1946 Higgins With “Oops” On The Bottom

1946 – Built right after War Production

Longtime fellow Woody Boater John Baas sent us in this story about trying to title a boat in New York State. I know there are tricks to this, and have had some of the same issues. Some states are not as easy to manage as others. Title Origination States. And any help would be greatly apreciated. How ever apreciated is spelled. Take it away John before I butcher more of the English language.


November 10th, 2020. In the midst of the pandemic my neighbor Randy Wagner and I set out from Mukwonago, Wisconsin for a suburb of Buffalo, New York. Why? To buy a boat, of course! Randy and his wife Judy were already proud owners of a 1946 17’ Higgins Sport Speedster utility. More on that boat, later. However, due to an anomaly with the trailer, the boat suffered a gash in the bottom which will have to wait for repair.

The Mahogany Deck of the 1949 is beautiful. Not sure how original this is, but I would do the same thing. 100%

Meanwhile, a 1949 Higgins Sport Speedster utility appeared for sale. It was “all done”. Completely restored and beautiful! At least that’s what the owner said. 10 hours later we arrived at the owner’s shop to inspect the Higgins. Yeah, it WAS beautiful! A price was agreed to and a time for pick up was arranged for the next morning. So…staying in a motel in New York state overnight in the midst of the aforementioned pandemic made yours truly very nervous. COPD and Emphysema (genetic, not from smoking) made me a prime candidate for a casket if infected. But hey! There was a boat to buy!

I think? This is the 1946

At the agreed-to time the next morning, we waited nearly a half hour for the boat’s owner to show up. Randy, with cash in pocket, told me to keep the truck running and take off if anything weird should go down. It didn’t. The owner showed up and couldn’t have been more accommodating in explaining everything about the boat, it’s three covers and the trailer. The “transferable registration” was signed by the seller and off we went.

Back to the 1949

Another 10 hour’s drive and a search for a winter storage facility later, the ’49 was at her new home in Wisconsin.
New York state does not require a title for boats manufactured before 1987. The seller’s signature on the back of the “transferable registration” card serves as proof of ownership. The New York State Boater’s Guide makes this crystal clear.
Back home in Wisconsin, Randy contacts the state Department of Natural Resources, the agency in charge of registering recreational boats.

“So, where is the New York title for this boat?” says the person on the phone. The Wisconsin DNR has had no in-person contact since the Covid shut down. No amount of explaining would satisfy a half dozen DNR reps who insisted on seeing a New York title. The new Higgins is ready for the water! But if we put her in, we risk a ticket for no registration.

The 1946

If you have ever purchased a boat built before 1987 in New York state and brought it to your home state, have you experienced anything like this? If so, how did you get around it?
Oh, about the ’46 Higgins with the “oops” on the bottom. With the serial number of, 4011-IN-15 it was likely built in the first two weeks of recreational production at Higgins since the end of WWII. The Higgins Classic Boat Club knows of no other existing Higgins Sport Speedster with a lower serial number.

23 replies
  1. Matt
    Matt says:

    I have so many questions.
    1. Is ooops a possible serial number ooo Production Sample?
    2. OOOPS should be the boats name. No question.
    3. The deck?
    4. Engine?
    5 Photo of ooops?

    • John Baas
      John Baas says:

      To clear up a few misunderstood facts…Randy lives in Wisconsin. We went to New York to buy the 1949 Higgins.
      The photos of the red decked in-water boat is the ’46 or “oops” boat. The varnished deck boat is the 1949. He’s trying to register the formerly New York registered boat in Wisconsin. Thank you to all who have made suggestions on a work around. The photo’s file names should have served as captions but maybe Matt didn’t see them.

      • Matt
        Matt says:

        Well that makes more sense now. Dang! I am so firing myself. I am going into HR soon. Once I have an HR department.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Try registering with a different Wisconsin bureaucrat until you find one with half a brain.

    The other option is to register it in a state that will issue it a tittle that you can then transfer to Wisconsin.

  3. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    If I am reading this right the OOPS is on the ’46 while the deck is on the ’49. Nice boats either way.

    Here in Maine we don’t title boats period, so you could have a similar problem buying a boat from here.

    Though the “transferable registration” should be enough proof a “Bill of Sale” with HIN #, price paid, and any pertinent information would probably help with the bureaucratic nonsense.

  4. Mark
    Mark says:

    Okay so “Rocket Man” was also purchased in New York state – Long Island to be exact. Same problem. I live in Massachusetts and this is how they handled it (not what I wanted).
    My first visit to the state resulted in a total rejection. I tried to register the boat using the hull card and hull number. Total rejection. Next I was visited by an Environmental Police Officer who scoured the boat, witnessed the hull number stamps and then proclaimed that the only way the state would register is if I put a state supplied hull number on the outside of the transom. Needless to say I was bull$hit.

    So with no other choice today have that state issued number discretely displayed on my transom in dark letters.

    Also, one more step in the process. They made me reach out to the previous owner via registered letter and he had to respond that he did not have a valid New York title.

    Hope this helps you in your endeavor. Looks like a great boat.

  5. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Beautiful boat and good luck on your registration issue. My Continental did not have a title when I bought her, but since she was previously registered in Michigan, I was able to get a new title and use the original registration number.
    One of our Michigan gang is restoring what I think is the same model Higgins. Can’t wait to see her completed!

  6. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    I purchased my current project a 1953 Chris Craft 22 foot Sportsman in Kentucky and trailered it back home to upstate NY. In Kentucky, there is no title for boats just a transferable registration. Kentucky does not apparently register boat trailers.

    I had no problem at the local DMV with registering the boat in my name and new ID numbers (pre-COVID times). Since the trailer wasn’t going to be used as a road trailer, I did not bother to register it in NY. I’ll sell it as “no paperwork”. So, how did I “license” the trailer for trip home from Kentucky??? Don’t ask, don’t tell!

    • Bilge Rat
      Bilge Rat says:

      All the way home I kept hearing the Bobby Fuller song I Fought the Law in my head.

      This time I won.

    • Kelly Wittenauer
      Kelly Wittenauer says:

      Hmm, that’s odd. I moved from IL to KY in 2011, bringing 2 boats & their trailers, all with IL titles. KY issued titles for the boats & trailers. The boats require annual registrations for use. KY does not require registrations for trailers. Since the boat trailers rarely go further than the local ramp, we don’t register them. We do register our car trailer, as frequently goes out of state.

  7. Mike K
    Mike K says:

    You can register a boat in Wisconsin that dosnt have a title with a sworn affidavit
    They will issue a Wisconsin title
    I have done this twice and I live in the kingdom of Illinois where it’s impossible to register a boats without a title

  8. First53Resorter
    First53Resorter says:

    Hey, John and Randy. I might have a name which could be helpful when I titled my Hunter (the “real” Hunter Boat Company from McHenry, IL). Abandoned for almost three decades, owner deceased, sketchy whereabouts, etc. Let me know if you need the contact info. You know how to reach me!

    • First53Resorter
      First53Resorter says:

      Beautiful boat there, would love to see her sometime. Randy, thank you for your generosity allowing me to sample that excellent liquid!

  9. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

    When I bought Little One in Penn. The person I bought it from had it inspected. It had a little tag on the transom with the new ID number. It made it easy to do a Mich. transfer. You may have to get it inspected. But where? How long is the NY sticker good for? Nice Boat!

  10. steve bunda
    steve bunda says:

    Write the Wisc Department of boat registration for a ” Title Search Request ”
    That will get you started . It was easier years ago with a lost title request , but now the dept wants to make sure there are no liens on the craft.

  11. Tim Robinson
    Tim Robinson says:

    Here in California you can purchase a bond that says you are not a crook and are not trying to register a stolen boat. I had this problem years ago when I bought one of my first wooden boats from the late George Johnson in New Hampshire.

  12. Art
    Art says:

    Michigan does have boat registrations, in the mid 80s our MI ACBS Chapter decided to see if we could get “special” MC classification for our antique boats. It took awhile but we did prevail and now there is a MC XXXX HW (Historical Watercraft) for antique boats over X number of years old, sorry but my old pea brain won’t let me remember exactly what year. The biggest benefit is that we only have to pay 1/3rd of what a “regular” registration would cost.

    Ergo……………Molly-O is registered as MC0007HW.

    • Bob
      Bob says:

      Hi Art! I’m building a 1928 Hacker Gold Cup replica and will need to get it registered in a year or two. Can this boat be registered in the Historical Watercraft category even though it’s newly built?

  13. Ceci Kiefer
    Ceci Kiefer says:

    We had that problem recently, also during the pandemic,with two boats without titles. To make a long story short, you need to do genealogy on the boat and find the last registered owner. That person or their descendants need to complete a “Factual Statement” and have it notarized indicating that they have “no financial interest in the boat and agree to transfer it” to you. I had been able to get to a supervisor at the WI DNR who provided these instructions, the words that must be included, and how to send them to her specifically. I will contact you directly through ACBS and send you the form and contact info for her.

  14. John Friesch
    John Friesch says:


    We had the Title problem with the 1961 Tomahawk I picked up on Lake Julia. The granddaughter of the original owner tried for 6 months to get things resolved until she finally found the proper person and used your strategy. Boat last registered in 1978 and her grandfather and father had passed so the struggle was who owned the boat through probate. Finally got it done.

    Love the Higgins – so distinctive in their color schemes.

  15. Ollon
    Ollon says:

    My wife spent 25 years as an independent DMV service dealing with this kind of stuff in all 50 states and internationally. As she was heading off to her new career in the wine tasting room I asked her about this. She laughed and said you should just use it with the NY numbers on it until you get caught and then the judge will make sure it gets taken care of after you tell him your story.

Comments are closed.