GAVIOTA, Calif. -

The U.S. Coast Guard says a 35-foot “Mexican panga boat” was spotted three miles off the coast of Gaviota this morning by a fisherman who said the vessel was “going in circles” when he spotted it.

The fisherman, who asked to remain anonymous, took a closer look and said the wheel had been tied down so the vessel was making slow turns. It was powered by two Yamaha engines.

No one was on board.

An emergency call was made.  The response included a Coast Guard vessel from Channel Islands Harbor and  a helicopter from Los Angeles.  The crew boarded the panga boat and brought it under control.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Adam Eggers said, there was also a near shore search, that did not turn up any evidence or suspects.

The fisherman said nothing was on the boat that he could see, and the Coast Guard has not reported any cargo.

These vessels are normally associated with drug and human smuggling off the California coast and have frequently been seen in the Gaviota area, although recently there’s been two panga boats on the San Luis Obispo County coast near San Simeon.

The vessel is currently in the Santa Barbara harbor tied up to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Blackfin, and it will be turned over to the office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Slideshow: Homeland Security Retrieves Suspicious Boat Off Gaviota Coast

POSTED: 04:03 PM PDT Jul 14, 2014 
Coast Guard says empty 'panga' vessel was going in circles when they boarded it this morning

The U.S. Coast Guard says a 35-foot “Mexican panga boat”  was spotted three miles off the coast of Gaviota this morning by a fisherman who said the vessel was “going in circles” when he spotted it.

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