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US Regulations For Yachts Vary From State To State

By doina — last modified May 23, 2007 01:44 PM

Published: 2007-05-23 13:44:52
Topics: Cruising Information
Countries: USA

Noonsite has recently been informed of two incidents which indicate that foreign yachts visiting the US must be aware of how different officials in different states may interpret the rules as well as state-specific regulations that can impact on your stay!

Canadian Warren Chafe contacted Noonsite for information on the procedure for renewing the annual cruising permit required for non-US flagged yachts. Having kept his Canadian-flagged yacht in North Carolina for 3 years, local CBP officials had renewed successive Cruising licenses without any problem. Now finding himself in Fort Myers, Florida, he learnt that officials here interpret the regulations differently and two conditions have to be met to reissue a cruising license: 1. the 15 day out of country requirement must be met; and 2. the vessel must arrive from a foreign port - showing foreign clearance paperwork to the CBP as evidence.

Noonsite, and official US government websites, do state that a yacht must leave the country for a minimum period of 15 days before returning and renewing the license. Chafe writes:

"This is contrary to my experience in NC, where (more accommodating CBP) officers issued my successive Cruising licenses after being in the USA for 3 years. Their reasoning, provided for under Custioms Directive 3130-006A together with 19 CFR 4.94 (b) is that if the boat was laid up (manufactured) in the USA, which it was, it is eligible for successive Cruising Licenses upon request."

In Fort Myers, Florida officials "would only issue me a "Permit to Proceed" which was a $37.00 "license" of sorts, to go from points A to B. These were, in my case, from Ft. Myers to Washington, NC. The CBP Inspector said I had to state specifically the number of crew members and I had to be accurate in this number (I had no way of knowing exactly), could NOT stop at any port (notwithstanding needs to re-fuel and take on provisions and change crew or do repairs or whatever), and proceed directly to my destination in NC, basically without stopping."

On arrival in Beaufort/Morehead City the local CBP were happy to reissue the cruising permit as they had done on previous occasions.

“I was appalled by the different interpretations of CBP across the country, Ft. Myers region being the most intransigent and unbending of all regions. Florida for this and other reasons was a State I was glad to leave, and I will never return to the State.”

The second incident came from yachting author Steve Dashew who had to pay at $300 waiver fee to sail in Washingon state waters. He writes: “Washington State law calls for a pilot aboard ALL non US or Canadian yachts. Or, you have to get an "exemption" from the Washington State Pilots Commission. The "fee" for the exemption is $300 for 90 days, or $500 for a year. We paid the $300 because we do not intend to come back on this side of Puget Sound. One fee is enough for us!

We usually stop in Seattle to do boat chores, but will move this business to Canada now. If we are forced to pay this tax you can be sure we’ll go elsewhere with our business in the future, as, I suspect, will any other small foreign flagged cruising vessels once they are aware that for the privilege of cruising your waters they will be assessed this $300 fee.

This ruling has been enforced haphazardly in the past. We got picked up because we chatted with Vessel Traffic Control who asked us if we had a pilot aboard.”

The Washington State Board of Pilotage Commissioners has since replied:

The Board has no choice but to assess a fee since the requirement to do so is established in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW 88.16.070). This requirement was set by the Washington State Legislature and the Board of Pilotage Commissioners does not have the authority to waive the fee.

You or anyone else affected by this legislation can certainly approach a member of the Washington State Legislature to request a change in the law. In the meantime, the Board is compelled to assess the fee.