What USCG Boat Documentation Do You Need to Show if Boarded?

It might not be the most common aspect of boat ownership, but at some point in your time out on the water, it just might be the case that your vessel needs to be boarded by the relevant authorities. When everything is legal and above board, you never have to worry about an experience like this. It will almost always be a matter of simple protocol, but having said that, there are a number of documents that you will need to have in your possession to provide if asked. There is also some information that you are legally obliged to display at all times. Here is what USCG boat documentation you might need to show if you are ever boarded.

Numbering And Registration

Though not technically a piece of ‘paperwork’, arguably the most important form of documentation that will be necessary to present is the lettering that displays your vessel’s name and serial number. (You can’t get this without submitting the right paperwork anyway!) 

Just in the same way that you cannot drive a car without a license plate, you cannot sail a boat that is not properly numbered. You must have a current state use sticker on board, along with your registration or certificate of number. Boat numbers need to be affixed on the forward position of both the starboard and port sides. In addition, this lettering needs to be in block type, at least three inches, in a contrasting color to the hull, and inclusive of hyphens or spaces between the numerals and letters.

What Boats Are Eligible For Documentation?

It is worth noting that documentation is only available for vessels that measure 5 tons gross weight and more, which in general works out to be around 30 feet in length. This measurement is a unit of volume rather than a unit of precise weight. To put that in perspective, a boat could weigh 10,000 pounds and still not even qualify for documentation.

USCG Boat Documentation

Categories Of Documentation

Vessels are documented according to their use, so commercial, recreational, and such. An interesting point to note is that you can use a commercial vessel for recreational purposes, but you cannot use a recreational vessel for commercial purposes. If you are boarded and this is found to be the case, then you will risk getting in trouble to the extent of the loss of your documentation and be subject to any fines or penalties that the relevant authorities deem necessary. The bottom line is that a commercially documented boat has some wiggle room, whilst a recreational boat can never be used for anything other than recreation.

If you would like any kind of assistance with the various USCG boat documentation mentioned above, then your best resource is the Vessel Documentation Online website. You will find all of the information that you need pertaining to all types of relevant boat documentation. Feel free to get in touch with us directly if you have a more specific or complicated question that you would like answered. Our main objective is to help you as thoroughly and quickly as we can!