BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is docking his family's new $7 million yacht in neighboring Rhode Island, allowing him to avoid paying roughly $500,000 in taxes to the cash-strapped Bay State.

If the "Isabel" were kept at the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee's summer vacation home on Nantucket, or in Boston Harbor near his city residence, he would be liable for $437,500 in one-time sales tax. He would also have to pay $70,000 in annual excise taxes.

Rhode Island repealed those taxes in 1993. That has made the state something of a nautical tax haven.

Kerry spokesman David Wade said Friday the boat is being kept at Newport Shipyard not to evade taxes, but "for long-term maintenance, upkeep and charter purposes."

Wade noted the vessel was designed by Rhode Island boat designer Ted Fontaine and purchased in the state. It was built in New Zealand by Friendship Yachts.

A Department of Revenue spokesman said Kerry would be liable for Massachusetts taxes if he berthed the boat in the Bay State within six months of its purchase. If the "Isabel" were brought to Massachusetts after that period, the state would have to decide if it wanted to pursue the taxes.

Massachusetts, like most other states, has been grappling with plunging tax revenues. Last year's budget decifict was $600 million, and officials are bracing for a $1 billion deficit this year.

The 76-foot sloop has two cabins, a pilot house fitted with a wet bar and cold wine storage, according to the Boston Herald, which first reported its Rhode Island berthing. It derives its moniker from the middle name of Kerry's mother and the name his wife, Teresa Heinz, planned to give a daughter.

Instead, she had three sons.

Coast Guard registration records show the vessel is owned by Great Point LLC, a limited liability corporation based in Pittsburgh, Heinz's longtime home. The millionaire heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune is a philanthropist and environmentalist.

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