What Identification Do I Need on a Boat?
Boating is the very definition of adventure. Freedom and flexibility abound when you're out on the water and that's what draws new sailors to a life at sea, or more realistically some leisure time at sea. The question is, what sort of identification do you need on a boat in order to keep yourself legal and safe? We will focus on at-home documents first, and then go over what is needed to travel abroad. International boating can be a great experience, but there are certain requirements that need to be met in order to avoid legal trouble.
Domestic Boating Identification Requirements
Even if you aren't going far from home, keep this documentation handy at all times.
Boat Registration or Rental Agreement
This is your basic proof of ownership if you do get stopped by the authorities for any reason. If you own the boat you'll be asked to present your boat registration, otherwise, you're required to present a rental agreement in order to prove that you actually do belong on that vessel. Double-check that all of your documentation is up-to-date. If you're going on an extended journey then you should make sure that your boat registration is not set to expire during the trip.
A passport is best for this purpose since it can also be used internationally (see below), but any sort of state-issued photo identification can do in a pinch. This is mostly used as proof that you are who you say you are. Without any photo ID anyone could just say that they are whatever person the boat is registered to, and that would be a scary and confusing world to live in.
Boaters Safety Cards
While these cards aren't really required internationally, they are now required in a lot of states these days. Even if your state doesn't require one, you'll definitely want to check on the laws of neighboring states if you plan on crossing state lines. Similar to insurance, they are a great idea to have on hand regardless of the letter of the law. Boaters safety cards can be a great boon when it comes to proving that you know the rules if you need to file an insurance claim. Additionally, they can help lower the cost of your insurance! It will pay itself off in no time flat and there are plenty of places to obtain one completely online. A worthy investment!
Insurance may or may not be a requirement depending on where you are located, but it's always a good idea to have it. A few states are starting to enforce the need for at least basic liability coverage. Some people will write off boat insurance as an unneeded expense, but those are the same people that will end up without a means to get back on the water should any sort of disaster befall them, unless they are ludicrously wealthy. I am not, so I keep my insurance current to ensure that one slip-up isn't the end of my boating career.
International Boating Identification Requirements
Headed to another country? Ensure you have the proper documentation! Do your homework!
Country of Origin Passport
If you're boating in San Diego and meander over into Mexican waters without a passport you might get into some legal trouble. This might be a bit of an obvious one since passports are needed for most international travel, but it definitely bears mentioning. Nothing could be worse than starting on a leisure cruise and ending in a prison cell or getting subjected to an exorbitant bribe in order to avoid said prison cell. Ensure that each person onboard has a passport that hasn't expired in order to avoid this awkward situation.
Do your homework and find out if the country you're headed for requires a visa. Some will present a visa as you arrive, but you'll need to be in the know in order to collect it. If you're from the US, a passport should suffice for neighboring countries but for longer voyages, things can differ quite a lot. Countries like Cuba, China, Vietnam, and even Australia require a visa for your boat to enter their waters. Luckily an e-visa can be easily obtained online for a small fee.
Nobody wants to consider that their pet might be impounded at customs, but it's a situation that does happen. If your furry companion is along for the ride then you'll want to ensure that you possess a current vaccination card signed by a veterinarian. Some vaccines need to be given enough time to take effects so ensure that the vaccine's incubation period has elapsed.
It's rare to experience a boating accident, but it certainly does happen from time to time. Check out our blog on equipment you should carry on your boat in an emergency! A quick dip can destroy almost any of the documentation listed above so you'll want to ensure that you have at least three copies of all documents mentioned above. Keep one copy in a tightly sealed waterproof container, a second copy in your emergency evacuation bug-out bag, and a third copy with someone that you trust on dry land. The party on dry land can forward the documents to the US consulate if you end up losing your paperwork while abroad.
In cases of emergency seconds can save a life so ensure all zippers and snaps are easily ready for action with our boat zipper and snap lube. In cases of engine trouble you'll be extremely grateful to have a mini telescoping paddle on board as well!