<b>BEACH TREASURE:</b>  This “super panga” ​— ​like the one successfully salvaged by a Santa Barbara fisherman in April 2012 ​— ​was the centerpiece of a July 2012 press conference to highlight increased enforcement action against Mexican smugglers.

Paul Wellman

BEACH TREASURE: This “super panga” ​— ​like the one successfully salvaged by a Santa Barbara fisherman in April 2012 ​— ​was the centerpiece of a July 2012 press conference to highlight increased enforcement action against Mexican smugglers.

Crabber Pockets a Panga

After Legal Battle, Fisherman Retains Ownership of Abandoned Vessel

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
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Travis Lobo was in the right place in the right time, and he’s now the proud new owner of a 50-foot panga boat that was ditched April 20, 2012, on Tajiguas Beach. The Santa Barbara lobster and crab fisherman was servicing crab pots off the coast when he spotted the vessel ​— ​the type typically used by Mexican smugglers to ferry marijuana and migrants into California ​— ​stranded on the beach. It was in relatively good shape, with a value of between $20,000 and $30,000, and fitted with four Yamaha outboard motors, worth around $25,000 apiece. Because of its size and ability to reach high speeds on the open sea, authorities would later call it a “super panga.”

Lobo swam ashore and checked the area for anyone in distress and hunted up and down the shoreline for a possible owner. Finding no one, Lobo laid claim to the vessel under maritime salvage laws, wrote his name and phone number along the hull, and contacted his attorney, Robert Bartosh, who in turn called the Coast Guard and Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office to notify them his client was taking legal ownership of the boat. Bartosh said his client had the right and means to take the panga there and then, but recognizing it may have been used for criminal purposes and therefore potential evidence in a smuggling case, he decided to let the authorities tow it away.

Since then, the county Sheriff and District Attorney’s offices have kept it under lock and key, telling Lobo and Bartosh it had been seized as evidence. The DA began forfeiture proceedings to have the panga officially transferred to the state and was close to bringing the case to trial, but Bartosh received notice last week that the forfeiture effort was being abandoned and that Lobo could come pick up his boat. The lead prosecutor was out of town this week and unavailable for comment, and Sheriff’s Department officials declined to be interviewed. With more and more pangas finding their way onto Santa Barbara’s shores ​— ​there were 18 last year and seven so far this year ​— ​fishermen laying claim to the abandoned boats has become a regular occurrence. This was the first instance, though, where the authorities let the finder be the keeper.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

If the attorney you are referring to is the one in Ventura who also owns interests in fishing vessels, his name is Bob Bartosh. Could be a different guy. I was wondering when someone was going to successfully invoke the maritime salvage laws and snag one of the pangas. Good for Lobo.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2013 at 8:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And still the fact remains (which is the lead fact of the story) that Mr. Lobo is now the proud owner of a panga that he found and salvaged.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 8:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah, you'd think with those giant outboards that at least a patrol boat or plane would be able to pick up a heat signature with FLIR or some similar heat detection method.

I'm not sure if I'm ready to agree with the whole conspiracy theory on these but, at the very least, I think the SBSO, Coast Gaurd, Homeland Security, etc should be doing a LOT more to nab these pangas!

sacjon (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree. I think the fact that these pangas are landing here regularly is extremely fishy (pardon the pun). With our technology, there is no excuse for this. I mean, it would be one thing if only a couple had slipped past us but these seem to be a monthly occurrence.

Honestly, just out of curiousity, what is a semi-submersible boat? Is that the same as a submarine? Contrary to some of your previous assertions, I am, in fact, not an LEO. So, I have to admit ignorance about this.

sacjon (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I hang out with a lot of fisherman/divers. I am going to find out if anyone knows Travis and hear the scoop... I will report back tomorrow.

MesaD805 (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 11:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I hope the coast guard doesn't mistake him for a Pangerrorist.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 5:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't see the point in it myself, could be something far more nefarious with stranger cargo than "pollos" or drugs. Not necessarily the Sheriff's doing either.. seems nobody knows much if we want to be honest, just conjecture on all sides.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 5:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here's a story about drug smugglers being set free due to lack of money to prosecute:

Maybe they didn't want to pay for boat storage.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 6:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

With all due respect Spiritwalker, I have answered all your arguments before and asked some questions (which you never answered). But here goes again. Weed is expensive to buy and cheap to grow. Mexicans can make high quality clone weed just as well as U.S growers can. In fact, the word "sinsemilla" is a Spanish word (it was done there first). There is money in smuggling pot. Secondly, it is expensive to get your person smuggled across the border and you can either take the risks of the desert hike or the boat trip (both risky). There is money in smuggling people. Most meth comes from Mexico. A very small package can bring a very large return. There is big money in smuggling meth. Perhaps the abandonment of the weed simply means that it was gravy and the main product delivery was meth (or people) and when they landed on some beach where lugging the weed up the bluff face was not worth the effort, they simply grabbed the meth and jammed. Crabbing is an activity that occurs close to shore, so it totally makes sense that a crabber would discover an abandoned panga. Furthermore, it appears as if Mr. Lobo followed all the rules to claim his salvage, which is why the Sheriff relented. Finally (at last), if the Sheriff is purchasing panga boats and littering our shores with them, from where is he deriving the $30,000 per boat, and from where is he purchasing said boats, and how does he get them here, and then how does he get them on the beach?

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 7:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ok Spiritwalker, I am going to go out on limb and admit that I know people in the weed business and I can tell that you know nothing about the weed business. Maybe you spend too much time watching TV and surfing the web to actually find out real facts. I will not get into any more detail for obvious reasons. Secondly, I also happen to know through other personal associations what it costs to get smuggled into this Country. It is not a cake walk and costs a lot of money. Your belief that all someone has to do is saunter across the border is mistaken. With regard to the Coast Guard's ability to detect every small vessel that crosses into U.S. borders, your conception is fantastical. The Pacific Ocean is a very big place and impossible to monitor comprehensively over the entire length of California. I don't know if you have been out there in the blue water, but I have, and let me tell you, it is very lonely. With regard to the marine salvage laws, I recommend that you contact an attorney that is versed in such laws (although a smart fisherman or even a well informed surfer would do) to get an education before you set yourself up as an expert. Finally, I find it interesting that you ignore the toughest questions, which are aimed at having you explain how your conspiracy theory would actually work in the real world. Good night.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One person can't get on another person's nerves, technically speaking. One has to upset themselves. Buddhist law dealing with the mind/brain. So grow up and control your own emotions.

khiggler (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2013 at 1:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Gee, but this is a slam dunk issue. Maritime salvage laws provide for claim of abandoned vessels. Authorities can search for evidence, document and photograph, and once concluded, claimant should be awarded his salvage.

Don't like it, local authorities?
Change maritime law, or step aside.

Glad the crabber nabbed his prize.

Draxor (anonymous profile)
July 14, 2013 at 8:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

spiritwalker: 4/20 sure is an interesting date to find a panga boat. Tajiguas also seems like an odd place for a crabber/lobster fisherman to work. Falcons have reduced the former high bacteria levels that resulted from seagull poop, but I'd expect other pollutants that you wouldn't want as seasoning in crabs and lobsters that live below the landfill.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
July 17, 2013 at 4:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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