Why go through all the trouble of USCG documentation?
If you travel to foreign waters, the Certificate of Documentation facilitates clearance with foreign governments and provides certain protection by the U.S. flag. Every country knows what the USA is, but not everyone knows what Wyoming is and why you are registered with them.
- It may be easier to get a bank loan to finance your vessel if it is documented. The bank is interested in recording a “First Preferred Ships Mortgage” to perfect their lien. This document is enforceable throughout the U.S., its territories, and some foreign countries.
- It's easier to track a documented stolen vessel across state lines or in foreign waters.
- Most states allow boats registered in other states into their waters up to 90 days without obtaining their state registration, but check with the visiting state registration requirements.
- No need for state registration numbers on the outside of your boat.
- A documented boat is always documented. If you sell a documented vessel the new owner simply needs to update the documentation information. The documentation number will always stay the same.
Once the previous owner has paid off any liens on the boat they will receive the title in the mail. The previous owner will then have to sign the back Transfer of Title section, have it notarized and mail it to the buyer. For me this took about a month to complete. When I received the title I filled out the bottom section "Application for Registration" and turned this in along with my payment of $155 to NC Wildlife Resource Commission for a three year registration. Even if your boat is documented with the USCG it may still need to be registered. Different states have different requirements, but most states require registration if your boat will be in the state for 90 days or more. You can see the diverse requirements here.
To get Starjewel documented with the USCG I had to send in a; CG1258, Application for initial, exchange, or replacement of certificate of documentation; redocumentation, a CG1340 USCG Bill of Sale, CG5397 Application for simplified measurement, CG5542 Optional application for filing, mortgage documents, and a CG7042 Authorization for credit card transactions. "Easy" government paperwork.
The CG1258 is your application to have your vessel documented. This form denotes the basic information on the owners and the vessel. The CG1340 is the USCG Bill of Sale form that will list the previous owner and new owner information along with sale price. The CG5397 is the form that will calculate your ships' gross tonnage. Only vessels 5 GRT or more can be documented with the USCG. Usually, recreational boats over 25' will be 5 GRT or more. The CG5542 is used if you are carrying a mortgage on your boat. This form will let the USCG know your information as well as that of the lien holder. The CG7042 is a credit card authorization form that allows the USCG to take your money for the convenience of getting documented.
All of these forms can be found on the USCG site. If you want to see how backed up the USCG is with processing paperwork their completion dates are broken down by form type here. When you do submit your paperwork, you can check on the status here.
The USCG is currently 5 months behind with initial recreational applications. Usually you need to send your CoD along with the registration application to NC Wildlife to get registered. After I called and spoke with NC Wildlife and explained the 5 month wait on the USCG documentation they agreed to take my CoD application in lieu of the actual CoD.
This delay is exasperated by the fact that you are not supposed to be operating your boat without the correct documentation. So given all the delays, if things were done in order and I wasn't allowed to use the application for the CoD I would not be allowed to even use my new boat for around 8 months. I originally submitted my application 09 May 2015. My CoD is dated 21 December 2015. Only 8 months to get a piece of paper. You have to love government efficiency. I hope the new owner appreciates me getting the boat documented when it comes time for us to sell Starjewel and purchase our retirement boat.
There are marine title services that will obtain USCG documentation for a fee. They even have expedited processing available. If you are going to document your boat and are planning on foreign travel soon after purchase you may want to look into this option.