Reward for lost Kraken!
Join Date: Apr 2006
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You might find some Tartan owners on the web, or ex-employees, who have come across the hidden HIN. IIRC it is not required but often will be written on the back of a cabinet, under the fuel tank, way aft in the steering spaces, someplace where you really have to squeeze your way in to spot it.
From the grinding, I would take a rash guess that it was either stolen or abandoned and the HIN intentionally ground off. The USCG *should* certainly be able to identify a boat...but you might try contacting the Vessel Documentaion Center, explain what is up, and ask them to search previous records for that boat name and port. The online database only contains current listings--but I'd find it hard to believe the packrats in the US Government don't retain previous years listings, even if that's stored offline in some archive no one wants to spend money searching. The data is there, somewhere.
Ditto for the luxury tax sticker, if that's what it is. Anything with a number on it, someplace there is a record of who got that number.
If you want to work the phone lines...You could also call around to marinas and yacht clubs in Port St. Lucie and see if anyone remembers having the boat docked there. Lots of boats, but sometimes you get lucky.
One big question is how Florida will treat the boat, even if you can establish the HIN and quietly re-install it on the boat. In many states, titled property can never be abandoned, it always belongs to the title holder and title can only be transferred, i.e. by something like a mechanic's lien or storage lien. Or perhaps salvage claim. Still, you'd have to trace the HIN to get that far.
Here's a long shot: Call BOATUS and ask them if they have any records of the boat that could lead you back to the owner. Just tell 'em you found an abandoned boat and are trying to locate the owner. IIRC they sometimes have boat profiles kept with owner information, although I don't know how much or how accessible.