Friday, November 27, 2009

Introduction to Panga Boats

Definition of a Panga: boat of shallow draft, having a pointed bow and a square stern ... The Central American version of a skiff.

The pangas offer you endless flexibility, as opposed to a normal live aboard scuba boat. The Andrea Lynn piggybacks 10 of these 21 foot skiffs with 75 horse outboards to the dive locations. You can move at your own pace – you can fish, hike, snorkel or scuba dive whenever and wherever you want between sunrise and sunset. The term "Panga" was used historically for any small boat other than dugout canoes. Today it usually refers to an open "semi-dory" type skiff, with strongly rising sheer and of comparatively narrow beam.

Pangas form the backbone of the small-scale fishing effort in Mexico, Central America and much of the Caribbean. Panga-design boats have become popular fishing and workboats in many parts of the developing world. Pangas are usually between 19 and 28 feet in length, with capacities ranging from 1 to 5 tons and powered by outboard motors of between 45hp and 200hp. Their planning hulls are capable of speeds in excess of 35 knots. The hulls are made of Fiberglass or FRP, heavily reinforced by numerous bulkheads and usually have bow and stern enclosed flotation compartments. In the hands of an experienced operator they are considered extremely seaworthy. Most pangas are expected to have a working life of between 5 to 10 years if properly maintained.

In Mexico, the two words “panga” and “fishing” are synonymous. In all of history, there probably has never been a style of boat, of similar size, that has been as versatile and has caught as many fish as the Mexican panga. That statement may raise a few eyebrows, because the panga has only been around the last 50 years or so. However, when you consider that Mexico has some of the richest waters in the world for fishing, the worldwide demand for fish, the advent of the outboard engine, and the thousands of pangas fishing these waters, it is not a statement to be taken lightly.

What is a panga? A panga is a style and size of a boat that is usually 24 to 26 feet in length. It features a bow that rakes down sharply, creating a deep vee at the water line. With a squared off stern for an outboard motor, the floor is honeycombed with cross bracing, and is rarely over 7 feet in width. The rails are curved upward to help lift the bow up out of the water for a dry ride, even when running at higher speeds. Simple in design, inexpensive in it’s fiberglass construction, bulletproof in durability, the panga has become the boat of choice for fisherman on every Mexican coastline.

The panga is so popular and versatile that a new breed of fishermen was created: the pangeros. The pangeros use their boat for just about anything you could imagine. Included among the things a panga is used for on a regular basis is: setting nets, commercial fishing offshore for tuna, night fishing with a gas lantern for red snapper on an inshore reef, or taking tourists out for a day of fishing. The panga is also used as a taxi for people to get to an island or remote beach, snorkel or skin-dive for octopus and lobsters, or as a work boat to load and haul construction materials.

For a first time fisherman going to Mexico, it would probably be best to book through a reputable outfitter. He knows the boats, your needs, and the best captains. After you have been here a few times, feel free to contact the pangeros direct. You will be dialed in and will have comfort level for what you want. The only thing to remember is to book in advance during the “high season”. The really good captains are usually booked out, and are fishing every day.

The panga boats are here to stay and future generations of pangeros will learn from their Fathers. The cycle will repeat itself, because your sons will be fishing with them and enjoying the same experiences you had. And, the basic design of the panga will remain unchanged. The simplicity and versatility of the panga assures it of a place in history.

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