Documentation of Yachts

What vessels are required by law to be documented?
Any vessel of at least five (5) net tons which engages in the fisheries, Great Lakes trade, or coastwise trade must be documented, except:

A vessel which does not operate on the navigable waters of the United States. (An example would be a vessel which navigates only on sole state waters.) Such a vessel may be documented if it meets the other requirements for documentation.
A non-self propelled vessel when used within a harbor, in a whole or in part on the rivers or inland lakes of the United States, or in whole or in part on the internal waters or canals of any state.

What requirements must be met before a vessel can be documented?
The owner must be a United States citizen.
The vessel must be five (5) net tons or over.
Vessels which are not required by law to be documented may be documented if the requirements of a. and b. above are met. This includes vessels used exclusively for pleasure and vessels used in foreign trade.

What special markings must a documented vessel have?
The official number, preceded by the abbreviation "NO" will be marked by some permanent method on some clearly visible interior structural part of the hull. The number shall be in block-type arabic numerals not less than three (3) inches in height.
Pleasure vessels will have the name and hailing port of the vessel marked together in clearly legible letters not less than four (4) inches in height on some clearly visible exterior part of the hull.
Other vessels will have the name of the vessel marked in clearly legible letters not less than four (4) inches in height on some clearly visible exterior part of the port and starboard bow, and the stern of the vessel. The hailing port of the vessel shall be similarly marked on the stern of the vessel.
The means and materials used to display the name and hailing port shall result in durable markings. A board attached to the vessel with the name and hailing port marked on it is not an acceptable marking.

What is involved in renewing a vessel's document?
All documents are issued by the US Coast Guard and must be renewed annually.
The Coast Guard will mail a renewal notice to the owner of a documented vessel 45 days prior to the expiration of the document. When the renewal notice is completed and returned to the Coast Guard, a color renewal decal is sent to the owner. The decal must be affixed to the document in order to be accepted by an enforcement officer.

Where should the certificate of documentation be kept?
The person in the command of a documented vessel must have the certificate of documentation on board that vessel, except:
Non-self-propelled vessels not engaged in foreign trade,
When the vessel is in storage or out of the water, or,
When the Certificate of Documentation is being submitted to a documentation officer. It may be submitted for various reasons, including change of name, hailing port, or ownership, endorsement of a preferred mortgage, etc.

Are there any fees associated with documenting a vessel?
Yes. There are fees associated with the original documentation and documentation surrender and/or replacement. They are:
When marine documentation is issued to a yacht, the owner shall pay a fee of $100.
When marine documentation is surrendered or replaced, the owner shall pay a fee of $50.
When the owner of a vessel has used parts of an existing vessel in construction of that vessel and requests a determination that the vessel is new, he shall pay a fee of $200.
There is no fee for renewal of a vessel's documentation.

Miscellaneous Information
A title search on a documented vessel may be initiated by requesting an Abstract of Title from the National Coast Guard Documentation Center.
The bill of sale must be notarized for transactions involving a documented vessel transfer of ownership.

For further information , you may wish to obtain a copy of the regulations which apply to the Vessel Documentation Act. You can obtain a copy from:

Superintendent of Documents
US Government Printing Office