September 29, 2013

It's a piece of your country

IF YOU’RE PLANNING to sail to a foreign country, you need a passport. Your boat needs one, too, and the best kind of passport for American boats is a documentation certificate from the U.S. Coast Guard.

A U.S.-documented boat has privileges. Under international law, she is a piece of the United States, and therefore not to be trifled with. Documentation affords her the protection of U.S. consular officials anywhere in the world. She also earns the right to fly the special U. S. Yacht Ensign (in home waters only).

Federal documentation legally establishes her ownership and her nationality beyond a doubt. It’s true that U.S. vessels with nothing more than state registrations have sailed around the world, but the recognized and accepted standard (when a boat is big enough) is documentation. State registration is not legal proof of nationality even though it’s accepted for convenience in America’s neighboring countries.

How big does a boat have to be for documentation? Well, I once had a Cape Dory 25-footer that was documented. Actually, the minimum size (volume) for documentation is 5 tons net, and for practical purposes in this case the Coast Guard measures net tons as 9/10 of gross tons. The minimum therefore translates to a heavy-displacement vessel of about 25 feet or a moderate-displacement craft of about 30 feet in length.

Incidentally, a documented vessel is always safer to buy, because her certificate must reflect all current liens, mortgages, and liabilities against her.

Today’s Thought
I was well acquainted with the gag that if you looked like your passport picture, you needed a trip. I was unprepared for the preponderance of thuglike pictures which I found in the course of processing passports.
Frances G. Knight, Director, Passport Division, U. S. State Department, ruling that it is all right to smile in passport pictures. (NY Herald Tribune, 21 Feb 57)

“Why so gloomy?’
“My new car has been recalled by the dealer.”
“Too bad. What’s wrong with it?”
“Apparently there’s a defect in my bank balance.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Bill said...

Wasn't the original purpose of Documenting private vessels the generation of a list of resources to called upon during wartime?

I seem to recall reading about various yachts spending WWII as auxiliaries hunting submarines.