Police discovered a boat beached on the coast of Big Sur that they believe was used to smuggle thousands of pounds of marijuana from Mexico.
The 36-foot boat was found beached on the sand at Garrapata State Beach in Big Sur early Feb. 15. Police discovered it about 9:30 a.m. while conducting foot patrol, and found a 35-pound bale of cannabis stashed in bushes under a nearby tree, said James Nothhelfer, supervisor of Monterey State Parks lifeguards.
Several hundred such bales were loaded off the boat the night before, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. Customs agents who responded to the scene were joined by parks officers, sheriff’s deputies, and officers from the California Department of Fish and Game.
They also discovered two 200-horsepower outboard engines, several 55-gallon plastic drums of gasoline, and several pieces of clothing aboard the boat. According to police, commercial fishermen use a smaller version of the boat in developing countries. But bigger models are often used for smuggling between Mexico and the U.S.
A similar boat was found offshore at Monastery Beach in January, Nothhelfer said. It appeared the same people were using both boats to smuggle weed from Mexico, he said.
Last summer, a lifeguard for the state parks discovered a Panga boat on a remote beach north of Santa Cruz that was used to smuggle 175 bundles of pot. Four men were arrested.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Coast Guard arrested two people from a boat with nearly two dozen bales of marijuana off Point Mugu in Ventura County. In January, more than a dozen people were arrested after a 30-foot Panga boat was discovered on a different Ventura County beach with more than 1,500 pounds of cannabis. Police caught the suspects loading the weed into an RV.
And sheriff’s deputies in San Luis Obispo County discovered a 45-foot Panga boat last month with nearly 4,000 pounds of weed beached at Estero Bluffs State Park.
Marijuana from Mexico feeds California’s bustling black market for the drug. Simple possession of pot is decriminalized in the Golden State, but plans are under way to legalize all dope, either this year or in 2016.