Advertisement

From the Boathouse: Watch out for suspicious boats

June 12, 2013|By Mike Whitehead

Ahoy, and summer officially begins next Friday!

Does anyone find it surprising that a sailboat carrying 80 to 90 bales of marijuana was beached in Newport Harbor after a brief chase by the Coast Guard? This occurred at 1 a.m. on June 3 after the drug smugglers entered the harbor and refused to allow the Coast Guard personnel to board the sailboat. Finally, the boat was run aground on Balboa Island, and two people leapt from the vessel only to disappear in the night.

This is not surprise to me and nor is it a surprise to law enforcement. Almost weekly, a panga from Mexico is found deserted along Southern California's coast or seized by authorizes. Either drugs or human trafficking is being smuggled into the U.S., and I have written for years that our southern ocean border is wide open to allow this activity.

Advertisement

The smugglers are going farther out to sea before turning north to avoid the radar system in San Diego and any law enforcement boats that I usually see patrolling between the mainland and Coronado Islands on the U.S. side of the International border.

I have warned in my previous columns for boaters to be careful approaching disabled vessels in the Pacific Ocean because of the potential of being hijacked by smugglers. Boaters should contact the Coast Guard if they spot a panga or any suspicious vessels operating along our coastline. Unfortunately, a Coast Guardsman was killed last year when his patrol boat was rammed by the smugglers.

However, it is not just pangas being used to transport drugs or people as demonstrated by the individuals who fled from the sailboat. Yachts have used to smuggle people across the border and usually in very unsafe vessels with no life jackets, little food and water and engines that barely operate. Additionally, these vessels carry extra fuel in containers on deck and this creates a potentially explosive environment onboard.

I want every boater to be aware when cruising the ocean waters this summer. Again, if you see a boat in distress, then approach the vessel with caution and notify the Coast Guard immediately of the situation either by your VHF marine radio on channel 16 or call 877-24WATCH.

On another topic that is good news for recreational boating, the National Marine Manufacturers Assn. (NMMA) announced this week that at least 88 million Americans will go boating this year. An estimated 88 million people participate in boating in 2012, and the number of people floating on the water is increasing annually.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|