Federal (US) documentation is not required. Proof of ownership
is... For a US State "registered" vessel, the important document while checking in is the vessels "title" which is usually issued (in the case of non-documented vessels) by the state in which the vessel is registered.
The original title (or better yet a certified copy) should be carried on-board while outside the US.
Quick checklist of paperwork you will (probably) need before checking in (Central America and the Caribbean)
- State Title or Federal Documenation
- "Zarpe" (Outbound Clearance Document) from last country exited. (Note: The United States does not as a matter of course issue Zarpes for outbound, US flagged vessels. Best to fill out the US Customs Vessel Clearance Statement and have it stamped by your local Customs Officer before leaving the US. )
- SSB and/or VHF radio licenses. US Ships station license and Radio Operators permit are no longer required for US pleasure vessels operating in domestic waters. If you use your radio equipment outside the US, licensing is required. Ships station good for 10 years, Operators permit good for life.
- Passports (with Visas if required)
- Crew List. You can obtain a nice Spanish/English version to download here. It contains more info than required, but a lot of officials appreciate it as it contains most of the required ships info as well, and can save them time shuffling paper.
This is the minimum you will need to check in to a foreign port on a pleasure vessel. Find out in advance what you will need for your next port of call. A current
copy of Reeds Almanac for your sailing area will alert you to general check in requirements if you find yourself in an unexpected port of call. Fore warned is fore armed. Remember, we're not in Kansas anymore Toto...
Carry many, many copies of all your paperwork. Some countries require several copies of crew lists for example. You may be required to surrender your Zarpe upon arrival. A new one will be issued when you check out.
Prior to leaving the US obtain a "ships stamp". Either an embossing stamp, rubber stamp, or both. Use to stamp all paperwork you are submitting. Not required in most countries, but highly regarded in most Hispanic ports
Stamp should contain vessel name, home port, and hull
number (or documentation number).