Important Documents for Cruisers


Last Updated on December 1, 2021 by Amy

Aboard Starry Horizons we have three binders that hold our important documents. These are the documents we’ve needed to cruise over 30,000 nm and complete formalities to visit over 35 countries.

Travel Folder

This is the binder we bring with us whenever we arrive in a new country or even arriving in a new marina. It’s got all the basics in it and is well-organized. We use a 6-pocket expanding file organizer. However, it’s good to note that in many countries, your documents will be legal-sized, or maybe A4, so be prepared to fold your documents.

When we go to shore, we put our folder in our waterproof backpack.

Notepad, Pen, and Boat Cards

In some more complicated scenarios, you may need to write down instructions for where to go or how to finish your clear in formalities, so a notepad often comes in handy. You should ALWAYS have a pen with you.

We also stash a stack of boat cards inside our folder. Officials might like copies and contact info, and it makes you look official.

Current Formalities

All of the paperwork related to your current visit. This often includes receipts and instructions from a variety of offices: Customs, Immigration, Port Authority, Harbourmaster, Renevues, etc. In the case of having to temporarily import your boat, as we did in Seychelles, all of our paperwork around the long stay is included as well.

Boat Documents

Starry Horizons is a United States Coast Gaurd documented vessel, so this section includes our Certificate of Documentation. The COD is used for every clear in, and you should have multiple photocopies in your folder.

Past Clearance

When you arrive in a new country, you will usually show your clear out paperwork from your last port. You may also need to show a certificate of practice or a sanitation certificate. We keep several countries’ worth of formalities papers in our folder. Once it’s getting too full, they are moved to a manilla envelope kept in our desk.


This includes the FCC certificate and our registration for our EPIRB. You may not need to show these documents, but you do need to know your MMSI and your Call Sign for formalities.


This section includes a Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin, our Title, and a Builder’s Certification. Basically, this would help us prove ownership of the vessel.


We keep our passports here, as well as about a dozen copies of each passport. We also have made up a crew list, which we do have to use often.


This is a copy of our current insurance policy. However, marinas usually allow you to just email the whole file, so more than a copy or two is not necessary.

The Emergency Binder

When something goes wrong, we have another binder with all the information we would need in case of an emergency, such as health issues, legal issues, or even just having our credit card lost or stolen.

Passports and Licenses

We keep extra copies of our passports in the binder, plus copies of our drivers’ licenses. Also, this is where we kept our International Driving Permit (if you have one; we do not recommend it, as they expire every year and we never used ours).

Maritime Licenses

David and I are both USCG Masters, so we keep our credentials and copies in this binder. We also have copies of our FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permits here.

Boat Documentation

A spare copy of our USCG COD. We do need the original for formalities so it stays in the travel folder.

Power of Attorney and Living Wills

In case the worst happens, we have copies so that either of us can make legal decisions for the other.

Credit Cards and Bank Info

Here we have copies of our credit cards, including the backs with contact numbers in case of loss or theft.

Emergency Contacts

A single page with contact information for our parents.

Marriage License & Birth Certificates

Also needed in case of emergency, we have the originals and copies of each document.

Top-Level Medical Information

David and I have both filled out a basic medical questionnaire to use in a medical emergency. Also included are our vaccination certificates. Also, you could include copies of any recent physicals.

Social Security Cards

We have originals and copies of our Social Security Cards.

Medical Binder

We have three tabs in this binder: Amy, David, and Prescriptions.

Our tabs have copies of all the medical records we could get our hands on before we went cruising. We have copies of dental records, major medical procedures, and routine prescriptions.

The Prescriptions tab is filled with a copy of the prescription order and patient education information for every prescription medicine in our emergency medical kit.

Digital Copies

We have digital copies of ALL of these documents. One set of copies is on a thumb drive which is at my parent’s house in their safe. Another is onboard Starry Horizons on a thumb drive kept in our ditch bag. And finally, copies are kept on my regular hard drive and on Google Drive.

Google Drive is critical – what if you don’t have your own devices? I can log in to my google account from any device, anywhere in the world, and access my important documents.

Resources: Important Documents for Cruisers

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  1. Suggestion: Consider getting a Int’l Drivers License for when/if you want to rent a car. Cost $25 and lasts a year. Looks official and can save you major $$ fines if you get in accident or get caught speeding. Very easy to get in Houston.

    1. Hey Calvin! Thanks for the suggestion. We don’t have plans to rent soon – but we will eventually. So that’s a great idea!

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