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Old 28-02-2021, 21:14   #1
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Non-resident cruising in California

According to CA DMV information there is no state registration for documented vessels. My interpretation is that when visiting out of state, I can cruise/anchor in California indefinitely without the need to register the vessel unlike in most other states that require state registration of all vessels, whether documented or not, that exceed certain length of time in the State water. Is this correct? Also, my understanding is that the property tax that counties in California assess only applies to California residents. Am I right? So what happens if an out of state documented vessel is berthed in a marina on January 1? Will a non-resident owner receive a tax bill at the address on the documentation certificate? What if the boat is anchored?
What about a dinghy? It appears the dinghy must be registered within 120 days. I suppose it becomes moot if I am not using a dinghy, such as it is deflated and bagged or is stored on davits. Anybody had a similar experience?
Oh, and by the way, are there any places left in Southern California where one can anchor without a permit?
The reason for asking: I will be sailing from WA to Mexico in a Fall, either this year or next, and plan to spend a couple of months in California before the end of a hurricane season. I would like to have a contingency plan in case I cannot go to Mexico for any reason and have to winter in California. Obviously, not looking to establish a residency there, but may get stuck for a few months before returning North or continuing West.
Thanks!
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Old 28-02-2021, 22:41   #2
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

If the boat is in the water, in a marina Jan 1 or so they will send you a tex bill regardless of where the boat is registered.

Yes you can appeal it with enough documentation that you are just passing thru but takes some time and if you don’t have the documentation (receipts from marinas, fuel, boat yards) from other states they can deny your appeal.

You want to leave your boat here indefinitely, register it here and save yourself the headache.
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Old 28-02-2021, 23:59   #3
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

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Originally Posted by Lost Horizons View Post
According to CA DMV information there is no state registration for documented vessels. My interpretation is that when visiting out of state, I can cruise/anchor in California indefinitely without the need to register the vessel unlike in most other states that require state registration of all vessels, whether documented or not, that exceed certain length of time in the State water. Is this correct? Also, my understanding is that the property tax that counties in California assess only applies to California residents. Am I right? So what happens if an out of state documented vessel is berthed in a marina on January 1? Will a non-resident owner receive a tax bill at the address on the documentation certificate? What if the boat is anchored?

What about a dinghy? It appears the dinghy must be registered within 120 days. I suppose it becomes moot if I am not using a dinghy, such as it is deflated and bagged or is stored on davits. Anybody had a similar experience?

Oh, and by the way, are there any places left in Southern California where one can anchor without a permit?

The reason for asking: I will be sailing from WA to Mexico in a Fall, either this year or next, and plan to spend a couple of months in California before the end of a hurricane season. I would like to have a contingency plan in case I cannot go to Mexico for any reason and have to winter in California. Obviously, not looking to establish a residency there, but may get stuck for a few months before returning North or continuing West.

Thanks!


You are correct; if your vessel is USCG documented, you do not need to register in CA.

No, the property tax is not based on residency, it’s the county where the boat is located. If you are in transit there should not be a problem. I believe the term is “if it’s used primarily” in which county.

The dinghy is different. Since it can’t be documented it should be registered
IF IT HAS A MOTOR. If it is paddled or oared it does not require a registration.

Assuming your dinghy is registered in WA, and you’re not using “primarily“ in CA but in transit to another location, nobody should give you any grief.
Were you decided to extend your stay and get a slip in a marina, that could change the situation.

Yes there are anchorages. It depends on where you want to spend your time.
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Old 01-03-2021, 00:20   #4
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

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The dinghy is different. Since it can’t be documented it should be registered
IF IT HAS A MOTOR. If it is paddled or oared it does not require a registration.
Thank you for answering. Still confused about the dinghy. The DMV site specifically says: “ Dinghies must be registered with DMV.” This follows a list of exceptions that includes oars propelled crafts, so I interpret it in the way that dinghies are required to be registered regardless of being motorized or not. Wonder if there is a less ambiguous information on the subject officially available elsewhere. Looks like the dinghy registration is the only possible sticky point if I keep moving and celebrate the New Year outside of any marina.
By the way, WA does not require registering yacht tenders, so mine isn’t registered.
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Old 01-03-2021, 00:23   #5
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

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If the boat is in the water, in a marina Jan 1 or so they will send you a tex bill regardless of where the boat is registered.
Seems quite simple to avoid being taxed. Maybe too simple.
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Old 01-03-2021, 01:09   #6
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

“WA does not require registering yacht tenders, so mine isn’t registered.”

Ah, there’s the rub!
I take it as the reason for the “Dinghies must be registered with DMV” wording is to cover this sort of situation of folks thinking that because it’s a tender to a documented mother ship it wouldn’t need registration, which is being specified as not the case in CA.

I agree, it’s poorly worded and not clear as far as a rowed dinghy would be concerned. But, once you put a motor on it a registration would be required regardless.

If your dinghy has a motor (I’m assuming?) I could easily see it drawing attention of authorities if seen with no registration stickers.

Maybe e-mail CA DMV and explain your situation. Perhaps they have a temp registration solution; something like a moving permit for a car?

Maybe compare costs of registration between CA and WA and if need be, register it as though not a tender in WA before you leave.

Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.
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Old 01-03-2021, 01:18   #7
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

Registration costs are not important, it is a principle.
Your logic regarding the reason for the dinghy registration requirement language makes sense.
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Old 01-03-2021, 01:46   #8
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

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Originally Posted by japawil View Post
“WA does not require registering yacht tenders, so mine isn’t registered.”

Ah, there’s the rub!
I take it as the reason for the “Dinghies must be registered with DMV” wording is to cover this sort of situation of folks thinking that because it’s a tender to a documented mother ship it wouldn’t need registration, which is being specified as not the case in CA.

I agree, it’s poorly worded and not clear as far as a rowed dinghy would be concerned. But, once you put a motor on it a registration would be required regardless.

If your dinghy has a motor (I’m assuming?) I could easily see it drawing attention of authorities if seen with no registration stickers.

Maybe e-mail CA DMV and explain your situation. Perhaps they have a temp registration solution; something like a moving permit for a car?

Maybe compare costs of registration between CA and WA and if need be, register it as though not a tender in WA before you leave.

Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.
Yes. What he said. I'm guessing washington collects property rax on boats too? If so you will have to pay property tax somewhere if one of them asks you. The two tax offices will contact each other to work out who gets to collect the tax from you. If you sneak through CA before you get to WA you might get away with it. But they can always backcharge you too.

I wouldn't worry about the dinghy. I don't register mine. The fine for driving an unregister dinghy is likely far less than the sales tax and registration fees you will pay the DMV.
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Old 01-03-2021, 08:12   #9
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

Washington does tax boats, but they do not actively pursue the owners. If you leave the State you don’t need to prove it. Just stop registering the boat there.
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Old 01-03-2021, 09:51   #10
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

1. No state registration for documented vessels - correct
2. I can cruise/anchor in California indefinitely without the need to register the vessel – correct so long as boat is registered in another state – I just purchased a boat from a California resident that was registered in Oregon
3. Personal property tax that counties in California assess only applies to California residents – Likely assessed personal property tax if berthed at a marina or mooring.
4. So what happens if an out of state documented vessel is berthed in a marina on January 1? Will a non-resident owner receive a tax bill at the address on the documentation certificate? I believe that is correct and timing does not matter- check with CA to see if you can get A TAX EXEMPTION

https://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/vessels_exemption.htm

5. What if the boat is anchored - Probably not assessed personal property tax
6. What about a dinghy? It appears the dinghy must be registered within 120 days – Maybe not - call the CA DMV
7.I suppose it becomes moot if I am not using a dinghy, such as it is deflated and bagged or is stored on davits. Anybody had a similar experience - I just purchased a dinghy from a California resident that was registered in Oregon. I also keep the dinghy on my sailboat on the deck and motor on the rail and it is NOT registered, albeit once it hits the water with motor attached I have to have it registered.
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Old 01-03-2021, 09:51   #11
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

Huge difference in CALIFORNIA.... if you have a boat on a dock anywhere(unless in a work slip) in Cali between november and january you can/will be enmeshed in the california tax nightmare. You will have to deal with the tax assessors who will put a lien on your vessel until you can provide enough proof that you have a slip elsewhere. You will rue the day that you got tangled up with the assessors office and it can take years to get away from them. Make your plan to be out of california and into ensenada by the middle of november and you should be fine.... otherwise be forewarned!
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Old 01-03-2021, 10:05   #12
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

Yep... this is exactly what I am trying to avoid.
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Old 01-03-2021, 10:37   #13
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

Is your boat currently taxed in Washington? All California needs is to be shown the tax bill from another state, and there is no problem whatsoever.

If you don't have a tax bill from somewhere else, then it will be hard to demonstrate that it should not be taxed in California. In California, once a vessel is taxed as residing in California, it continues to be taxed until you show a tax bill from another state, regardless of where it physically is. This is problematic if you are about to leave the US.

Personally, I would pay an extra year tax for Washington, and once I reached Mexico send Washington notice that you have left the country. Then it will be easy to deal with whatever California tries to do.
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Old 01-03-2021, 10:44   #14
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

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Yep... this is exactly what I am trying to avoid.
The only way your boat will taxed is if you are leasing a marina slip since marina operators are required to provide the county tax assessor a list of boats and their owners every year. Just stay in a marina as a guest OR anchor out to avoid be a personal property tax bill.
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Old 01-03-2021, 10:50   #15
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Re: Non-resident cruising in California

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Is your boat currently taxed in Washington? All California needs is to be shown the tax bill from another state, and there is no problem whatsoever.

If you don't have a tax bill from somewhere else, then it will be hard to demonstrate that it should not be taxed in California. In California, once a vessel is taxed as residing in California, it continues to be taxed until you show a tax bill from another state, regardless of where it physically is. This is problematic if you are about to leave the US.

Personally, I would pay an extra year tax for Washington, and once I reached Mexico send Washington notice that you have left the country. Then it will be easy to deal with whatever California tries to do.
The WA tax is paid through June 2021. It is most likely that I will pay the 2022 tax since I am seriously considering postponing the departure until next year for obvious reasons. I like your suggestion to pay the 2022 year tax in WA; will certainly consider it.
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