Hire Boat Companies.
This is a reasonably expensive approach commencing at about us$1500 a week for a 25 foot boat and about 100% of the vessel’s value per annum when extrapolated, so accordingly it did not stack up as a financial proposition for an extended cruise.
This can be an attractive approach which avoids the on-selling costs after your long term cruise. Expect to pay around 30% of the boat’s value per annum. Insurance will be expensive for a non US operator at around 2.5 times the premium for a US owner. There is also the issue of non US citizens not permitted to operate US documented commercial vessels. Vessels less than 5 tons don’t have to be documented, assuming you are happy to live on a vessel of that size. In our case the C-Dory was less than 5 ton, US documented but recreational rather than commercial, so it was not an issue
There are some issues with non US citizens owning a US documented and flagged vessel as the vessel needs to by owned by at least 51% US nationals. Vessels over 5 ton are normally US documented. Having a US “friend” become a major stakeholder in your vessel could be a solution and also will make insurance cheaper and easier to obtain. Make sure the vessel is not a US documented commercial vessel as a non US citizen is not permitted to operate it.
An alternative is to form a corporation in the British Virgin Islands to own the vessel and so obviate this issue. I would budget for at least us$5000 for this exercise.
Boats are cheap in the US with a buyers market prevailing which makes acquisition attractive but on-selling afterwards not so good. There is an over supply of vessels on the market so selling is not easy. Budget for a minimum of 6 months of marina storing costs, dropping your asking price by 30% plus 10% in brokerage costs.
How to establish a Private Charter.
We achieved this by determining the style of vessel we wanted after trawling the online boats for sale advertisements. In our case we found the C-Dory mini pilot house as a suitable model and significantly then found an owners co operative website with 6000 members and 2500 registered vessels. We then posted a wish to charter or boat swap request on this site and received two expressions of interest from owners to offer their vessels for charter. An image of the C-Brats website is above showing the location of C-Dory registrations.
Not easy if you’re not a US citizen and after having two US insurance brokers check out underwriters, both came back with only one and in both cases it was GEICO underwritten by Concept Special Risks in the UK.. It was mentioned that Lloyds of London would do it but we gave up on them, they didn’t seem interested, possibly because the vessel and hence the premium was too small.
An extended US cruise is going to be longer than 3 months which is the maximum for the US ESTA visa waiver program. You could try leaving the US every 3 months and returning but you run the risk of being deemed a foreigner trying to permanently live in the US. Your re entry is seemingly arbitrarily at the whim of the customs officer and you could be denied re entry.
We thought it better to get a B2 visa which requires a consulate interview and is by no means a foregone conclusion. We flew to Sydney for the interview and spent an hour going through security and 30 minutes in the interview room waiting our turn. We saw two people ahead of us rejected. The B2 can be 1 year or 5 year, you pay a premium above the $230 application fee for the 5 year visa and I imagine they would be more rigorous in granting it.