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Salty Southeast
Cruisers' Net
Cruisers Helping Cruisers

BoatUS Warns of Questionable Documentation Renewal Letter

SSECN posted warnings about this misleading documentation renewal promotion several weeks ago and were immediately served threat of legal action by the California company. We promptly and reluctantly withdrew our posting. Thank you BoatUS for taking up the gauntlet!

NEWS From BoatUS
Boat Owners Association of The United States
880 S. Pickett St., Alexandria VA 22304
Press Contact: D. Scott Croft, 703-461-2864,

BoatUS Consumer ALERT:
Official-Looking Vessel Documentation Renewal Notices Can Lead to Confusion and Higher Costs


ALEXANDRIA, VA, April 6, 2017 – Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) Consumer Protection Department is advising boaters with vessels having a US Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation to be wary of any letter arriving by US mail offering renewal. An increasing number of BoatUS members have complained that these letters direct them to websites that may be mistaken for the actual US Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Center located in Falling Waters, West Virginia, and appear to show a significant increase in the annual fee to renew US Coast Guard (USCG) documentation.

BoatUS advises that while the USCG does send official annual renewal notices by US mail, other notices being received by members are not from the USCG but rather third-party companies whose name or return addresses may appear similar to that of the official USCG Vessel Documentation Center. Members of the half-million boat owners group report the letters look like “real” USCG communications. Some examples members have forwarded to BoatUS do not have any disclaimers noting that they are not official USCG correspondence.

While third-party companies may legitimately provide services to assist with vessel documentation renewals, the USCG’s own renewal process is simple for most vessels and the price, $26, is often much lower than what third-party services may charge. To renew, go to the USCG National Documentation Center website at and click on “instructions and forms.”

To be documented, a vessel must measure at least 5 net tons and, with the exception of certain oil-spill response vessels, owned by a US citizen. Boats about 27 feet in length or longer generally meet the weight requirement.

If boat owners wish to file a consumer complaint about this or any other boating-related advertisement or company, BoatUS welcomes boaters to visit and click on “send us a complaint” button.

Boaters also advises boaters who may have received mail that they believe is misleading or deceptive may contact the US Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 or through its website

Comments from the Cruisers' Net Community (7)

  1. Dudley Fort -  May 12, 2017 - 4:26 pm

    I got one of these renewal letters. When I saw the $75.00 charge I suspected that it was not from the Coast Guard. I examined the return addresses and the documentation and even though I knew it was not from the Coast Guard I could not be certain from the return addresses.

    If it is from the Coast Guard the return address should be Falling Waters. Their return address is not Falling Waters. However, the letters look so authentic that I was reluctant to ignore it. I did ignore it and three days later the letter from the Coast Guard arrived.

  2. Joe Heinrich -  May 9, 2017 - 11:28 am

    I received a Email stating that my documentation was up for renewal. The price was $75.00 OH WELL price went up and thy are doing it on the internet. A few days later I received the regular form from USCG for renewal and the $26.00 was the same as last year. On the phone to USCG DOC CENTER, 75.00, now 26.00 what’s going on? I payed on line, to this I was informed that this was a company that will submit your paper work to the USCG DOC CENTER for you. They send it in, wait till the USCG does the renewal and sends it back to them in turn they send it to you. SAVE YOURSELF $49.00 AND WAIT FOR VESSEL RENEWAL APPLICATION FILL IT OUT AND MAIL IT YOURSELF, HOW DID THY GET MY NAME? PUBLIC INFORMATION.

  3. Ronald B. Longman -  April 9, 2017 - 9:25 pm

    If you are new to a documented vessel, this can be confusing and alarming. Documentation renewal notices ONLY come from the USCG. You will get that notice 50 to 60 days prior to the expiration of your current documentation. I received one of these “faux notices”, commented to my wife that this is an attempt to add costs to re-documentation, and, within a week or so, received the notice from the USCG. Knowledge pof the system is critical

  4. Bill Conlyn -  April 8, 2017 - 10:55 am

    How does one know whether this solicitation for renewal is from a ligitament company or a scammer ?

    • David Boxmeyer -  May 13, 2017 - 8:44 am

      The fake letter will arrive anywhere from a few weeks to a month before you receive the official notice from the Coast Guard. Read if carefully. You will notice that nowhere do they claim to have any connection to the Coast Guard or any other government office. The sure giveaway is the $75.00 charge they ask for if you call or use the referenced website.

      This letter is only a small step away from mail fraud; contact the US Postal Service or FTC to complain.

  5. Pat Banyas -  April 7, 2017 - 2:51 pm

    Glad to hear they stepped up. I posted warnings about this a couple weeks ago. Thanks for letting us know. Keep up the good work SSCN

  6. Jimbob -  April 7, 2017 - 2:34 pm

    These pirates need to be shut down. They ripped off my dockmates last winter with their false papers and lies. Beware or pirates!


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