USA - Facts

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  • Important pre-arrival information: All nationalities, whether entering and/or leaving the US by private yacht MUST obtain a visa in advance. Such visitors CANNOT enter the USA for the first time under the Visa Waiver Programme on board their yacht. See Formalities for all the details.
  • Whilst in the past, the majority of foreign boats visiting the United States were Canadian, security and reporting requirements have been simplified in recent years making the USA a much more accessible place to visit.
  • The USA has a lot to offer the cruising sailor, particularly the East Coast, the entire length of which can be cruised from the Florida Keys to Maine. A cruise along this coast has the added attraction of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), a unique system of canals, rivers and estuaries, which stretches along most of the eastern seaboard offering the chance of sailing up or down the coast in sheltered waters almost within sight of the ocean.
  • Offering less variety, the West Coast’s main attractions are concentrated at its two extremes. The most popular cruising area in the Pacific Northwest is the San Juan Islands, an archipelago of some 200 islands, many of which have been declared wildlife reserves or marine parks. Beyond these islands and through Canadian waters, the Inside Passage beckons, linking Puget Sound to Alaska, America’s ultimate cruising destination. An increasing number of yachts sail to Alaska for the short summer season, either by taking the inside route or making an offshore detour by stopping first at the Hawaiian Islands.
  • Visibility is often poor in the Pacific Northwest region, so radar is useful. The Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) on VHF Channel 14 provides a useful service in the Juan de Fuca Strait which is often fogbound and always very busy with traffic.
  • For those avoiding high latitude cruising, there is all year round sailing in the Pacific Southwest, whether in the San Francisco Bay area or the Channel Islands, off Southern California. Of the eight main islands, Santa Catalina is the best known and most popular. The other islands are less frequented and there are countless coves around their precipitous shores. Since some of the Channel Islands are either privately owned or part of the National Park system, a permit to visit them must be obtained in advance by those wishing to go ashore.
  • Yachting facilities throughout the United States are predominantly of a high standard, especially near larger cities. There are marinas practically everywhere and the only objection visiting sailors might have are the high docking fees. Fortunately almost everywhere there is also a place to anchor at little or no cost and in some ports municipal marinas, docks or moorings are priced at a level affordable by those cruising on a restricted budget.
  • On the East Coast, the most important yachting centers where the whole range of repair facilities are available are the areas around the following cities: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Beaufort/Morehead City, Baltimore, City Island (New York), Newport, Marblehead. On the West Coast: San Diego, Newport Beach, San Francisco, Seattle. In between these places, there are countless smaller ports, where one can find boatyards, chandleries and all kinds of workshops.
  • The USA utilizes a different set of VHF frequencies for some communications. Most VHF radio sets have a “USA mode” in order to switch automatically to these frequencies. Whilst VHF Channel 16 is the internationally recognized hailing and emergency channel, it is common for some marinas to use alternate “Alpha Channels” to communicate on working channels. Most importantly, the US Coast Guard commonly uses VHF Channel 22A as a working channel. When operating in US territorial waters, it is advised to switch your VHF radio set to “USA mode.” Also, VHF Channel 09 is regularly used as a reserved channel for official activities such as bridge and lock operation.
  • The US Coast Guard maintains a record of every report and active navigation issue in all of the waterways – inland and coastal – in the USA. They publish this information for the public at the US Coast Guard Navigation Center website. This is the best location for all Local Notice To Mariners, ice flow charts for high-latitudes, and local/regional/federal navigation rules (and changes to them). It is possible to subscribe to (weekly) email updates specific to the region you may be cruising. The USCG also welcomes updates as you cruise and can be contacted through the website (or on VHF Channel 16). The USCG NavCen site has a truly astounding level of detail.

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  1. May 27, 2024 at 7:51 PM
    profile photo
    Sailors for Sustainability says:

    Note that the ROAM app that is supposed to used for the first arrival in the country and subesquently to report each domestic arrival in a new port is not working properly for the latter. Instead, we were advised to call the appropriate CBP office to inform them of your movement. A call to them when leaving the country is sufficient for outbound clearance.

  2. September 29, 2023 at 7:43 PM
    Simon Coates says:

    American radio use is hard to get… speed talking with out gaps between words usually selected for colour rather than meaning seems to be the sport. Good luck and enjoy 😊

  3. June 27, 2023 at 7:34 PM
    MaryanneWebb says:

    For boaters visitring the US, note that they have some very specific VHF channels not availabe on ‘International’ VHF standards.

    Most radios have an option to change your region (between International/USA/Canada) so check your manual.

    E.g. VHF 22A is often used to broadcast marina weather and safety notices.

  4. June 2, 2023 at 2:37 PM
    MaryanneWebb says:

    Most international cruisers probably don’t get to do the Erie Canal – but I’ve done it twice now. Here are a few (random) thoughts and notes..

    Erie Canal and additional NY State Waterways.

    Useful websites ….
    * Main info area – https://www.canals.ny.gov/boating/index.html
    * Navigating the Canals – (links to very detailed info by area) https://www.canals.ny.gov/Navinfo/index.html
    * Subscribe for ‘Canal Notices’ email notification so you are aware of any issues or possible delays as they happen (things to break down)
    https://www.canals.ny.gov/wwwapps/tas/tascanals/
    * YOu can also subcribe to the USCG ‘Notice To Mariners’ for information on the areas you expect to travel – https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDHSCG/subscriber/new
    * Useful milage chart (also shows lifts for each lock) – https://www.canals.ny.gov/navinfo/charts/mileage.jpg

    General notes.
    * Price to use the system varies by year (but in 2022 it was free)
    * Access is seasonal – it pretty much freezes over winter, and any major mainteance also needs to be scheduled – check open dates each year, but they normally start around mid/late April
    * There are several marinas on route, but also So many amazing free docks, many (but not all) have showers, bathrooms, Water, power, pump outs, some even have free laundry machines!. Note for free docks 48 hour limit in any calendar month.
    * Height restrictions mean that all sailboats need to unstep their masts, and some powerboats need to bring down some equipment.
    * It’s a great way to see ‘small town America’, and you can access to the Great Lakes and Finger Lakes – some great cruising grounds.
    * The canal system is 200 years old (in 2024), The blue and yellow livery is very distinctive.
    * Many of the lock keepers are old timers that return each season. Each lock has it’s own flair, some with bird feeders, some with art-work, some with flower beds, etc. They are living museums and the lock keepers do maintenance in-between lockings.
    * In our case (this time) we chose to enter from the Hudson River, Transit the whole of the Erie Canal, over-winter in the great lakes (on the hard) and then exit via the St Lawence Seaway – but there are plenty of alternative options within the system.
    * Each lock is different in lift and in quality of walls/lines. None have floating bollards to secure to. Some locks have bollards part way up the walls to help, some have Wires to secure a line to, some have poles recessed into the wall (be preapred for anything)
    * Each lock has a couple of ladders on either side (just in case someone falls in)
    * No sewage water discharge permitted. There are pump outs along the way but many are broken so call/plan ahead to be sure you catch those that are working as you need them.
    * The western stretch of the canal has very few locks, but does have LOTS of lift bridges (most open on demand during fixed daytime hours)

    Suggestions
    * Amazingly the NY State Canal system doesn’t seem to publish/provide any useful guides as to the nature of each Lock and facilities at each of the towns/free docks, etc. (at least I never found one!)
    * The Navionics app, with its ‘active captain’ comments is useful to have
    * Probably the best App for information on bridge, locks, etc is ‘The Waterways guide’. There are paying options, but you can still get map, icons and info even without any subcriptions.
    * It is possible to go through single handed (plenty do) but much easier and fun with 2-3 people aboard – a line handler at each end of the boat
    * Consider purchasing a spare boat hook as we saw plenty seem to get bent/discarded along the way (ideally you need two at all times)
    * Prepare your boat to dock to EITHER Side of the lock (lines and fenders). Some locks only permit docking to one side (e.g. E-17 only permits locking on South side since the turbulance is too great on the other side), and sometimes there are other issues that require you to rapidly change your plan – it is easier if fenders and lines are already prepared on both sides.
    * It’s good to have a hand held VHF radio (VHF13 is used by all the lock keepers)
    * If you need to unstep your mast – be sure it is really secure and with ‘spring lines’ as the lakes can get a little rough
    * If you need to unstep your mast – it is best stored centered on the boat (to allow docking and locking on either side)
    * If you need to unstep your mast – consider nav/anchor lights and radio signal while transitting.
    * Gloves are useful as some of the ropes can get quite muddy (or be covered in growth)
    * While there seems to be no formal requirement, it is prudent to wear a life jacket ‘just in case’.
    * Some of the walls have large sections of missing concrete leaving cavities in the wall. On a lift, this can cause the fender to get stuck – so be prepared to fend off the wall as you rise.
    * Some of the walls have old iron pins sticking out (or even the ladders may no longer be recessed) – so where possible pick your location along the wall to minimize hazards.
    * It is easiest (on the pulse) when you have a lock to yourself, or with just a small number of boats. When the lock is full, much more care must be taken to be sure your boat doesn’t swing out into someone elses (on the other wall)
    * Locking down is much more gentle than going up.
    * There are sufficient opportunites along the way to drop off or pick up crew, to get to supermarkets within walking distance several times a week, and plenty of eating out options (Ice cream, mexican, pubs, etc, etc)
    * Security – while some sites have video surveylance, don’t expect it. Small town america is generally rediculously safe. The bigger the town, the less ‘secure’ you might feel. We took a detour to syracuse and had our lines (all 4) untied overnight and found ourselves adrift. There are bad actors everwhere – so if you get that ‘feeling’ be sure to secure your boat (e.g. put lines through the ‘gap’ in the dock cleat and secure both ends at the boat, so anyone would have to board the boat to untie – and then you’ll most likely be roused) But don’t over worry about such things as such instances are rare.
    * Plenty of trails and wildlife along the way. The route roughly paralells the I-90 (highway), and major railway lines. For much of its lenght there is a cycleway/trail that is busy with others enjoying the route (see Empire State Trail)
    * If you have space, bicycles and kayaks can get a lot of use.
    * Waterways are fresh water – so consider your anodes, and expect to be a bit lower in the water as fresh water is less bouyant than seawater.
    * If looking to haul out overwinter in this area – it gets way below freezing, many places offer heated (indoor) slots – but even yard space fills quickly so plan/book ahead.

  5. December 7, 2022 at 5:39 PM
    profile photo
    sue-richards says:

    Reported by S/Y Shimshal:
    I just wanted to alert you to an issue we have just been confronted with. We are a U.K. flagged vessel and obtained our cruising permit from US customs and border protection via the ROAM app when we entered the USA in June at Eastport in Maine. We have cruised without any issues until today when, tied up in a marina in Charleston, we were approached by two customs officials who issued us with a notice of violation as we had not reported to Customs on our arrival in Charleston. When our cruising permit was issued we specifically asked if we had to report at each location and were told that was not necessary.
    Apparently, we are meant to check in with ROAM every time we go into a new port if we are a non-US flagged boat. The ROAM app does have an option for doing so after having entered the USA. We’ve now found the option!
    We just hadn’t realised we still needed to do it each time we went to the next port. It’s also possible to phone in at each port. So we were probably misled in Eastport by the customs there that we would not need to report at each port and also hadn’t heard anyone tell us it was necessary – until now!!
    So that should clarify the situation – just keep reporting on ROAM as you cruise the US if you are non-US flagged. It’s not sufficient to have the cruising permit.
    We live and learn!
    Sally Currin
    S/Y Shimshal
    Ocean Cruising Club

  6. November 1, 2021 at 4:48 AM
    nigelleakey says:

    I am a British and New Zealand passport holder about to buy a USA registered yacht in Florida. I have seen on this web site that the advice is one can not enter the USA by plane under the visa waiver programme and then depart the country on a yacht. The advice suggests getting a B1B2 visa (which I can’t at the moment because the Auckland Consulate is closed due to Covid restrictions in NZ). Elsewhere on a Noonsite thread, it seems to have been reported that entering on a visa waiver programme by plane and then departing by yacht has been done legally. Any one with advice or experience?

    1. November 13, 2021 at 12:47 PM
      mariawadsworth says:

      Hi Nigel, I believe that this family did this last year, I’m sure they will be happy to tell you about their experience. We crossed the Atlantic with them https://sailingmirabella.com/

    2. December 12, 2021 at 10:09 PM
      floater says:

      According to US Federal regulations whenever you depart the United States (U.S.) by pleasure boat/small vessel to a foreign country, you must obtain clearance with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before departing. If you were issued a cruising license to cruise the U.S. territorial waters, you must clear your departure with CBP before proceeding to a foreign location.

  7. October 19, 2021 at 8:56 PM
    mariawadsworth says:

    Having sailed from the U.K. in 2017, we sold our boat in French Polynesia and bought another one that was on the hard in Anacortes, Washington State.

    On the 12th August we’d had the MMSI reprogrammed with the new yacht name and MMSI number, now British registered.

    On the 14th August 2021 we launched the boat and we’re on the boatyard dock preparing to leave and cruise around the area before heading south. We usually check Noonsite for information relating to the area we are in but as we’d only just gone into the water we hadn’t.
    Whilst on the dock the boatyard manager came and told us he’d had a visit about our boat. The man who came to see him was ( a boat pilot) living in Anacortes who had seen our AIS appear as a foreign flagged vessel. He had said we needed to carry a pilot on board or apply for an exemption whilst we were sailing in Washington State waters. He left the exemption application form. We’d not heard of this rule so Allen then went to the Customs and Border Protection office to obtain our cruising permit, we knew we needed this as we’d sailed the East coast of the USA in 2018. They had never heard about foreign flagged vessels requiring a pilot or about the application to apply for an exemption.
    He went to Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes and asked the harbour master if he’d heard of it, he hadn’t. 
    To apply for an exemption as we are over 50ft the fee was $700 and you need to apply 30 days in advance of entering Washington State. It also said that payment could only be made by cheque. Two of these things we definitely couldn’t do!
    Allen rang the phone number on the paperwork, the Board of Pilotage Commissioners and left a message on a voicemail. 
    The next day we hadn’t received a call back, so I rang and left another message. I then called the pilot who had left his card with the boatyard manager, he explained that he had just moved to Anacortes and wanted to give us the heads up, if we were found to be without a pilot or an exemption then we would have serious questions to answer. He said it would only cost $50 to apply for an exemption, we are over 50ft so it would have cost $700 and we had no means of making payment as they only accept US cheques.

    I received a call back from the  Board of Pilot Commissioners and a similar conversation ensued as with the local pilot. In addition to the information he gave me she said that if we applied for an exemption today then the committee was meeting on following Tuesday and they could hear our application. I said that wouldn’t help as we were leaving on Sunday and also that we had no means to pay for the application. She explained that as we had no experience in Washington waters then our application would probably be refused and our $700 lost! We asked how much it would cost to hire a pilot, about the same price, (presumably to take us directly out of the area), she said the pilot would leave our vessel at Port Angeles. I said that the boat is our home and we really don’t want someone else onboard when we are more than competent in piloting her ourselves. We also didn’t want anyone because we are still in the middle of a pandemic and trying to restrict our contact with people. I asked if it’s only foreign flagged vessels then how do foreigners pay the fee, as any foreign flagged cruiser wouldn’t have a U.S bank account. She said, we don’t get many cruisers with foreign flagged vessels coming to WA and that the pilot who reported our vessel to them was new. She then admitted that it was really aimed at the large cruise ships and chartered motor vessels that come to the area and they are owned by companies who have the means to write US cheques. But we still fall within the category of a foreign flagged vessel. Canadian vessels are exempt because they have a reciprocal agreement with Canada.
    I told her that we knew of a number of US citizens who live in other states , buy boats, sail them around this area without any knowledge of how to handle a boat or the area but because they are American they can cruise around. If you are trying to protect the waters , which was the claim for the reason we needed to take a pilot on board then surely the best thing would be that anyone taking a boat out would need to have some form of training to skipper a boat. Nothing about this rule made any sense, it would seem that we were caught up in a rule that really shouldn’t apply to us.
    She thought about things for a bit and then said, it is a Washington State Rule ( not a law) , as an organisation we have no teeth and we don’t have boats that would come out and slap a ticket on your vessel. She then said “ I didn’t say this, but if I was you, I’d just leave” We explained we were planning a couple of stops on the way out and she said that we MAY get asked about it by another local pilot but that the other pilot was a bit over cautious. She also said they are going to be looking at the rules again very soon, I wasn’t sure if she meant in regards to our predicament. I think the lady I spoke to understood what I meant when I explained about our sailing experience.
    We then switched off our AIS transmitter and left our British ensign wrapped up and proceeded to leave Washington State! Such a shame because it’s a beautiful place and the people were lovely. We met quite a few boat US boat owners who said they’d never heard of the ruling.

    We really don’t like to ignore rules in other countries even with a little bit of an “off the record” OK from someone at the Board of Pilotage Commissioners. However we really couldn’t see a way around this. Apply for an exemption, don’t get it, lose your money and have to take and pay for a pilot on your boat anyway.

    Having spent five days on the dock in Anacortes and eight days getting out to Neah Bay I can assure you that safe navigation or protecting the ecosystem is not a priority to many of the US flagged yachts that we encountered. A couple of things we saw were sailing and motor vessels under 20 metres in the TSS, motoring up it in the wrong direction. Numerous times we were nearly run out of a channel due to US flagged vessels not understanding the “rules of the road” and that’s not including the speeds they were travelling. The amount of oil and fuel pollution from US flagged motor vessels was quite astounding. I don’t see how a small cruising yacht with experienced RYA cruisers on board would need to take a pilot when a US Citizen who bought their vessel last week and has no experience can cruise around unaware of the waters they are cruising in. Hopefully the rules will be reviewed and common sense will prevail.

  8. August 23, 2021 at 8:50 PM
    profile photo
    sue-richards says:

    Posted on behalf of Bruce Wacker:

    I’m not sure where this should go, but I don’t recall seeing anything about US Medicare on noonsite. It has some wrinkles that cruisers should be aware of.

    Medicare has part A which is prepaid by deductions throughout one’s working life. It covers hospitalization which does not include emergency room, doctors, labs, etc. Part B covers most of the balance at, currently, about $150/month. Neither has any coverage outside the USA.

    When I started traveling extensively out of the country in 2012 I canceled my part B to save the premium for insurance I couldn’t use and have been self-insuring for those costs. Now that I’m back in the USA I want to get part B. It can be rolled into a commercial Advantage Plan which gets funding from Medicare A and B with some additional premiums for more complete and customizable coverage. However, one can only apply for part B January 1st through March 31st for activation on July 1st.This I suspected. What I didn’t know is that when part B is reinstated the premium is increased by 10% for each 12 month period one has not had part B. For me that means 100% or double the premium (around $300) for as long as I have part B.

  9. July 21, 2021 at 7:17 AM
    profile photo
    sue-richards says:

    Further Update from CBP:

    The ROAM App will now be replaced by the ONE App in early 2022.

    CBP ROAM has not yet transitioned its services to the CBP One™ mobile application. This transition was expected to occur in July 2021, but was postponed to late 2021, early 2022. New features will be released in August 2021 including applying for a cruising license and reporting domestic ports of call. Cruisers/boaters should continue to use CBP ROAM, and when transition takes place, all existing CBP ROAM users will continue to use their login.gov accounts to access ROAM features. However, this transition will require a one-time re-entry of master and traveler profile(s) and mode of travel information. Once entered, this information will be saved and stored into CBP One™ for subsequent use.

  10. May 24, 2021 at 10:37 AM
    profile photo
    sue-richards says:

    CBP have issued a SCAM Warning:[ https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/illinois-residents-receiving-calls-cbp-impersonators%5D Basically, people get a phone call ‘with caller ID indicating it’s the CBP Office in Chicago” with a ‘fake agent’ asking for payment immediately, taking bank information. Threatening immediate arrest! CBP does not ask for money over the phone.

  11. April 19, 2020 at 7:34 PM
    greenfoot says:

    Hi coming in from Mexico. 2 US citizens on UK reg boat. Heading for summer slip on Georgia. Best or worst places to check in? Will not be going on land. Except for fuel stops. Still OK to check in by phone?

  12. July 4, 2019 at 12:56 AM
    stone52 says:

    About to finish a three year trip in my RV from the states down to Argentina. I was thinking of trading or selling my RV and getting a sailboat. I can fix almost anything include fiberglass and engines. I’m looking for advice on the type of boat I should look for and where to find a good one. Not interested in returning to the states for a while. Was thinking about heading to Philippines or somewhere else in Asia, find a boat, and figure out how to sail for a while before starting to travel. Not picky where I go. Any information like good international websites to find a boat is appreciated. I get this may sound crazy. I’m not looking for reasons not to do it, I’m looking for guidance because I’m going to do this. Thanks

    1. July 11, 2019 at 12:02 PM
      profile photo
      sue-richards says:

      Hi Cameron,
      Our cruising information pages are still being migrated from the old site, but this would be a good place to start finding out information. I suggest you try one of the active cruisers forums like:
      Cruisers Forum
      http://www.cruisersforum.com
      I am sure you will get alot of advice there.
      If you are not a sailor, it would be worthwhile learning to sail first – find a sailing school near you at https://asa.com/schools/usa/. Why go to the expense of buying a yacht if you don’t know if you like sailing and living on board a yacht?
      Good luck.

  13. October 22, 2018 at 10:57 AM
    Sue Richards says:

    Please remember that flood waters from Florence and now from Michael will have lifted tons of debris into the Waterway channels and submerged hazards can do serious damage to your vessel. See Waterway Guide for the latest updates – https://www.waterwayguide.com.

  14. June 19, 2018 at 11:50 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    We arrived in Key West from Havana in June 2018. We had no problems at all. We had US Visas issued in London and obtained our US Cruising Permit in Culebra, Spanish Virgin Islands. Aware of some scuttlebut, I rang the CPB office in Key West before arriving in Cuba. The officer told me that as a British registered boat with British nationals onboard, they could not care less where we arrived from, so long as we met US entry requirements. We were not breaking any British laws by visiting Cuba, so the UA authorities were delighted to see us. They were very helpful, very cheerful and set the tone for an excellent stay in Key West.

  15. May 11, 2018 at 9:10 AM
    Sue Richards says:

    Reported by Joan Conover (SSCA):

    All Florida boatyards are full up with boat repairs..we cant find anyone to work on our boat (cutless bearing). Marathon Marina is open, they can haul us..but no one available to WORK on the boat except one yard which has a very iffy reputation. Same for Key West..and also here in West Palm Beach which we diverted to. We whined our way to getting our jib repaired using a sailmaker who Donna Lange is a close friend with..she is here and has given us ideas of who to ask for work.

    LOTS of boats heading to the Med on freighters..and at least five large yachts jus scrubbed their winter season (didn’t know where to go…in the Caribbean) and SAT at the dock here in West Palm Beach. So the boats are either south near Grenada..docked in Florida/East Coast USA..or on freighters heading to the Med. The boats were just coming in and loading out of Crown Bay/IGY Marina in St. Thomas. Think it will be a big Med season coming up.

    Of course the LOOP may be another cruising choice for boaters..or the Western Gulf of Mexico/Florida..depending on the storms this season.

  16. June 29, 2016 at 10:02 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Regarding Cruising Licences/Permits, specifically with regard to the cancelling/surrendering of one permit to enable a new one to be obtained when returning to the USA within the same twelve months, we had an enlightening conversation with the CPB Officer in St Augustine earlier this week; the key point being that whilst a Cruising Permit cannot exceed twelve months, it does not have to witten for a full twelve months; you can ask for a shorter period. We got one issued which is dated to expire in a little over eight months (when we know that we’ll be outside of the USA) and if we do then return here for the next hurricane season too, we will be eligible for a new one when we return. Apparently he issues many of these sub-twelve month licences to the Canadian yachts which spend each winter in the Bahamas and wish to return to the USA, on or around the same date each year, rather than have their ‘earliest return’ date pushed out by fifteen days each time

  17. November 24, 2015 at 9:00 AM
    val ellis says:

    Posted on behalf of Andrew Smyth
    I saw that some people had problems arriving in Key West from Havana. The best advice, which we followed, was to head on up to West Palm Beach and enter the US there. The customs and immigration have a big office which services the cruise liners close to the marinas. They weren’t the friendliest, but they didn’t question our arrival from Cuba.

  18. October 19, 2015 at 11:57 AM
    Sue Richards says:

    Where to winter on board in Alaska – great article by SY Salty Kisses.
    http://saltykisses.net/where-to-winter-on-board-in-alaska/

  19. July 9, 2015 at 3:09 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Info for any non-US sailors wishing to maximise their 12-month US cruising licence, we ‘surrendered’ the licence provided whilst cruising USVI’s, Spanish VI’s and Puerto Rico mainland (we surrendered at Mayaguez, west coast PR), sailed onto the Bahamas for a few weeks, then were able to obtain a fresh 12-month cruising licence on making landfall in Charleston, South Carolina. We were aware that award of the full 12-months licence is at the CBP Officers discretion, but we were never made to feel that the full 12-months was not likely. Interesting to note that in Charleston they were very aware that we’d surrendered our earlier licence in PR, so the computer tracking system certainly works.
    And with regard to calling in to report change of location, we were initially told to do this whenever we change location of towns (one bay to the next was unnecessary), but after reporting assiduously through South Caroline, once in North Carolina we were told not to report until we reach the next State, and now on arrival in Virginia, were told the same – maybe once you’ve built up a track record of reporting, you’re no longer considered such a risk… Anyhow, we’ve never felt any less than fully welcomed wherever we’ve been so far

  20. July 6, 2015 at 8:30 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    A ‘heads up’ for any ‘third country nationals’ planning on visiting the US (including Hawaii) from Mexico. I have just been through a protracted email exchange with the US Embassy in Mexico, trying to clarify the situation about me, as an Australian, applying for a B1/B2 visitor visa so that I could call in at Hawaii on my way home. The US State Department web site says that I CAN apply in Mexico. The US Embassy (Mexico) web site says that I CANNOT. Tho outcome of the email exchange is that the embassy insists that I becasue I am not resident in Mexico I cannot apply here, and it is therefore illegal for me to call at Hawaii. The embassy advised me to “apply in Australia”, even after I reminded them that I am already in Mexico. Sure, why not?

  21. May 23, 2015 at 10:14 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    A little correction on the above. After sailed from Havana to Key West and called the toll free number in the US, we were kindly told that we were in violation of the US law. The Cruising License was cancelled by the Key West CBP officer in charge. All very friendly but not helpful. Obviously, we should have known that we might end up in trouble. We will need to leave the country and, upon entry of the US, reapply for the Cruising License. The main issue is that, for now, it is illegal to sail directly to and from Cuba to the USA. Key West station is strictly enforcing this particular law with NO leeway.

  22. May 15, 2015 at 10:57 AM
    Sue Richards says:

    The above cruising boat is Dutch. We are currently waiting on an official reply from the authorities in Key West to clarify the exact rules re. cruising between Cuba and Key West.

  23. March 28, 2015 at 9:48 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    We found the official process to clear into the US extremely easy and straightforward. We sailed into Ensenada Honda in Culebra Spanish Virgin Iands (part of Puerto Rico) and cleared at the airport. You have to call the toll free number first to register your arrival before you are allowed to come onshore and visit the CBP official. After the usual paperwork (US loves paperwork) we were issued a one year cruising permit for free and a six month period to remain in the US. For the latter we were charged USD 19. Although leaving US waters (visit to Cuba) there is no need to fill out new paperwork once we arrive in Key West. As for all foreign vessels we will need to call the toll free number of CBP in KW to notify our arrival. It is required to call in every time one arrives in a new CBP area. Toll free numbers on the CBP website. As said, all straightforward and quick.

  24. August 8, 2014 at 8:18 PM
    Sue Richards says:

    A Summer Wilderness Cruise in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
    Read this great report by SY Seal (August 2014) at SAIL Magazine.
    http://www.sailmagazine.com/cruising-grounds/summer-wilderness-cruise-prince-william-sound

  25. May 14, 2014 at 9:46 PM
    Sue Richards says:

    Posted on behalf of Ann Lange
    This is for Canadian cruisers wanting to enter the U.S. from the Caribbean. We sailed up from Brazil – Trinidad – north through the Caribbean to BVI’s. We had no problems what so ever getting into the USVI’s, just the normal paper work. We asked if we could purchase a U.S. cruising permit in the USVI’s, the answer was no but we could obtain it in Puerto Rico. We sailed into San Juan without phoning or anything and once we found the Customs and Border Protection office on the south side of the main harbour they issued us a one year cruising permit. It cost us $37.00 USD in April of 2014, this allows us to cruise anywhere in the U.S. including any protectorates. We found this process very simple and easy compared with all the rumours we had heard.