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Seizure of fishing boat is latest problem for Hubbard family

The default notice came in February, and Mark Hubbard thought he was catching up: extra payments in April, another in May.

But on Monday night, the U.S. Marshal's Service showed up at John's Pass to seize his 72-foot catamaran, the Florida Fisherman.

The vessel has been in the Hubbard family since it was custom-built for $800,000 more than 20 years ago.

Now Mark Hubbard is talking to his lawyer. Bank of America first mishandled an agreed-on deferment in 2008, then misdirected his later payments to a related loan, he says. He says he's three months behind. The bank tells him it's 14 months, he says. Bank of America says it can't comment on its customers' accounts.

Meanwhile, just glancing at a photo of the Florida Fisherman hurts.

The double-decker deep-sea fishing boat usually leaves Hubbard's Marina in Madeira Beach for half-day and overnight trips. Now Hubbard, 46, doesn't know where it is. No vessel means no work for the crew, and canceling trips when every one counts. So he's adding trips for his other boats.

"They're not going to keep us down," he said Tuesday.

Hubbard, who is also president of family businesses Hubbard Enterprises and Hubbard Properties, bought Hubbard's Marina from the family in 2004. He assumed the loan on the Florida Fisherman and refinanced for $600,000 in 2005. He owns other fishing vessels, including the Friendly Fisherman and The Hub, plus tour and sightseeing boats. After years of expansion, then a downturn, they all have mortgages.

The family got its start when father Wilson Hubbard rowed tourists in 1930s Pass-a-Grille. It has weathered personal and public trouble for decades, and now faces its greatest financial challenge, overstretched after a $19.5 million retail and parking project in John's Pass Village.

Mark Hubbard's business in recent years has battled Red Tide, a dead zone in the gulf, high fuel prices, two bad hurricane years, the economy, then the oil spill. In June, he said private fishing charters were down 60 percent from a year ago.

"Everyone's just barely getting by in this industry," he said.

Before the boat's seizure, the family was rallying.

"We feel the hardships that have put us in this crisis situation will be drawing to an end in the near future," he said in a letter Tuesday.

He hopes that future includes the Florida Fisherman.

Seizure of fishing boat is latest problem for Hubbard family 07/27/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 9:59am]
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