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Porkchop, the seller should have no problem with putting a line in the sale contract that states they swear and affirm that there are no known or pending liens or claims on the vessel, and that they agree to be fully responsible (i.e. pay or dispute or litigate, whatever) for any such claims or liens placed against the boat resulting from their ownership of it.
You should be able to find a lawyer who can write that up to everyone's satisfaction cheaply enough. And also, to make sure the yard knows a sale is pending and as they do appear to have claims against the boat, perhaps have someone from the yard present at the sale, to be paid off during the actual sale. Or, a release from the yard.
In NY a boat is just another "motor vehicle" most of the time, and DMV offices vary in their knowledge of boats. Go to one in a boating town, no problem. Go to one in midtown Manhattan...and they won't know squat. The good news is that all the NYS laws governing this are on web sites, so you can read them and not play "best two out of three" with the phone clerks.