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 Houston/Galveston - Profile

Location

Houston is a sprawling metropolis on the western side of a large bay. The bay lies behind two barrier islands (Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula) and is split into two large lobes: Galveston Bay (west) and Trinity Bay (east). Like elsewhere on the Gulf Coast of the United States, this area is serviced by the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

Houston is one of the largest cities (by area) in the United States and is, by far, the largest city on the Gulf Coast outside of Florida. Among many other things, it is famous for being the control center for nearly all the NASA manned space flight missions. Even more so than Cape Canaveral, this area offers more touristic and educational opportunities: whilst the Space Coast is where the rockets were/are launched, there is less to see there (touristically speaking) than the Houston Space Center and the Johnson Space Flight Center.

Many of the facilities and yachting services are centered around Clear Lake – specifically near the suburbs of Kemah and Seabrook. Most of the large marinas in this area are only a short taxi ride away from the Space Flight centres.

Galveston is a city on Galveston Island. Galveston has a major cruise terminal. The cruise terminal has bunkering facilities for larger yachts, but otherwise there is only one yacht basin. It is the closest major marina to the sea.

There is also a major industrial port (oil exports) in Texas City. This port has absolutely no facilities for private yachts. There is a US Coast Guard security/exclusion zone near the port and yachts should not approach this area for any reason.

Galveston Bay/Trinity Bay and Mobile Bay are similar in many ways; however, whilst Mobile Bay receives most of the yachting traffic due to its proximity to Florida and access to the inland waterways/rivers, Mobile has arguably less variety in cruising opportunities. Also, Houston is highly developed, has far more marinas, and anchorages are plentiful.

There is a prevailing southerly and easterly wind in the bay area. North-northwesterly winds are less common.

Clearance

This is a Port of Entry.

See USA Formalities for full details on clearing into and out of the USA.

There are some clearance facilities in the Galveston (town) area, but they are primarily dedicated to the cruise ship terminal and are not set up for informal arrivals and cruising yachts. Yachts arriving from abroad must clear in at the Seaport, which is actually near downtown and quite far inland. Local advice is to clear in at a more accessible Port of Entry such as New Orleans or Mobile Bay and then proceed to Houston. Freeport, to the west, is also a nearby Port of Entry with clearance for small yachts.

Last updated December 2016.

CBP Port of Entry - Houston Seaport
7141 Office City Drive , Houston, TX 77087
Tel:+1 (713) 454-8002 Fax:+1 (713) 454-8065
Opening hours: 24/7

Docking

Most yachting facilities are centred around Clear Lake in the Kemah/Seabrook area. Keep to the ship channel whenever possible. There are some obstructions in the area, including fishing floats, oil rigs, pipeline maintenance structures, and other uncharted obstructions. These may be lit or unlit. It is not advised to approach or make passages in this area at night outside the shipping channel.

There is no dedicated channel between the main shipping channel, but there is an approach channel into the Clear Lake area. There are dedicated "boater cuts" extending perpendicular from the ship channel. It is strongly advised to use these cuts rather than sailing straight to your destination.

Access to many of the Clear Lake marinas is behind a bridge. The bridge is fixed at 73ft.

Due to heightened amount of ship traffic, there is a Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) system in place in the Houston/Galveston area. Private yachts with an LOA more than 40m/131ft are required to participate. Private yachts more than 20m/66ft are required to monitor the VTS working channel as well as VHF Channel 16. Private yachts less than 20m/66ft are not required to participate with the VTS requirements; however, while navigating in the Houston/Galveston area you are required by law to comply with all VTS instructions given on VHF Channel 16, as well as all other practices of safe navigation and seamanship. Please consult this USCG guide for more information.

Anchorages
There are numerous anchorages around the Houston/Galveston Bay area. The ICW runs within the Bolivar Peninsula as is often too narrow to safely anchor. (Do not anchor in any channel.) Most of this area features thick mud with good holding.

Take caution when anchoring in certain areas near developments. It is common to use the bay as a dumping ground and the seabed is sometimes spoiled.

Near the Galveston Bay Inlet, try to the east immediately after passing the jetty. These areas outside the Houston Ship Channel are good for quick exits and early departures into the Gulf of Mexico.

In the middle of the bay, there is a man-made island. It is possible to anchor in this area, but wakes from ship traffic is regular.

There are many anchorages around Clear Lake near the marinas, but due to the marinas, there is a lot of recreational traffic. It is possible to dock against the Kemah boardwalk for free for access to the downtown amenities. You may be able to stay overnight; however, long stays of multiple days and nights are not allowed.

Last updated December 2016.

Blue Dolphin Yachting Center
500 Blue Dolphin Drive , Seabrook, Texas 77586
Tel:+1 (281) 474-4450
Opening hours: 0900 - 1800, 7 days a week
Full service marina for long-term stay yachts from 33ft to 75ft. All amenities: 30/50/100/200amp power, water, toilets, pump-out, laundry, 24-hour security gate.
Blue Marlin Fuel Dock
1900 Shipyard Drive , Seabrook, TX 77586
Tel:+1 (281) 291-7497 ,VHF Channel 16
Opening hours: 0800 - 1700 (Mon-Fri), 0900 - 1500 (Sat)
Fuel dock only. Part of Seabrook Shipyard complex. Diesel and gasoline (regular and high-test). Marine supplies shop, snacks, ice, water.
Bolivar Yacht Basin
1283 West Boyt Road , Port Bolivar, TX 77650
Tel:+1 (409) 684-6700
Marina with some services directly adjacent to ICW on Bolivar Peninsula. Under new management and some services under construction: dockage available, 50amp power, water. Call ahead for availability.
Galveston Yacht Basin
715 North Holiday Drive , Galveston, TX 77550
Tel:+1 (409) 765-3000 ,VHF Channel not monitored
Opening hours: 0800 - 1700 (Mon-Fri)
Full service marina for 297 yachts with dockage (covered and uncovered) up to 100ft. Fuel available: diesel and gasoline. All amenities: 30/50/100amp power, water, toilets, showers, laundry, pump-out, ice. Marine supplies store and fishing shop. Access to downtown Galveston via taxi.
Kemah Boardwalk Marina
555 Bradford Street , Kemah, Texas 77565
Tel:+1 (281) 334-2284 Fax:+1 (281) 334-2558 ,VHF Channel 16
Opening hours: 08:00 - 17:00, 7 days a week
Full service marina with dockage for 424 yachts from 30ft to 62ft. Larger vessels needing the hammerhead (end) docks are requested to call ahead to check for availability. Water, 30/50amp power, toilets, showers, pump-out. Local service/repair available. Liveaboards welcome, but must be more than 36ft LOA.
Legend Point Marina
1300 Marina Bay Drive , Clear Lake Shores, TX 77565
Tel:+1 (281) 334-3811 Fax:+1 (281) 334-3161 ,VHF Channel not monitored
Full service marina with dockage for small-to-medium sized yachts. Some draught restrictions. Primarily a long-stay marina (liveaboards: 35ft minimum) but some transient dockage may be available with reservation. All amenities: showers, toilets, power, pump-out, water. Marine supplies store located across the road.
Marina Del Sol
1203 Twin Oaks Boulevard , Kemah, TX 77565
Tel:+1 (281) 334-3909 Fax:+1 (281) 334-6488
Opening hours: 0830 - 1700, 7 days a week
Full service marina with dockage for yachts up to 55ft long, max beam 34ft. Power, water, laundry, ice, shower, toilets, wifi. Dry storage for smaller watercraft, max 30ft.
Seabrook Marina & Boatyard
1900 Shipyard Drive , Seabrook, TX 77586
Tel:+1 (281) 474-2586 Fax:+1 (281) 474-2589
Full service marina with dockage (both covered and uncovered) for yachts up to 125ft. Maximum draught is 9ft at all docks. All possible amenities: 30/50/100amp power, water, toilets, showers, wifi, pump-out, storage lockers at each berth, laundry, fitness center, wifi. Fuel dock. One of the largest marinas on the Texas coast.
Shipyard with onsite contractors for 25 yachts up to 80ft, 21ft max beam. 75-ton travel lift and 70-ft boom crane. In-water work dock for 20 yachts. All possible services and repairs. Commissioning/decommissioning for over-ground yacht transportation.
South Shore Harbour Marina
2551 South Shore Blvd, Suite B , League City, TX 77573
Tel:+1 (281) 334-0515 Fax:+1 (281) 334-0288
Opening hours: 0800 - 1800, 7 days a week
Full service marina for 855 yachts up to 60ft. All amenities: 30/50amp power, water, toilets, showers, pump-out. Fuel dock. Concierge service available.
Waterford Harbor Marina
800 Mariners Drive , Kemah, TX 77565
Tel:+1 (281) 334-4400 Fax:+1 (281) 334-2635
Full service marina with dockage for 643 yachts from 35ft to 70ft. 30/50amp power, water, toilets, showers, laundry, wifi, 24-hour security, pump-out, ice. Pets welcome. On-site restaurant.
Watergate Yachting Center
1500 Marina Bay Drive , Clear Lake Shores, TX 77565
Tel:+1 (281) 334-1511 Fax:+1 (281) 538-2016
Full service marina for yachts up to 65ft. All amenities: 30/50amp power, water, toilets, showers, wifi, laundry. Repair yard nearby. No fuel.

Yacht Clubs

Portofino Harbour Marina & Yacht Club
1 Portofino Plaza , Clear Lake Shores, TX 77565
Tel:+1 (281) 334-6007
Full service marina and yacht club. Primarily a private club with "owned" slips, but some transient dockage available (with reservation). All facilities: laundry, toilets, showers, grills, 24-7 security, pump-out, pool.
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Hawaii, Hurricane Julio: Stranded sailors describe Perfect Storm rescue  (13 Aug 2014)

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USA, Florida, Ft. Lauderdale: Plans to dredge the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)   (23 Jul 2014)

USA: Tropical Storm Arthur threatens July 4th plans along East Coast

USA: Tropical Storm Arthur threatens July 4th plans along East Coast  (02 Jul 2014)

USA: Inaugural ARC DelMarVa Rally Wraps up Back in Annapolis

USA: Inaugural ARC DelMarVa Rally Wraps up Back in Annapolis  (15 Jun 2014)

First book on High Latitude Sailing released

First book on High Latitude Sailing released  (21 May 2014)

Ocean adventures: ARC Europe and ARC USA set sail

Ocean adventures: ARC Europe and ARC USA set sail  (02 May 2014)

USA East Coast Florida: Anti-anchoring amendments defeated

USA East Coast Florida: Anti-anchoring amendments defeated  (24 Apr 2014)

Pacific Ocean: Circumnavigating family abandon ship as 1 year old falls seriously ill - new statement from family

Pacific Ocean: Circumnavigating family abandon ship as 1 year old falls seriously ill - new statement from family  (05 Apr 2014)

Steve Black - 1943 to 2014

Steve Black - 1943 to 2014  (18 Mar 2014)

Atlantic: Swedish Sailors Rescued

Atlantic: Swedish Sailors Rescued  (12 Mar 2014)

Eastern Caribbean and now the Pacific: The Coconut Telegraph SSB Net extends its reach

Eastern Caribbean and now the Pacific: The Coconut Telegraph SSB Net extends its reach  (28 Feb 2014)

 Ocean Sailing Seminar: A Social and Practical Weekend in Annapolis with World Cruising Club

Ocean Sailing Seminar: A Social and Practical Weekend in Annapolis with World Cruising Club  (11 Feb 2014)

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New York to USVIs: Disabled catamaran abandoned by crew  (16 Jan 2014)

USA: NOAA Announces End of Traditional Paper Nautical Charts

USA: NOAA Announces End of Traditional Paper Nautical Charts  (05 Jan 2014)

ARC DelMarVa: A new rally for East Coast USA

ARC DelMarVa: A new rally for East Coast USA  (18 Dec 2013)

Practical preparation for an offshore passage from the experts  at World Cruising Club  UK and USA

Practical preparation for an offshore passage from the experts at World Cruising Club UK and USA  (16 Dec 2013)

BVIs: A Challenging 24th ARC Caribbean 1500 Wraps Up in Nanny Cay

BVIs: A Challenging 24th ARC Caribbean 1500 Wraps Up in Nanny Cay  (03 Dec 2013)

12 Brands of Dehumidifiers Recalled Due to Serious Fire and Burn Hazards

12 Brands of Dehumidifiers Recalled Due to Serious Fire and Burn Hazards  (29 Nov 2013)

24th ARC Caribbean 1500 Heads Offshore

24th ARC Caribbean 1500 Heads Offshore  (04 Nov 2013)

USA, Port Everglades: Removal of smokestack landmarks

USA, Port Everglades: Removal of smokestack landmarks  (23 Jul 2013)

USA: Yacht abandoned near Bermuda washes up on Martha's Vineyard 54 days later

USA: Yacht abandoned near Bermuda washes up on Martha's Vineyard 54 days later  (21 Jul 2013)

Emergency Product Recall: Lite Cylinder Company Propane Tanks

Emergency Product Recall: Lite Cylinder Company Propane Tanks  (13 Jun 2013)

Weather-watcher Satellite Fails Just Before Hurricane Season

Weather-watcher Satellite Fails Just Before Hurricane Season  (24 May 2013)

NOAA predicts active 2013 Atlantic hurricane season

NOAA predicts active 2013 Atlantic hurricane season  (23 May 2013)

USA: NOAA offers free nautical chart mobile app

USA: NOAA offers free nautical chart mobile app  (23 May 2013)

Great New Service for noonsite users: Get notified of cruising news, reports and country updates as they are posted

Great New Service for noonsite users: Get notified of cruising news, reports and country updates as they are posted  (23 May 2013)

June 8th is World Oceans Day: Create or Join an event near you

June 8th is World Oceans Day: Create or Join an event near you  (17 May 2013)

Cargo Ship Rescues Australian Sailor in the Pacific Ocean

Cargo Ship Rescues Australian Sailor in the Pacific Ocean  (16 May 2013)

ARC Europe & Atlantic Cup Get Underway from Nanny Cay, Tortola

ARC Europe & Atlantic Cup Get Underway from Nanny Cay, Tortola  (08 May 2013)

USA, New Jersey & New York: Superstorm Sandy debris clean-up update

USA, New Jersey & New York: Superstorm Sandy debris clean-up update  (04 May 2013)

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USA: BoatUS joins Waterway Guide in Superstorm Sandy update effort  (16 Mar 2013)

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Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu: Magic Island Petroleum Closing Business  (04 Mar 2013)

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USA and Canada Divvy Up Electronic Chart Duties for Border Waters  (22 Feb 2013)

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USA, San Juan Islands: New Free Cruising Guide by Salish Sea Pilot  (21 Feb 2013)

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Lessons learned in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: Boat US Webinars this March  (14 Feb 2013)

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Cruising Club of America Annual Awards Announced  (13 Feb 2013)

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Mid-Atlantic: Sailors Rescued 900 Miles Offshore  (31 Jan 2013)

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World Cruising Club Announces New Home Port for USA Events  (25 Jan 2013)

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USA: NOAA and U.S. Power Squadrons Renew Cooperative Charting Program  (25 Jan 2013)

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The 2012 Caribbean 1500 Finishes on a High Note  (18 Dec 2012)

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USA: The count begins - 65,000 boats damaged by Hurricane ‘Sandy’  (22 Nov 2012)

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Hurricane Sandy Claims Tall Ship HMS Bounty  (31 Oct 2012)

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Hurricane Sandy's death toll across the Caribbean rises to 65  (28 Oct 2012)

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2012 Caribbean 1500 Preview  (24 Oct 2012)

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Gulf of Mexico: Tropical Storm Isaac poses serious threat  (26 Aug 2012)

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USA: Weather Underground Launches New Sailing & Boating Weather Service  (23 Aug 2012)

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Hawaii: Global Positioning System (GPS) Testing  (16 Aug 2012)

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SSCA Clean Wake Project: Monitoring Radiation in the Pacific  (20 Jun 2012)

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USA, Oregon: Huge Dock from Japan's Tsunmai Washed Ashore  (15 Jun 2012)

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Caution when Entering the USA from Cuba - with Updates  (22 May 2012)

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USA, Southern New England: Coastguard Implements New Warning Device  (10 May 2012)

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USA, East Coast: Opsail 2012 – Possible Delays for Boaters  (04 May 2012)

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USA, Rhode Island: Newport's New Maritime Centre  (12 Apr 2012)

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Caribbean Free Cruising Guides - New Editions  (04 Apr 2012)

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Some Good News Regarding the International Certificate of Competence  (07 Mar 2012)

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NARC Rally Participants Abandon Ship in Rough Seas  (10 Nov 2011)

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USA, Hampton: Start of the Caribbean 1500 Postponed due to Tropical Storm Sean  (09 Nov 2011)

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Hazard warning for yachts in the Pacific - debris from Japan's tsunami   (19 Oct 2011)

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More Hurricane Activity in the Atlantic  (09 Sep 2011)

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Hurricane Irene Hits the US East Coast  (27 Aug 2011)

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Hurricane Irene - The First Hurricane of the Season due to hit the US this Weekend  (23 Aug 2011)

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Tropical Storm Emily Tracking Towards Eastern Seaboard  (03 Aug 2011)

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USA: Anchoring Restrictions Proposed from Maryland to Florida  (28 Jun 2011)

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USA: Rogue Wave Swamps Cruising Yacht off East Coast  (19 May 2011)

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ARC Europe transatlantic cruising rally starts  (09 May 2011)

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Somali charged in hijacking that killed 4 Americans  (15 Apr 2011)

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Massive floating rubbish islands from Japan tsunami spotted on Pacific  (08 Apr 2011)

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Warning About GPS Unreliability in US Waters  (23 Jan 2011)

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Update Regarding the Issuing of US Recreational Vessel Documents  (19 Dec 2010)

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Sailor drowned, two lost for 12 days, no EPIRB   (02 Dec 2010)

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World Cruising Club Announces New U.S. Departure Port for ARC Europe Rally  (14 Oct 2010)

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Alex - First Named Storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season  (29 Jun 2010)

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New Online Gulf Oil Spill Resource  (14 May 2010)

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USA: North Carolina Coast - Update to No Discharge Regulation  (08 May 2010)

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Transatlantic Rally sets sail from Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVIs  (08 May 2010)

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BP hires locals boats to assist in Gulf clean up  (04 May 2010)

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New Anchoring Restrictions for Florida  (08 Mar 2010)

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OceansWatch Aid to Haiti  (24 Jan 2010)

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New Florida Boating Education Law Started January 1st  (07 Jan 2010)

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Record Load Bound for Freeport and St. Thomas  (30 Oct 2009)

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Yacht dismasted by one ship, saved by another  (29 Oct 2009)

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Anchoring in Florida, USA  (07 Oct 2009)

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Super Ship Yacht Express Visits Northeast US for First Time  (21 Jul 2009)

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American Visa Application  (15 Jan 2009)

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FBI Maritime Liaison Agents assisting US Sailors Internationally  (18 Dec 2008)

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Marina Seca Resumes Trucking Boats to the US  (05 Dec 2008)

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New Weather Website Launched by NOAA  (06 Nov 2008)

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USA Customs & Border Control – Issue of Cruising Permit Decals  (30 Oct 2008)

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Solo Sailor Rescued by AMVER  (16 Oct 2008)

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Yacht Express Makes Debut Down Under  (18 Jul 2008)

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FLORIDA – Skipper arrested for Anchoring for more than 10 days  (26 Jun 2008)

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Switlik Liferafts - Safety Alert and Recall  (19 Jun 2008)

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US Visa Waiver Program NOT for cruisers  (14 Jun 2008)

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US Coast Guard Announces Decision to Continue HF Weather Broadcasts  (29 Feb 2008)

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DYT Announces New Routes and Voyages  (12 Dec 2007)

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US Regulations For Yachts Vary From State To State  (23 May 2007)

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Fate Of North American LORAN-C Radionavigation System To be Decided  (16 Jan 2007)

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New US Immigration Requirements  (02 Aug 2006)

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US President Declares Largest Marine Sanctuary On Earth  (26 Jun 2006)

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New powers to seize vessels in US territorial waters  (29 Apr 2004)

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French Yacht Completes First Polar Circumnavigation  (01 Oct 2003)