My local Maryland DNR office told me to simply bring in a pencil-rubbing of my dinghy's HIN plate, and a purchase receipt if I have one, and they would issue me a title.
Maryland beauracracy is bad, but I think you guys may be making this more difficult than it really is.
I agree completely. In the past I've registered boats in NJ, PA, and MD, and while the quality of people that you have to deal with can vary greatly, I've never found an insurmountable barrier. The ones I've talked to all basically say that their goals are to make sure stolen vessels are detected, and taxes are collected. They insist that the "horror stories" that you read about are all cases of people trying to get away without paying taxes or registering a stolen boat, and that the Internet legends that we all read usually do not have a full disclosure of all the the facts.
With this in mind, doing a fictitious sale to your wife is bound to accomplish nothing more than raising unwanted and unnecessary suspicion.
In my own case (registering a raft/trolling motor that was purchased from Amazon.com), Maryland's requirements are spelled out very clearly on their website:
New Vessel Purchased via Internet
When a vessel is purchased via the Internet, and is shipped with a manufacturer’s certificate of origin (MCO) that contains no signature or a preprinted signature, or purchaser is directed to a website to create the MCO, the following is required to establish ownership:
Vessels 12’ in length and smaller
DNR Form B-240
Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin
Pencil tracing or photograph of Hull identification number
Evidence of payment
My Intex raft fits this exactly. I generated my Certificate of Origin by going to Intex's website and typing in my HIN that was stamped on the raft.
Unfortunately, I sent my materials last night before finding this little explanation on the website, and I did not include a photo of the HIN. I just called down and spoke to Cathy in the Annapolis office, and she said that Amazon purchases have become so commonplace that they have started accepting these without requiring the tracing/photo. So I should be good to go. I'll let you guys know how it went.
The biggest problem I ever had was registering a 40 year old boat trailer in PA. I had bought my Phantom sailboat with trailer from an elderly couple in NJ who were retiring to Arizona. They had two boats and trailers, and could only take one with them (they kept the newer of the two trailers). I took their paperwork but did not register right away because I was moving from NJ to PA in a few months. Upon arriving in PA, I went to register the trailer and discovered that the people had accidentally given me the paperwork for the trailer that they took to Arizona. I actually tracked them down by phone, but the husband was in the hospital for severe diabetes and the wife obviously couldn't deal with the issue under the circumstances. So I got the head of the Montgomery County DMV office, an old guy who seemed like he had "seen it all", to come outside and look at my rusty, 40 year old trailer, and I told him, "If I were going to steal a trailer, I would have picked a much nicer one to take." He laughed and stamped my paperwork.
Sometimes you just have to find the right person to reason with. I hope I don't have to go down to Annapolis in person for a $100 raft, but something tells me that this issue of $100-200 purchases from Amazon.com has become commonplace enough that they know how to deal with it.
[EDIT: I just got a call back from Sue in the Annapolis office. She was responding to a voicemail questions that I left three days ago. She told me the exact same thing that Cathy told me, and said this should fly through with no problem, even though I left out a photo of the HIN.]