To Document or Not To Document?

One of the more frequent questions Knot10 is asked by a potential buyer is “what is the difference if I Coast Guard document the vessel vs. registering it with my DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or DNR (Department of Natural Resources), and do I need to do it”……. let me give you the quick answer

An undocumented vessel is registered by the DMV and does not have a marine certificate issued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

A documented vessel is registered and issued a marine certificate by the U.S. Coast Guard

Generally, you need to one or the other, and some states still in addition to Coast Guard documentation require registration of the vessel (not numbers though)

Why Document Your Boat

  • For commercial-use boats, documentation is required to avoid fines.
  • A documented boat is easier to sell, buy and/or finance, because its ownership is incontrovertibly established.
  • Many lending companies and individuals require documentation as a condition for financing boat purchases because documented boats are eligible for a First Preferred Ships Mortgage, the safest form of security a lender can have on a boat.
  • Bills of Sale, Mortgages and other instruments of title are recorded with the National Vessel Documentation Center.
  • When cruising in foreign territory or U.S. waters, it gives undisputed identity.
  • It gives authority to fly the yacht ensign of the U.S.

Documentation Requirements

  • The vessel owner must be a US citizen (native-born or naturalized) or the corporation must meet Coast Guard citizenship regulations.
  • The vessel must be a minimum of 5 net tons displacement by a formula computed by the US Coast Guard. Usually a boat measuring 25′ (LOA) by 8′ (beam) by 5′ (depth, not draft) — power or sail qualifies for documentation.

Cost of Documentation

  • $150.00 if you do it yourself, $300-500 if a document agent does it for you.

For more information access the Coast Guard web page at:


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