Our vessel is documented with the United States Coast Guard. Each year they mail out a renewal notice. One simply needs to sign the form and mail it back in order to receive a new document. Well I waited and waited for my renewal notice. It never arrived. Today I looked at our document and discovered that it expired two days ago. Doh!
Looking for the correct phone number leads me through the myriad of governmental alphabet agencies. The US Government / Department of Homeland Security / National Vessel Documention Center (in West Virginia of all places). If you have an issue with your vessel documentation the number to call is 1-304-271-2400.
I dialed and listened to a five minute recording that assured me my call was important. Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and that they are short on staff at this time. Then I got the automated menu. I pushed “7” for documentation renewal questions. I listened to a little muzak, then finally got a nice lady on the line. I explained that I never received a renewal notice. She informed me that my documentation was expired. I already knew that. She quoted the fine print on the back of the document, “Renewal is the responsibility of the owner.” I already knew that. I wanted to comment on the fact that a division of DHS can’t even mail out a simple form on time, but bit my tongue.
She was quite helpful though. For five bucks I could pay the late fee and she would send over my form to the renewal department. I thought, “What? You aren’t in the renewal department?” Anyway, we settled the matter over the phone and hopefully I’ll get new paperwork sometime this year.
When we bought our vessel she flew a Canadian flag. If that were still the case she’d currently be an illegal alien vessel. Maybe we ought to hide out in the mangroves so the NSA can’t find us, at least until our new paperwork arrives.
Lesson learned – You are responsible for renewing your documentation. Don’t wait until it’s too late to discover that the Coast Guard did not mail you a notice. You might be forced to hide out in the mangroves too.
For more adventures in liveaboard boating read Leap of Faith / Quit Your Job and Live on a Boat: