MORRO BAY, Calif. - How do these drug smuggling panga boats actually work? And how do they get from the Mexico to the Central Coast?
According to the Harbor Patrol in Morro Bay, these panga boats are going through extreme lengths to complete their journey. These pangas are very common fishing boats south of the border. They are not a vessel you'd expect to withstand a 500 mile journey up to the Central Coast. To go that far, these smugglers come prepared and take extra precautions to avoid being caught.
Morro Bay Harbor Director Eric Endersby says, "it's pretty impressive that they make it that far. It's a pretty arduous journey."
Endersby says the journey from the Mexican coastline to the Central Coast is around 500 miles for the panga boats. Local shipping lanes are 30 to 40 miles off the coastline, and Endersby suspects the panga boats are making their way up the coastline sometimes 50 to 60 miles offshore, sometimes more. That adds even more miles to the journey.
"I think that's one of the suspicions that nobody has seen them close to shore because they are going way out," says Endersby.
Endersby says the typical panga boat is 22 to 25 feet long, carrying 8 to 10, sometimes 10 to 12 passengers. And that's not counting the cargo. He says the engines can get them up to 45 miles per hour. And the engines aren't gas guzzlers.
They aren't the old two-strokes that burn tons of fuel," says Endersby, referring to the engines. "So they got pretty high efficiency engines on them."
Panga boats found on the Central Coast have had sometimes dozens of portable gas tanks aboard, one of the many ways they fuel up on the long journey.
"I think they have mother ships somewhere offshore or they have another boat that has nothing but several hundred gallons of fuel," says Endersby.
Endersby says the boats are perfect for stealth. They are low to the water and typically have blue trim along the side, blending them in with the water. They also do a lot of travel at night, with no lights.
"At night, especially a non-moonlit night or a cloudy night, it's almost impossible to spot," says Endersby.
And as far as food goes, Endersby says he hasn't seen any food on these boats but he suspects they aren't eating much on the journey.
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