Notary at Sea, Naval Notaries

cruise ship notary at seaNotary at Sea, Naval Notaries

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?

A state notary at sea only has authority while located in their state jurisdiction.  For a marriage at sea, the location must be within state waters.  A riverboat or vessel on an in-state river or lake is 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 at sea 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.

Naval Notary at Sea

For military personnel, federal law provides notary authority to commanding officers and military legal professionals.  The U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) website states: All of our attorneys, legalmen and civilian paralegals have notary authority. Legal assistance can be provided at home or out at sea to Sailors.

The 1939 California Civil Code, Section 1183, stated, an acknowledgment may be made outside of the United States by any officer of the Navy or Marine Corps authorized to administer oaths for the purposes of administration of naval justice and for other purposes of naval administration; and if made at sea, the venue of the certificate need only recite that fact.

British Royal Navy

The British Royal Navy and Marines (Wills) Act of 1865 required a will made on board ship for a seaman or marine to be witnessed by a commissioned officer of Her Majesty’s naval, marine or military force. For a will not made on board ship, including for a seaman or marine prisoner of war, the witness could be a commissioned officer or a notary public.

Maritime Law

Colorado does not have coastal waters, but the federal maritime law applies to 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.

During pioneer days, wagon trains followed maritime law, with a wagon master in command, when traveling across unorganized territory, outside of any organized state or territorial government jurisdiction. During the 1800s, large parts of the Great Plains and Indian Territory were unorganized territory.  Alaska was an unorganized territory from its acquisition from Russia in 1867 until the creation of Alaska Territory in 1912.

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: cruise ship, image courtesy of Gualberto107 at

Visit our website for Colorado Springs Mobile Notary services or Colorado Notary Training classes.

[Last-Modified Date 2019-01-23] added Navy, Marine at sea information

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