By 2012, it was pretty clear that there was no way for me to get the certificate of satisfaction of lien the U.S. Coast Guard required before they would transfer the documentation into my name. Documented vessel regulations and maritime law didn’t seem to follow the same rules as, say, state motor vehicle regs. Then again, the paperwork SNAFU for my Roamer 46 wasn’t analogous to lost title or mechanic’s lien scenarios. By 2012, with four years and a whole lot of effort into the refit project, I was getting closer to just giving up.
But I wasn’t quite there yet. In March 2012, I gave it one last shot.
In 2011, the previous owner/bum on the beach in Puerto Rico and his estranged wife had signed a bill of sale releasing interest in the boat. Actually, they screwed up four previous bills of sale by adding goofy things to the USCG form. But the one from December 2011 was the real deal, and the USCG accepted it. The only remaining problem was the certificate of mortgage in the USCG file for the boat that needed a certificate of satisfaction of lien from the bank to resolve…but the bank no longer existed. In that final 2011 bill of sale though, they both promised that the Roamer had a clear title in exchange for their acceptance of my dollar (yes…US$1…the purchase price of the vessel…in cash).
So, in March 2012 I sent certified letters to both of them, reiterating their obligation to provide clear title. I told them I’d sue for the full amount of my investment in the boat if they didn’t clear up the lien satisfaction problem with the USCG. That lit the estranged wife up like a Roman candle! The bum on the beach in PR didn’t seem to care, but both he and his wife still owned a house on the beach in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, and I promised that I’d own a fair chunk of it if they didn’t get me my damned paperwork.
At the same time, I notified the USCG of the trouble I was having. I’d been in contact with them every 3~6 months, letting them know that I was still working on getting the paperwork. Each time the Coasties told me the file was still open. But when I called in March 2012, the nice lady said I should document everything and submit a letter to the CG asking for a case review. Apparently, there is a process by which the USCG could exempt a paperwork requirement if the new owner documented due diligence and had evidence of a situation that was impossible to resolve. Why they didn’t tell me that two years before, I’ll never understand. Maybe they want to see the due diligence part before they share that little secret. In any case, it was good to know there was an alternative route if the certified letter didn’t work out.
But all the sudden, everything worked out fine! I have no idea how the estranged wife did it, but within one month of me sending the certified letter she found the bank that had the records for the bank that carried their boat mortgage three decades before. The USCG got their certificate of satisfaction of lien, and by May 2012 I got a nice envelope from the Coasties with a Certificate of Documentation inside.
The Roamer was mine! All mine!
But underneath a very tired Tent Model VIII lay a fully sandblasted and barrier-coated Chris Craft aluminum hull that had only seen service in fresh water for 15 years. Heavily built using ALCOA’s finest 5086 1/4″ plate and Kaiser Aluminum’s 6061 extrusions, she was a bantam-weight battle tank!
True, she was a bit dusty and there were a few lichens and moss growing on the underside of the lower rub rail where the rain ran off the tent. But aside from those trivial issues she was coated with some of the finest modern epoxy materials on the planet and faired true by skilled craftsmen! The hull was primed in Awlgrip 545 and ready for final sanding before top coating! The rudders, tankage etc were new! And the plans for the interior were all but done!
While she may have been a diamond buried in a lump of coal back in 2007 when we found her, by 2012 she was a rough cut diamond ready for final polishing!