Still no sign of kidnapped Hakken boys or parents

Published April 7 2013
Updated April 8 2013

TAMPA — Authorities spent another fruitless day Sunday searching for the man accused of kidnapping his two young sons and fleeing on a sailboat into the unpredictable waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Joshua Hakken, 35, along with his wife, Sharyn Hakken, 34, and their two boys — Cole, 4, and Chase, 2 — are thought to be on a 25-foot sailboat that launched Wednesday from Madeira Beach, just hours after the kidnapping.

Hakken and his wife had lost custody of the children after the husband's drug-possession arrest in Louisiana. Authorities said Joshua Hakken was armed with a gun when he tied up his mother-in-law early Wednesday and kidnapped the kids from her house north of Tampa.

"We continue to receive leads, and every one of them (is) investigated," Larry McKinnon, a Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman, said in a statement.

Law enforcement has enlisted the help of boaters this weekend, asking them to contact authorities if the family is spotted.

Hakken, sheriff's officials say, is thought to be an experienced sailor. And so far, good gulf weather would have done little to hamper Hakken's escape.

But good weather favors fugitive and searcher alike.

The National Weather Service said the gulf is in a "stable" pattern that is expected to last for much of the coming week. Forecasters expect winds no higher than 17 mph up to 60 miles out from Florida's west coast with seas of 2 to 3 feet during the next two days. Farther out, the seas are choppier — 3 to 5 feet with winds about the same.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday it must halt its search from time to time to respond to other calls. On Sunday, Coast Guard officials declined comment.

Those familiar with the gulf and sailing said Hakken's sailboat, a 1972 Morgan with an outboard motor, is fully capable of a long voyage, though he faces some daunting challenges.

The boat has a blue hull, white mainsail and the word "Salty" painted on the back. Gaston Garces of Tampa listed the boat for sale at $3,500 and told WTSP-Ch. 10 he sold the boat to Hakken several weeks ago.

Garces declined to comment further on Sunday.

"We did sell the boat to him," Garces said. "But right now, the detectives want to work things out" before he speaks to the media.

The advertisement for the boat was posted online a month ago. It said the vessel was "in very good solid condition" with a new bilge pump, a CD player, a CB radio and a 19-inch flat screen TV with DVD player.

"Extremely strong boat that could (go) anywhere from weekend beach trips with the family, to even taking a trip to the Bahamas with no problem," the ad said.

The ad also said it had a draft of less than 3 feet, "perfect for going to the beach in shallow areas."

Investigators have no doubt taken note of one other point mentioned in the ad — the boat's 15-horsepower outboard motor has a gas tank with a capacity of just 6 gallons.

While an AMBER Alert continues in states bordering the gulf, investigators said they cannot assume Hakken is still at sea.

Relatives of the Hakkens did not return calls seeking comment.

Bill Schweigart, a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy who served five years before his 2000 discharge as a lieutenant, said he worried about Hakken's ship-handling abilities.

Schweigart, who wrote a novel about the Coast Guard called Flipping the Cable, noted that Hakken isn't like most recreational boaters who simply call for help on the radio if they get into trouble. Hakken, he said, isn't likely to ever call the Coast Guard.

"There is very little margin for error even for the best and most experienced of sailors," Schweigart said.

William R. Levesque can be reached at