home port

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeremiason View Post
...

Also, if you decide to obtain a mortgage on your new vessel, many lenders are requiring the boat to be USCG Documented in order to ensure they can repossess the vessel internationally.

....
Aha, another advantage (I suppose) of USCG Documentation....fortunately I have zero experience with boat mortgages.

Makes sense though. I financed the sale of one of my previous boats and was always a little worried about what I would do if it sailed over the horizon one day with the mortgage unpaid...fortunately I never had to find out.
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Old 29-07-2012, 12:50   #5
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Great stuff guys, thanx! So, assuming I can pick any berthing port along the eastern coast, ... Which states have the lowest tax / registration fees?
At first glance slip and mooring fees appear to increase the further south you go, of course this assumption may be incorrect or a simple supply and demand function. Nick
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Old 29-07-2012, 12:54   #6
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Re: Where to register, home port

You're not limited to hailing ports along the east coast. And a hailing port does not have to be a port, or even be near one. You could use Denver if you wanted to. Las Vegas. Whatever place in the USA that you wish. The purpose of the hailing port thing is so that there can be boats with the same name. Otherwise, for example, a sailboat named "Serendipidy" would mean nobody else could use that name. But with the hailing port scenario, there are practically no limits to how many sailboats named Serendipity there can be. They just all have different hailing ports.

We live in the Turks and Caicos Islands as residents, documented our boat with the USCG, have a mailing address in Pennsylvania, and chose a hailing port in Montana.

Why Montana? Well one reason was that they don't have a sales tax. Other reason is that they have a place with the same name as our dog. That's our hailing port.
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Old 29-07-2012, 13:11   #7
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Re: Where to register, home port

I am not sure there is a one size fits all answer. I was talking to a friend of mine from Oz who works in Africa bought a boat in BVI, formed a corporation in Delaware and documented the boat in the US; but the boat lives in BVI unless she sails it somewhere.

John Kerry, the US Senator from Mass has his multi million schooner registered in Delaware or Rhode Island, not sure which. Marinas are rather like motels, you can stay at the Four Seasons or at Motel 6 and pay accordingly.

There have been multiple threads on this topic with links to the tax and other fees listed by state. A good broker should be able to answer many of your questions based on your particular circumstances and which boat you are buying and where it is located. One problem is that almost no one knows all the local and state regulations of the top of their head and will need to look things up based on specifics of the person and the boat they are buying.

It is not uncommon for a boat to be registered far from where it is docked and also for the boat to be moved on a somewhat regular basis so as to not run afoul of state, or local, regulations about how long a boat can stay in a state before it incurs something like a usage fee.
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