I’m in need of the community’s help in locating the owner or any information about the history of a 1997 Hobie 21SC. The serial number is #945, unknown sail # and was located in Central Florida. Likely around Ocala, Dunnellon or Lake Weir. Based on the registration and the condition I would guess that this boat hasn’t been sailed since 2012. At some point it had an aftermarket white tramp installed, the optional Gennaker and a Cheata Bracket with outboard (now gone). It’s also not a very common Hobie model so I’m hoping that someone may have noticed it in the past.
I would like to premise this odd request with the statement that I let my greed get in the way of sound judgement and it has become a project to find the legal owner.
Now for some back story. I came across this 21’ Sport Cruiser on facebook. It was advertised by a guy who hauls junk and clears land for a living. He clearly did not know what the boat was and priced it ridiculously cheap. He claimed that boat came off of the property of an Estate that was being cleared along with a number of other items like farm equipment and a motorhome. He presented it as if he was contracted by the Administrator (executor) to clean up the property and would be provided the title for these items once the property was cleared. Needless to say, I did a stupid thing and agreed to purchase the boat and trailer for half of the asking price with the understanding that I would pay the rest of the money once the title was signed over. Additionally, the sails and boom were missing so I offered to pay more if he ended up finding them on the property. Feeling proud of my good fortune, I left with a signed bill of sale and took the boat home but had no title.
I overlooked some of the shady nature of the whole situation because I found a Florida registration for both the boat and trailer dated 2003 in the front storage compartment. Surely, if this guy who sold me the boat couldn’t deliver the title, I could track down the former owner, family or Administrator to sort it out. Worst case I figured I would have to hand over the boat to the former owner and be out a little cash.
Fast forward two weeks and the guy I got the boat from assured me he was finishing this job at the end of the week and would be provided the title to begin the transfer process. Week three comes around and I start getting concerned. So far the guy’s story checked out. He was selling other items on facebook like an old RV which was advertised as having a title. But after two texts and a voicemail unreturned I assume the worst that he can’t get the title and probably didn’t want me to try and return the boat to him. Even after calling to ask what the address of the property was, I didn’t get a reply.
I searched the local counties’ websites to see if the boat was reported stolen. Thankfully nothing came up.
I found a telephone number online for the individual on the registration and was surprised to reach them. I learned that they had owned the boat but had subsequently sold it in the mid-2000’s. It was amazing the speak to a former owner but bittersweet because they had no record of who they sold the boat to.
I’ve spent the last week scouring the internet for any sign of this boat’s former life, it’s possible owner and how I could proceed to return or make it legal. All Florida registration information is private but I was able to learn that it was last purchased in 2009 and the registration was last renewed in 2011. Based on the expiration date the owner would have a birthday of April 27th.
My best guess is that the owner passed away and it sat in the backyard until the surviving spouse also died.
If anyone has any suggestions or information, it would be greatly appreciated. I can share the FL# and pictures if you think you have an idea of it's past.
My next step is finding an Attorney, contacting the police and crossing my fingers that it doesn’t end me up in trouble.
i went thru the same here in Wisconsin with an H18. the process was a bit lengthy but, i ended up a legal owner.
I went to our Dept of Natural Resourses (DNR), and explained the situation. They gave me the last known owner's address and the proper items to include in a letter to the owner. in my case, the letter was returned by the postal service, to which i went out to the address, chatted with the present residents who were willing to sign a quick little paper that they never heard of such a named resident there.
The DNR was then able to legally pronounce the boat abandonned and I, the new owner. they issued to me a title. the boat as yours was incomplete, but well worth the money.
You may want to call the police if you think you received stolen goods
might want to alert fb if someone is shady on their marketplace ?
unless you want your money back via expensive lawsuit - an attorney isn't gonna do you much good - this is small claims money (unless it's worth it to you to pay an attorney)
you have legal options for title:
in fl you can petition the court for around $300 and they will do a background check on it
if your story is sound and you can trace some of the history, as long as it's not stolen, you should be awarded a title
This is from a conversation i just had with another forum member
"go to the Clerk of the Court and get a declaratory judgement to get a title. Basically you fill out a form to sue the DMV for a new title and pay a fee ($US310 in Leon County but it varies). The DMV then has to respond and if everything is on the up and up the judge will declare the DMV has to give you a title. "
Same thing will need to be done for the trailer i would assume -
does it have a VIN?
Do you plan to sail in florida?
PLEASE come back to this forum and update us your solution : this issue impacts a lot of florida sailors (and other states as seen above)
I have gone through this process twice in Florida pretty much exactly as described. Once in St Johns County about 15 years ago and it took 6-8 weeks. Once in Duval County about 2 years ago and it took about 6 months.
Possible Plan B: My neighbor bought a boat at an auction supposedly with a title but at the end of the day no title was ever produced. The auction house helped him in getting a title by making a title application in another state (maybe Alabama or Louisiana?) then transferred the title to FL. The auction house said getting FL titles was expensive and lengthy and other states were much easier. I know that does not solve the legitimate ownership question in your case but at some point you have exhausted all your options.
Good luck and keep us posted please.
2x Stiletto 27's
I am in a similar situation but it seems to be getting resolved. What I did was contact DMV and they did a title search and found nothing about the boat ever being registered. They suggested I go to the Clerk of the Court and sue DMV for a declaratory judgement. Went to the COC and got the paperwork. Since I have a legal background I did a little research. Judges want proof of a real dispute before they will issue a judgement. This means you have to prove DMV will not issue a title to you. While the judge will take your word for that and the more stuff you have like a bill of sale at least I knew the more sheets of paper you have the better.
What happens when you file a suit against DMV for some reason I can't completely understand they contact FWC to do a comprehensive title search. As long as what FWC comes back with is OK you get the title. But when I talked to DMV about proof that they would not issue a title (I don't like going to a judge and saying 'believe me, I am telling the truth' I like to have a piece of paper backing up what I say) DMV said I could contact FWC directly; they would do the comprehensive title search; send the paper work to DMV and DMV would issue me a title with no involvement from COC. DMV said it would save time and money for everyone since they would not have to deal with a suit and FWC would have to do the comprehensive search anyway no matter what I did; this is what I told FWC.
So I contacted FWC and after speaking to three different people I was told someone would call me. Nothing happened for a couple of weeks and I called back; have to admit Dorian may have been to blame. In any case the FWC guy looked at the boat, to verify the HIN, did the search and emailed me he sent the stuff to DMV and in a few weeks I should get the title. That was last week and I all I can do now is wait.
Bottom line is there is a lot of paper work that has to be done. My brother had three wreckers and seven semi trailers so he got lots of abandoned cars. His wife handled dealing with the DMV to get titles and often he thought it was not worth the effort to get a clean title for some of the cars. Not trying to dis beach cats but spending many hours of your time; and probably more hours of state employees time to get a clean title for a boat worth a couple of grand or so seems like a lot of effort for not a lot of reward.
Thank you everyone for the thoughtful responses. I made another plea to the seller via text yesterday and he responded with an address and said he likely couldn’t get the title until he finished his clean-up job. The property was however a several hundred acre horse farm in Ocala so I still don’t know who owned the boat or how it ended up there.
After a little searching on Google Earth, I did find the boat. It shows up on the aerial photo in the same spot since late 2015.
I have some renewed hope that this saga will come to a happy ending and I don’t have to go through all the trouble of a Declaratory Judgement.
I’ll keep the group up to date with what happens. Fingers crossed I’ll need some advice on getting this boat back into sailing condition.
Back several years ago I bought a boat in FL where the seller didn't have the title. I found several lawyers that specialized in that kind of thing, so I paid them... ~$150-200? The follow a process where they request the most recent registration from the state, send registered mail to that address and if no response within so many days, they apply for a lost title in your name.
In my case, the rightful owner started calling me like crazy and I worked out a deal with him.
It was essentially a flat rate service fee.
I ended up buying the boat and getting the title for the same price I had negotiated with the other guy.
What is funny is that the owner had asked the yard if he could store the boat there, but it had been so long that they didn't remember who owned it. EIGHT YEARS! My father would have auctioned it five years earlier, lol.... well, not that boat, they only built 230 of them.