Notary at Sea

Notary at Sea

Notaries in Florida, Maine, South Carolina and Nevada are authorized to solemnize marriage ceremonies.  Sometimes couples choose to be married at sea, on a cruise ship or a private vessel.  Does a notary at sea have notary authority?

cruise ship 200x100A notary at sea only has authority while located in their state jurisdiction.  For a marriage at sea, the location must be within state waters.  In Florida, state waters are generally defined as 3 geographic miles from the coastline seaward on the Atlantic Ocean, and 9 geographic miles from the coastline seaward on the Gulf of Mexico.  Beyond state waters, in international waters, the notary does not have authority.

To determine the exact location of the ship, a notary at sea should contact the captain or someone qualified to make that judgment.

Many cruise ships prefer to conduct marriage ceremonies while safely docked in port.  Then, the wedding party celebrates after the ship sails.

Maritime Law

Colorado does not have coastal waters, but federal maritime law applies on a body of water that crosses state borders and is ruled navigable for commercial use.  This occurs at two places in Colorado.  On the Colorado River, as it flows from the Grand Junction area across the state border into Utah, and, on the Navajo Reservoir, near Pagosa Springs, which is a long lake that crosses the Colorado border into New Mexico.

For military personnel, federal law provides notary authority to commanding officers and military legal professionals.

Marine Protests

In Colonial times, most notaries lived in seaports in New England.  They were very active in taking sworn statements, known as marine protests, from sea captains, to report losses or damages at sea due to storms and accidents.  Although marine protests are seldom used today, several states still have notary laws giving authority to do a marine protest.

Ship ahoy to the notary at sea!

Photo credit: Image by Gualberto107 at

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