GLENN: Beginning about six months prior to Mira’s scheduled completion, we embarked on a rather bureaucratic process of obtaining all the required documents we would need to legally own and operate Mira. Thankfully, we got reliable advice from our builder, our attorney, and other Antares owners and the process went fairly smoothly. If you have the interest (and patience) I’ve listed the steps we took sequentially as each step requires some prior steps. In retrospect, it would have been nice to find an agent to take care of the whole process. Chalk it up to boat ownership education. Hopefully, this proves useful to future boat owners.
- Decide on a name for the boat
“Mira” done. See Why Mira? for more of that story.
- Decide on legal ownership structure for the boat
Although we don’t plan to run a charter business, we were advised to put Mira in a Delaware limited liability corporation rather than owning Mira personally. I’d recommend consulting your own attorney and tax advisor for this. We used Allyachtregistries.com and the process was simple to incorporate our LLC with the State of Delaware who is happy to collect an annual fee (~$225) to maintain the LLC. The deliverable from Delaware is the Certificate of Formation of our LLC.
- Determine hailing port (port of registration)
In the US, for recreational vessels, this is the city and state that appears on the transom of the ship. It turns out that it doesn’t actually need to be a coastal port. For registration, the US Coast Guard doesn’t care where the boat will be located; only that the combination of the ship’s name and the hailing port is unique. We are from Atlanta, Georgia so that’s our hailing port.
- Obtain a Builder’s Certificate from the boat’s builder
This is another standard USCG form (CG-1261) available on the USCG website. It’s completed by the boat’s builder and provides the owner, among other boat specs, the ship’s unique Hull Identification Number (12-digit alpha numeric) which is also physically molded into the interior of the boat’s hull by the builder.
- Register the boat
For US recreational vessels, you can either register your boat with your local state authorities or with the US Coast Guard. If you plan to sail the boat internationally, it’s best to “document” the boat with the US Coast Guard as it simplifies clearing in and out of customs. It also can make transferring ownership easier when the time comes to sell the boat. This is the path we took. Again, we used Allyachtregistries.com to submit our application (USCG form CG-1258) along with the original paper copy of our Builder’s Certificate to the US Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center. After a few months, we received our Certificate of Documentation (COD) from the USCG which establishes the boat’s Official Number (7 digit numeric). You need to annually renew the COD with the USCG for about $26.
- FCC registration
If you have a VHF and/or an SSB radio aboard, you need to get a license from the FCC to transmit on the airways. We applied online at the FCC website. Once you register initially with the FCC you get an online account and a 10-digit FCC Registration Number (FCN). You then login and submit form FCC-605 and pay the FCC $220. Then, after a couple of weeks, we received via US mail our Radio Station Authorization certificate which established our FCC Call Sign (7-digit alphanumeric) and our 9-digit (numeric) Maritime Mobile Service Identities (MMSI) which is used by our VHF radios and AIS system to uniquely identify our boat. FCC registration is valid for 10 years.
- EPIRB registration
As is the standard practice with boats that sail offshore, we carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) aboard Mira. It is used to alert search and rescue services and our designated family contacts in the event of an emergency. It does this by transmitting a coded message on the 406 MHz distress frequency via satellite and earth stations to the nearest rescue co-ordination center. Registration requires the beacon ID number provided by the EPIRB manufacturer and is done at NOAA’s website. Registration is free and is valid for 2 years.
- Power of Attorney for Export and Delivery
We hired a licensed delivery captain to sail Mira from Argentina to the Caribbean. Since we were not planning to be aboard Mira during the delivery, we needed to provide him with a document granting legal authorization to act on our behalf to deal with port officials and clear Mira in and out of the countries along the way. We needed to sign the POA in the presence of a US notary to confirm we actually signed the POA. In the US, notaries are licensed by each state and each state respects the validity of other states’ notaries. However, for a US state’s notarization to be valid in most of the rest of the world, we needed to take one additional step. The Hague Convention of 1961 established a standard international process adopted by 114 countries by which a document issued in one country can be certified for legal purposes in other countries; the apostille. So, our next step was a visit to the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority office to get an apostille certificate for our POA; thus certifying for the international community that our notarization was legitimate.
- Marine Insurance
We wanted a policy to cover damage to the boat (hull coverage) for a pre-agreed boat value and damage the boat might cause to other property like boats, docks, and people (liability/primary indemnity coverage). We also wanted coverage for other major expenses for medical payments, emergency towing, salvage and rescue, and fuel spillage. We worked with a recommended marine insurance broker to help us navigate the process and provide quotes from multiple carriers. Policies are typically for a 1 year period and are underwritten based upon the coverage requested, our sailing experience, the experience of our delivery captain, and the geographic area we plan to sail during the year. After reviewing initial quotes and selecting a carrier, we asked our broker to submit our application along with the required copies of our final boat sales contract (to document the value of the boat), our sailing resume, and the resume of our delivery captain. After a bit of back and forth, we received our policy timed to begin with the launch of Mira.