Salvage/Finder Keeper Laws, NH?

-- Last Updated: Nov-14-12 5:03 PM EST --

A good buddy had a canoe wash up onto his landing on the local river with some damage to it. The local police noticed it and talked to him about it and after few days notified him that they hadn't heard anything about a "missing" canoe so it was his to do what he wanted with. Looks like it's going to end up in my shop for some repairs and become mine. He has listed it on Craigslist in an effort to find the owner, good on his part.

I won't mention the brand quite yet but it is a nice canoe and the fixes are fairly easily done with minimal work. With the police involved and saying go ahead I still have this nagging little voice in my head that maybe I should contact the maker, local also, with the HIN and see if they have a record of who bought it or just keep it for a resale in the spring!

I guess there is a difference between "Finders Keepers" and "Salvage" but most of it has to do with maritime and not rivers on the interior.

Any thoughts or opinions? Going to pick up the boat tomorrow night.


An Otter?
If a call to the maker is all it would take to allay your guilt, I’d say do it.

If it washed away from a vacation home, the owner may not yet be aware of the loss. You might store it for a while and run the CL ad again later in “Lost &Found” as well as Boats For Sale. The cops have your buddy’s contact if the owners should suddenly appear, but it seems the salvage rights are his and if he wants you to have it, it’s yours.

Put it aside and wait. Don’t lose time
and work messing with it, only to have the owner show up and claim it.

It just doesn’t sound right to me that the police have the right to give something away on the basis that no one has reported it missing yet.

It’s relatively little effort, and no cost for you to call the manufacturer with the serial number. That should get you a dealer maybe, and maybe the dealer would still have a record of the original buyer.

Make some good faith efforts at finding the owner. Document them just in case. Wait a while before you invest any money or time in the repairs.

There are thieves
and there are good samaritans.

It may be that the cops don’t
have the authority to dispose of lost property without following protocol perhaps requiring a specified waiting period. It does seem like maritime salvage laws wouldn’t apply here, but who knows in the “Live for free canoes or die.” state?

You’ll do the right thing whatever it is, Doug. We all know that much.

wash up
If it were in Florida, later in the life of that canoe were the latest claimant/owner you would have issues registering it. In Florida if you decide to add a trolling motor it must be registered, and to do so the person registering it must present paper work. The first thing the want is “Statement of Origin” which is issued by the manufacturer, if you have that its clear registration and paddling. The next best thing is the title (issued by the state when its registered the first time) and a bill of sale.

If not one of these 2 documents its a real PITA, a bill of sale is not good enough, perhaps some affidavit from the police department giving you ownership may work but good luck.

Been there, done that trying to register a canoe purchased from an original owner who used it in a private lake for years before selling. The previous owner never registered the canoe, as its not required on his private lake, and did not have the statement of origin.

I emailed the manufactorer and am waiting to hear back as to whether they have records or not, they should. Once I have the hull over here I can get the HIN to send on to them. Guess it’s the best I can do, eh?

I’m glad those aren’t my policemen
I’m not much for religion, but…

do unto others as you would have them do unto you

…is a pretty good policy to live by.

Police have no authority …
… to determine who owns something. They only deal with whether something is a crime. It may not be a crime to keep something you find, the the real owner may still have civil claims against you.

Many or most states have statutes on this kind of thing. I have no idea what they say in NH.


Quote: “I won’t mention the brand quite yet but it is a nice canoe and the fixes are fairly easily done with minimal work.”

Make the repairs, photos before and after…(do them regardless)…if the manufacturer can I.D. the owner, take it to his house, put it up on blocks in his/her yard with the photos in an album and a “Merry Christmas” card…there will be a lot of people who lost items looking for them after Sandy…

Concerted effort…
I think a “concerted/good faith effort” to try & return the boat to it’s “legal owner” is the best bet.

After that, I’d have a clear conscience in keeping it; BUT I’d turn it over to a “proven owner”, no matter how much time passed. I don’t like carrying around a guilt trip in my head; not worth it for any boat in my opinion.

I think the answer the cops gave you is some “bogus bs”.



– Last Updated: Nov-16-12 7:37 AM EST –

I "rubbed" the HIN off of the canoe this morning and was a little puzzled that it appears to be stamped in backwards or something like that:

You are going to have to cut and paste the entire link to view, sorry!

I don't think I have seen that before. I know that it is a Ranger and it's an 88 and plan on calling them later today to see if they can shed some light on this hull.

Anyone else ever seen a stamp backwards like this? Just curious.


The night before…
Perhaps Mike had a “late night” prioor to that days production. :wink:

That appears to be an “opps”.

So How Are the Numbers?
Rob, Just curious but how are those numbers stamped exactly? Are they separate pieces pieced together or something?


What Ranger Told Me
They ship the canoes out to dealers so they don’t have records and being an older canoe they suggested I contact local clubs and post there which I have. Will wait a week or so and then call it my own to fix. Seems fair to me!


Good boat, have you weighed it yet?
I looked over one at KTP years ago. The only composite canoe they had. Appeared to be a quality layup and very reminiscent of Jim Henry’s designs. Good price, too.

Common Law
So a bit of curious research yields that in the absence of a specific state statute common law prevails. That is, if and whenever the “true owner” can be established you need to give it back.

NH does not apparently have a state statute.

For reference, the Vermont law can be read:

Think I Did My Part
So far I’ve posted on a bunch of local message boards, it’s posted on Craigslist, I contacted Ranger. Not sure what else I can do to try to find an owner. Laws vary state to state so maybe I’m a winner in this case. If I was approached by a ligit owner I would gladly hand over the boat. Hell, I’ve got 5 already and room for hulls is stressed already. But, it is a sweet hull.


Applied to mold prior to gelcoating
Basically a number plate is put on the inside of the mold with the HIN#. Then the gel coat is sprayed, leaving an imprinted # on the hull when it’s all cured.