For our last ocean cruise we did not have a boat stamp. It seemed, I don’t know, a little precious. And I didn’t get around to it. But I kept reading the “greats” who again and again said it was useful. Here are two authorities:
A ship’s stamp is greatly appreciated in many countries where, for some strange reason, a rubber stamp has a certain authority.
Beth Leonard (Voyager’s Handbook):
Our ship’s stamp got used … occasionally to impress officials. [W]e used it several times when receiving bonded goods aboard and applying for visas.
During our last trip we didn’t need one. We weren’t planning to sail to another country besides Canada (which with a Nexus pass is a piece of cake, even easier than by car). Our crossing to Hawaii from the US didn’t require clearing in either. However the upcoming trip through the Pacific will have lots of opportunities for using a boat stamp.
Besides, after I done the graphics for the Phoenix’s boat card, I was on a roll and already had much of the work done. So I finally made the decision to get one for Phoenix. I used RubberStamps.net and got a 2.5″ round stamp mounted on a wood handle, printed with my own design and a stamp pad for $26. They allowed you to upload graphics if you have them, and add text on top in various fonts (if the words are not included in your graphic already). They had tons of different color ink felts. The service was quick and the stamp works fine and is nicely constructed.
What goes on a Boat Stamp?
For US Coast Guard registered boats the stamp text and graphics should include the ship name, hailing port, and US Coast Guard number, plus the owners’ names. The empty area in the middle is to sign and date whatever document you just stamped. The boat profile in the background is mostly decorative but I suppose it could help identify which boat in the harbor is us.
How to Use Your Boat Stamp with Officials
Anything that you are asked to sign, if the official permits, can first be stamped, then signed over the stamp. This does make your signing in more unique and formal. What else might you be required to provide? Here is the list of paperwork that Noonsite says is frequently or sometimes required when clearing in:
- Ship’s registration papers (this is a requirement by International Maritime Law)
- Crew list (with full details of passports, date of birth etc).
- Radio license for the boat and an operator’s license for at least one of the crew
- Passports and vaccination certificates
- Visas (if required)
- Clearance papers (zarpe) from the last country visited
- VAT paid or VAT exempt certificate (when in the EU)
- Other documents may be required including the Ship’s Log, pet importation paperwork, and the like.
I plan to keep copies of these documents handy for clearing in, then grab one set of copies along with the boat stamp and stamp pad as I head in. I use a 14″ neoprene laptop case to carry papers to keep them neat – the stamp and even the ships log will also fit in for trips ashore. And the whole case can fit into a dry bag that we use for dinghy rides.
Other Uses for a Boat Stamp
Then there are the more social uses for a boat stamp. Apparently lots of cruisers have guest books or areas of their log for collecting messages from friends. A boat stamp will work for this purpose, too. Invitations? Maybe, but they’re unlikely to be delivered on paper. You could put an image of it on your email signature. “From the library of” book stamps so your books get back to you – or to mark the paperbacks you are leaving dockside for the next reader!
Who else has had a boat stamp made? Do you use it much?