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UN-Documenting a Vessel By Jonathan Breithweight

February 1, 2012

“UN-Documenting” a Vessel

By Jonathan Breithweight

Who would think that falling in love would necessitate un-documenting their boat? It happened to me, and the process was so convoluted that I thought NFTB readers might benefit from my experience. As an American recently married to a British citizen, I wished to add my wife’s name to our boat’s state registration and title. The process at first seemed rather straightforward until I learned that only American citizens are permitted to own documented vessels. Un-documenting my vessel was therefore required before I could add my wife’s name to the boat’s title and state registration. Before going any further, however, let me provide a brief summary of the reasons why someone might choose to document and/or register and title a boat in the first place.

Documentation as a Prerequisite for Obtaining a Mortgage

Coast Guard documentation is available for vessels of 5 or more net tons, and is generally required by lending institutions as a prerequisite for obtaining a boat mortgage. Documentation allows a lender to obtain a preferred “maritime lean”, which has priority over other leans. If you have a mortgage on your vessel then you probably needed to document the boat to satisfy the bank.

If not required by a mortgage company, the choice of whether or not to document a boat is up to the vessel’s owner, however only vessels owned entirely by American citizens may be documented.

Travel to Foreign Ports

Owners may wish to obtain a Certificate of Documentation if they plan to cruise outside the US, as documentation eases the process of clearing customs in foreign ports. Documentation is treated as a form of national registration, and identifies the vessel’s nationality.

State Registration and Title v. Documentation

In some states a documented vessel does not need to be registered or titled, making documentation for multi-year owned vessels less expensive than state registration (annual documentation renewals are free). Some states require a state registration and title despite documentation, making documentation an added cost. Documentation does not affect state tax liability.

The Benefits of Boat Co-Ownership by Spouses

Why you ask would a married couple want both their names on the boat’s ownership papers? Having both spouses’ names on ownership papers makes it easier (or even possible) for one spouse to legally manage the vessel if the other spouse dies or becomes incapacitated, especially in foreign ports. Co-ownership may also play a part in estate planning.

Documentation is not available when one spouse is a non-American citizen and both wish to be listed as owners. In such a situation, if the boat is documented in one spouse’s name it needs to be “un-documented” prior to both spouses obtaining a state registration and title.

The “Un-Documentation” Process

Before issuing a “Letter of Deletion” the Coast Guard (“CG”) requires proof that a boat is not encumbered (has no mortgages or liens). If a previous mortgage was part of the original documentation then proof that it has been paid off must be in a particular form.

All communications with the CG regarding the process can be handled by email or fax…even the payment of required fees. In my case, after sending the CG the “Mortgage Payoff” letter I received from my bank, along with the required fee, I received the following denial letter.

CG Denial Letter

The CG attached a sample “Satisfaction Letter”, which my previous bank needed to complete. Unfortunately, because this process of “un-documentation” is rare, no one at the bank had ever seen such a form or was willing to complete it. Instead, the bank issued an official “Satisfaction of Mortgage” certificate (see below).

My bank’s second attempt to satisfy the CG’s need for a “Satisfaction of Mortgage” document

Upon receipt of the above document the CG issued an “Evidence of Deletion form United States Documentation” letter, which was required before the state would add my wife’s name to our registration and title.

Deletion Letter

The CG was very helpful, and was available to answer my questions both by phone and via email. Their documentation website ( is easily navigated and, along with their telephone and email support, provided all the information I needed to complete the process.

Now that all the paperwork is done my wife informs me that she intends to become an American citizen. Perhaps my next article will be a review of the documenting process after a boat has been un-documented. All this proves, once again, that boat ownership involves more than just paying the original ticket price.


Reader’s Comments-The Sea Joule Solar Bilge Pump

February 1, 2012

Reader’s Comments-The Sea Joule Solar Bilge Pump

Readers Comments is a place for your thoughts on products, places and things that are the subject of NFTB articles. Send us your feedback, and we will do our best to a) share your comments with fellow readers and b) help you obtain answers to questions.

Below please find this month’s readers comment, and the manufacturer’s response.


NFTB’s article on the Sea Joule Solar Bilge Pump continues to be popular among readers.

An early version of the Sea Joule Solar Bilge Pump

We recently received the first negative comment about the product, which prompted us to contact the manufacturer. In fairness to the manufacturer, our initial review did include the following manufacturer’s recommendation:

“The manufacturer advises against submerging the pump underwater.  This is because, while all wire connections within the unit are watertight sealed, the battery terminals could be exposed if either a) the unit were to be placed under several feet of water or b) the unit is placed upside down under water.  Neither of these scenarios is likely to happen with normal use.  We repeatedly submerged the installed unit in seawater with no adverse affects.”

NFTB continues to test an early version of the Sea Joule pump that is in its third season.

Readers Comment

Dear NFTB:

My experience is that this (the Sea Joule Solar Bilge Pump) is not a pump to be used at sea. The first one I purchased and its replacement both corroded within a couple of months. The connections on top of the battery corroded right through. I had the version with the remote solar panel, and the connection between the panel and the pump also corroded right through. Moreover, the panel itself was not watertight, and both the original and the replacement deteriorated internally within a couple of months. The pump has a beautiful case, including a nice watertight rubber seal on the top. There is, however a big hole in the bottom so that seawater can flow around all the electrical parts, which appear to have no protection whatever.


Manufacturer’s Response

Dear NFTB,

Thank you for referring your reader’s comment. While we have not personally seen the unit in question, when we learned of this possible problem we made a precautionary change to the Sea Joule Bilge Pump assembly, and added silicone sealant to both battery connections. All wire connections are now made with watertight heat shrink connectors.


Tom Nugent, President

Sea Joule Marine Inc.

From the Parts Department: A Very Promising Beginning to the 2012 Boating Season-By John Conlan

February 1, 2012

From the Parts Department: A Very Promising Beginning

 to the 2012 Boating Season

By John Conlan

Are we thinking of spring yet? A belated Happy New Year to all of our readers. I hope you’re enjoying this mild winter. This weather certainly keeps us dreaming of spring, planning projects for our vessels, and making shopping lists for spring commissioning.

As I am sure you know, the boat show season is in full swing. I worked the New York Boat Show in January, and the outcome was favorable. Attendance was good even with the Giants playing a 1 o’clock game on Sunday. The show had a decent amount of exhibitors who were all marine related…no cooking shows or hot tubs on display this year. I worked in the Yanmar booth where five engines were sold during the show, a very promising beginning to the 2012 boating season.

You’ll find boat shows in towns up and down the coasts. Upcoming shows in my area include the Atlantic City Boat Show (Feb. 1st thru 5th), the New Jersey Boat Show at Raritan Center (Feb. 23rd thru 26th) and the Somerset Saltwater Show at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, NJ (March 16th thru 18th). Without a doubt there is a boat show coming to your area soon. A quick Google search for “2012 boat shows” for your area will bring you closer to your mid-winter “fiberglass fix”. NFTB will be attending one of our favorite shows, the Maine Boat Builder’s Show in Portland, MA (March 16th thru18th) and will include a report of this remarkable event in our March issue. As the old saying goes, “If boat shows come, can spring be far behind?”

For readers in New Jersey, the Atlantic City show will have the most exhibitors. I advise visiting some of the less glamorous exhibits, like those of the marine paint companies, where new anti-fouling and topside paint technology is being introduced. More on these in my next installment. Also, all the marine electronics manufacturers will be present in AC to introduce their latest navigation systems. You might be interested in checking out Seaview’s new modular mounts for new and older electronics. These provide mounting options for boaters despite the manufacturer or age of their navionics.

So if you need a break from the winter doldrums, check out one of the shows. If you plan to attend, make sure you visit me and pick up a discount show ticket coupon while shopping for your commissioning parts. Smart retailers will be offering discounts to jump-start the season, so look for them. As an example, our store offers free spring commissioning with the purchase of any engine. In anticipation of a better year ahead we have increased the number of available gas and diesel inboards, and are stocking Mercury, Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha outboards. So stop by your local marina, or come to see me, if you are in the market for new power.

With winter winding down, and the prospect of an early spring, please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have about new products for 2012, or for commissioning advice. I look forward to meeting and speaking with you.

Next month’s column will deal with time and temperature; using your time wisely in planning your projects, and working within proper temperature ranges to make your jobs successful. Hope to see you at the shows!

Editors Note: John Conlan manages the Parts Department at Lockwood Boat Works in South Amboy, New Jersey. You can reach him directly with questions or comments at (732) 721-1605, or via his email:

Original Nautical Poetry-“Fairly Aging” By Bernice Walamy

February 1, 2012

Fairly Aging

By Bernice Walamy



Winter’s rain froze hard along the cracks

Of withered, roughened water-stained wood decks

Seasoned by biting winds and heaving snow

By broiling heat the fate of time did show


Swelled by rain that left her hard and parched

Bleached by sun and left to dry untouched

Softened by sea that eased her pace of time

Scarred by life, her creases fill with brine


Her sisters long ago were sanded thin

Stained dark to please an eye, to prompt a grin

She quietly serves, unbent among the strains

Of seas, and lines, and props, and docks and chains


No false pretense does she fain to steal

To keep me dry, and firmly placed on heal

The surgeon’s blade has no work here to do

She’s proud and straight and seasoned, lying true

Welcome to the January 2012 issue of News From the Bow

January 1, 2012

Welcome to the January 2012 issue of News From the Bow

With 2011 in our wake and the promise of a new year upon us, life’s meaning becomes clearer. If you recently exchanged holiday gifts you’ve probably realized that it truly is better to give than to receive. As for the gifts you did receive, they more than likely didn’t bring you peace, or health, or a more meaningful life. Seasonal food and drink didn’t result in any lasting magic either. Quite the opposite. What remains of the celebrations, the revelry, and last year’s enormous efforts in all directions, is your love of family, and the contributions you made to others. The wise among us realize, sooner better than later, that the pots of gold we chase are often no more than catch basins for tears.

Now, with a new year beginning, we get a fresh palate upon which to paint the story of our lives. Shall we fill 2012 with service to others, with family and close friends, with healthy food and exercise, and with our passions (including boating)? YES! Let’s begin now.

In this issue of NFTB we present:

  • A review of Three Men In a Boat, a book that will help you laugh (an activity proven to increase overall health) and experience anew your passion for boating
  • An article about the most important factor in any successful day on the water…weather (see Don’t Mess With Mother Weather)
  • A note on staying healthy (see Hope On the Horizon for a Safe Raw Bar)
  • A review of newly available toys to make onboard photography more enjoyable and creative (see Review of iPhone/Smart Phone Camera Lenses)
  • A original nautical poem about the water’s draw during winter (see Winter Beckons)
  • A photo essay that highlights nature’s purity (see No Moorings at Cuttyhunk)

We hope you enjoy this issue of NFTB, and invite you to send us your thoughts.

Wishing you fair winds, following seas, and a healthy and happy 2012,

Shana and Stu Hochron, Editors

Don’t Mess with Mother Weather By Vicki Lathom

January 1, 2012

Dont Mess with Mother Weather

 By Vicki Lathom

A storm approaching Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas

Beginning boaters often share one thing in common; not leaving enough wiggle room in their schedules to avoid trouble.

Trouble means ending up entering an inlet in the dark, or during a storm, in an attempt to make port on schedule, or to save time. Like having a financial cushion before taking on debt, boaters need a time cushion for every trip.

I learned this the hard way. My husband and I were on a cruise in Chesapeake Bay in the 1970’s. We were in a little port called Solomons Island, which was fifty miles from our destination, Dunn Cove in the Choptank River. But a boat trip is just like a car trip, no? You just get in, turn on the engine, and go. We left Solomons at 3 PM, figuring that the trip to Dunn Cove would take the afternoon, getting us in before dark.

Our boat, Gypsy, was a fifty-foot sloop with a seven-foot draft, built in the 1940s. Solid but underpowered.

We overlooked one thing-the weather. Experienced boaters always say that, in planning for

The author and her partner, Barry Miller, aboard S/V Cantabile

a cruise, the three most important things you take into consideration are weather, weather and weather.

Around 6 PM a mass of violent thunderstorms reached down the Bay to us, just as we entered the Choptank. As they often do, the mass went up the river and then turned around and came back to greet us. Suddenly it got very dark. Gypsys large bow was diving down into big waves that washed over the deck and off the stern. The wind reached sixty miles per hour. As we later learned, its force picked up a wheelbarrow in someone’s yard.

We knew there were shallow areas around us, but with no lighted buoys, no GPS, and no visible landmarks, we were blind and navigated largely by luck. There were two times in my life when I’ve been so scared that my knees shook; one was that July night on Gypsy. I’d like to say that this was the last mistake of its kind I’ve made in boating, but it actually took several similar incidents over the years to make a lasting impression.

I happen to be fascinated with shipwrecks. In my research, I’ve found that a lack of understanding of weather-related consequences, and the failure to allow for adequate passage time and a safe weather window, is reasons for many of them. Three such wrecks happened in the past year alone.

S/V Maybe Tomorrow is the most recent example of a catastrophe caused by misjudging time and weather. In this case, the captain of a thirty-foot sailboat thought he could outrun Hurricane Irene from Portsmouth, Virginia to Annapolis, Maryland. He left on a Friday night. The hurricane struck on Saturday, and the boat and its liveaboard couple ended up in the surf on the shore of Ocean View Beach, near Norfolk, Virginia.

Last March a 19 year old, along with two inexperienced crew, took his father’s 48-foot steel schooner, S/V Le Papillon, on a joy ride from Baltimore, Maryland to Portland, Maine. In New Jersey, Le Papillon ran into shoals in Great Egg Harbor Inlet, a dangerous inlet in the best of weather conditions. As described by observers, on that day no one in his/her right mind would have attempted that passage (later in the journey the boat ended up on the shore near the village of Saltaire, on Fire Island, NY, after the crew reportedly became seasick and went below to sleep).

Yet another recent tragedy was the sinking of S/V Rule 62 in the Bahamas last November; it loss associated with stormy weather conditions.

The Lesson

The requirement that we leave enough time to travel is not limited to boating. Unfortunately, it appears also not to be instinctive. In our rush-rush society, we’re always cutting things short, and living in some dream world where things don’t need the real time they take.

After forty years of sailing, I learned not to mess with Mother Weather. She is the first three things I consider before making any passage by boat.

Editors Note: Vicki Lathom and her partner Barry Miller are currently en route to the Abacos, Bahamas and plan to spend the winter living aboard S/V Cantabile, their 43 foot Irwin Ketch. NFTB looks forward Vickis winter 2012 cruising updates. A version of this article first appeared in the travel blog Milliverstravels.

Review of iPhone/Smartphone Camera Lenses

January 1, 2012

Review of iPhone/Smartphone Camera Lenses

What camera do you generally use to photograph shipmates? For many of us the most

Cabin photo using standard iPhone lens

readily available camera, regardless of location, is an iPhone or other smartphone. Have you wished for a lens that is wide enough to include a cockpit filled of guests, or a party in the cabin below? Until recently the perfect shot required the types of wide-angle or fisheye lenses available only for larger, traditional cameras.  Today you can simply snap additional lenses onto your phone’s camera.

While several manufacturers produce miniature lenses for smartphones, NFTB chose to test a set sold by PhotoJoJo. We ordered three lenses ($50 total) from the on-line retailer, and received them within a week.  The lenses came with lens covers and several tiny magnetic

Cabin photo with wide angle iPhone lens

rings, one side of which sticks with adhesive to the smartphone (or iPad). Below are photos taken from an iPhone without an additional lens, and the same shots using a wide angle and fisheye lens. A test of telephoto attachments is planned for an upcoming issue.

These lenses are quite sturdy and store easily in any pocket. The magnetic rings attach easily to a smartphone or iPad. In addition to generic magnetic adapters, we were sent one attachment ring specially designed to fit an iPhone without covering its flash. Extra iPhone rings are available upon request. The lenses all snap firmly into place and remain remarkably attached until they are intentionally removed.

Cabin photo with iPhone fisheye lens

Smartphone lenses provide onboard images that were, until recently, the purview of only true camera aficionados.  They are easily stored, inexpensive, and work as advertised. The wide angle and fisheye variety are particularly useful in small spaces, and will be appreciated when taking photos aboard boats.

The PhotoJoJo wide angle smartphone camera lens

An added smartphone lens in action

Wide angle (WA), Fisheye (FE) and Telephoto (2X) lenses are easily stored and carried