How Do You Find the Owner of a Boat? (With Examples)

In Boatingby Morten Storgaard

That gorgeous boat that always sits in the marina is calling your name, but you don’t know who it belongs to. Maybe you encountered an abandoned ship at sea or you noticed some storm damage on a local boat.

No matter what the situation is, you could probably benefit from knowing how to find the owner of a boat quickly and efficiently.

How do you find the owner of a boat?

You will need to check on the HIN, the VIN and examine the history of ownership in order to find the current boat owner. Through this method, you can usually get it back to where it needs to go. However, there are some steps along the way you should be aware of.

Let’s take a closer look at the different ways you can identify a boat.

What are the Ways to Identify a Boat?

Maybe you want to search for a boat just like the one your friend has. Perhaps you are trying to determine who a particular boat belongs to. Now and again, knowing how to identify a boat can come in handy.

Paying attention to the details can help, such as noting the colors and finishes. However, there is a more practical way to identify ships.

You should be looking for their hull identification number.

The HIN is required to be permanently located on the rear of the transom in the upper right corner. This will be a string of twelve letters and numbers that indicate the make, model, serial number, production date, and more.

The first three letters denote the manufacturer. The second five stand for the production or serial number. The month and year of production follow. Last but not least, the final two numbers stand for the model year.

You may also look at the boat registration number. It is typically located on each side of the bow and remains there no matter who owns in. It should be displayed in three sections marked with hyphens or space between them.

If you can find this number on the bow of the ship, you should easily be able to track down information about the owner.

How Do I Check a VIN Number on a Boat?

Many people are familiar with the VIN on their vehicles. After all, this string of letters and numbers helps us to freely buy and sell new vehicles. We use it to run reports, identify ownership, and more.

It is an incredibly useful number that is unique to your car alone. It makes sense that you may want to check the VIN on a new boat that you are considering purchasing.

Fortunately, there is a way to do something similar with boats. Instead of a VIN, you can check their Hull Identification Number (HIN). This number gives you much of the same information and is designed just for boats.

What do I Use the HIN for?

You might wonder exactly why knowing the HIN would be of some value to you. First and foremost, it can be used to tell you more information about the boat itself.

If you are in the market for a new ship and see one you particularly like, you can easily do a little research based on the make and model, as well as the year of the boat.

Knowing the HIN is also a great way for you to potentially contact the owner. As you will see in the next section, the owner’s name may be attached to this number.

That gives you some information about them that could lead you toward them and allow you to make an offer on their boat.

Last but not least, knowing the HIN is a great way to identify whether a boat has been stolen or not. You can glean all kinds of useful information from the hull identification number and a few clicks of the mouse.

You don’t have to be particularly savvy to learn how to use these numbers to your advantage.

Will the Owner’s Name Always be Attached to a Boat?

While all boats made after the year 1972 were required to list their HIN on the transom, you may still have a difficult time locating the owner.

It is legally required for the owner to be listed on most boats, but it is possible that the boat may not be registered or titled. Understanding the difference between these two items is also important.

Registration is no different than it is for cars. You simply renew the registration every one to two years to keep operating the boat in United States waters.

On the other hand, a title is a secure ownership document that proves you are the owner. As you might imagine, many people prefer to have a title and may even be required to have one if they are financing the boat.

The laws that surrounding titling and registration will vary from state to state. In a state with stricter titling laws, you might find that an owner’s name is always attached to the boat. A state that does not require this may not have the owner’s name attached to the boat via their HIN.

There are several online databases you can use to identify key points about a boat. Some of them will even list the owner’s information.

However, many of these sites will charge you a nominal fee for basic information surrounding the ship you are interested in.

What do I do if I find a Loose Boat?

What happens if you stumble upon a loose boat in the ocean on your next jaunt out to sea? Many people wonder what they are supposed to do if this situation ever arises. The answer can be a bit complicated and may vary depending on your state laws.

A boat is considered to be an abandoned vessel if it has been left behind or given up. If you were to find an unmanned boat in the ocean, it is possible that it could be in this category. In most states, you must be able to prove that the boat has officially been abandoned. This can be done in several ways.

First, you could reach out to the owners of the boat after locating them through the hull identification number on the transom of the boat. If you cannot find any contact information through this method, you may have to go a step further.

Locate the phone number for your state department and explain your situation. Similar to the Department of Motor Vehicles, this agency has the registration information for all the boats in the area and can pass along the contact information for the owners. You may have to submit your request in writing.

With their contact information in hand, you can finally start the process of declaring the boat to be abandoned. Send a certified letter to prove that they received a notice and did not respond.

You may also provide the appropriate state agency with a written police report that such a boat was not declared to be missing or stolen in the area where you found the vessel.

The state laws surrounding what to do with a loose boat are very complex and vary greatly. There may be a waiting period of forty-five to sixty days to prove that the rightful owners of the ship do not come forward to claim their vessel.

This is simply a guideline to give you an idea about what to expect from the process. Be sure to contact your appropriate state department for more information on what to do in your unique state.

If you meet all the requirements and no one comes to claim the boat, you can become the new registered and titled owner of the boat.

How do I Know if a Boat has Been Stolen at Some Point?

Spotting a missing boat that been reported stolen can be a heroic moment. Unfortunately, that moment may be cut short if you falsely accuse the wrong person.

Following some of these tips can help you to identify the real owner of any boat, but you might wonder how to tell if a particular boat has ever been stolen at some point.

Identifying theft can be done by looking at the HIN of the boat or the boat registration number. For example, the HIN may have been altered to avoid having people trace the boat and its location.

If this number doesn’t look right to you and nothing comes up on an initial search, it could be a warning sign that the boat has been stolen at some point.

However, there many other telltale signs could clue you into criminal activity. For more information on identifying whether a boat has been stolen at some point, be sure to check here.

Finding the Rightful Owner

Whether you want to make new friends, purchase a boat, or find the rightful owners for a ship lost at sea, using the hull identification number to contact the boat owners is a smart move.

While there may be other ways to track down an owner, this is typically the fastest and most effective. Practice your sleuthing skills next time you head down to the marina by jotting down a few HINs!

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