Panga boat, marijuana found on beach in San Simeon

jhickey@thetribunenews.comSeptember 10, 2013 

An abandoned panga boat, which authorities believe was used to send thousands of pounds of marijuana ashore, was found Tuesday morning on the beach near the Hearst San Simeon State Park campground.

It’s the seventh such boat found on local beaches since May 2012.

The boat was spotted at 8 a.m. Tuesday by a surfer who came to check out the waves.

One 30-pound bale of marijuana, with an estimated street value of $18,000, was discovered in the boat. Detectives believe the 30-foot boat, with two Yamaha engines of 250 horsepower each, was offloaded late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said.

“Where they landed was very close to the highway,” Cipolla said. “Typically they search out the hidden nooks and crannies of our coastline. It’s basically out in plain view. It suggests they are getting more bold in where they land.”

As of Tuesday evening, no one had been arrested or detained in connection with the incident. Sheriff’s detectives are continuing to investigate with the assistance of State Park rangers and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Over the past few years, similar panga boats have increasingly been used to transport people and drugs from Mexico to the United States. The boats have been stopped and confiscated along California’s coastline, though the number discovered locally has been far fewer than in other areas of the state.

But as law enforcement in Southern California became more successful at intercepting the boats, the smugglers started heading farther out to sea — and pushing farther north.

On May 29, authorities seized 53 bales of marijuana worth $1.3 million and arrested 15 people after a 35-foot-long panga boat was discovered off Montaña de Oro State Park.

Closer look at a panga boat

Here's a closer look at an abandoned panga boat found Tuesday morning on the beach near the San Simeon campground.

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