We purchased our current
boat in the Virgin Islands. The boat was manufactured in France
. The boat was in the BVI and was registered in the British Virgin Islands
Ship Registry. For some reason we had it in our heads that any boat we owned should be US Documented. We used a ship's documentation agent in Florida to handle the documentation; but we personally handled the sale
of the vessel. In order for a vessel to be US Documented the paperwork must be notarized by a US notary public. So we and the previous owner sailed from Tortola to St. John and met with a notary public there. Signatures were notarized then we moved the boat over to Red Hook Bay on St. Thomas and caught a jitney bus out near the airport
so we could register the boat with St. Thomas as the hailing port. It takes several months to obtain the Certificate of Documentation, but you can register the boat and receive that registration
instantly in St. Thomas. We also registered the dinghy
Then we sailed back to Tortola and cleared into the BVI using the new St. Thomas registration
. The boat had been cleared out of the BVI and into the USVI under the previous owner's name as a BVI flagged vessel; it was cleared out of the USVI and back into the BVI under our names as owners and as a USA flagged vessel registered in St. Thomas.
We paid the BVI annual temporary import fee (can't remember if that was $100 or $200). The boat was docked back in her original berth in Soper's Hole on Tortola and we returned to the USA. Months later we received the US Certificate of Documentation. Then we were ready to begin cruising. There was no tax of any kind collected by authorities in St. Thomas. The registration expired after 1 year and we opted not to renew that registration because by then we were off cruising in other countries. When we eventually return to the USVI then we will again register the boat in St. Thomas. It is my understanding (at the time of our purchase in 2005) that all boats residing in USVI must be registered in USVI even if the vessel is US documented. Again, there were no taxes of any kind collected or assessed.
We have never visited the USA in our boat so have no idea what taxes, if any, would be assessed by whichever state one might decide to stay in for any length of time.
In hindsight, we were stupid to have removed the boat from the BVI Ships Registry. Our insurance
options would have been much greater and much less expensive if we had left the boat registered in the BVI rather than having it US documented. We do not sail in US mainland waters and have no plans to ever do so. Insurance
for outside USA is much less expensive. We just did not think it through and in our ignorance believed that any boat we owned should be US documented.