Boating company helps bridge gap between Ventura, Santa Barbara during freeway closures

VENTURA, Calif. - Traveling on U.S. Highway 101 is crucial for so many who rely on the freeway, and since a section is closed due to mudslides, commuters are looking to other modes of transportation.

NewsChannel 3 rode with commuters on a fully booked Island Packers water shuttle service Wednesday morning.

The local company is offering a shuttle service between the Ventura harbor and Santa Barbara harbor on Wednesday and Thursday for those who need to get in and out of Santa Barbara.

“We don’t have a way to get home from the freeway so now we are going by boat,” said Westmont College student, Amber Nozzi. 

Two employees from the retirement community, Casa Dorinda were also on the shuttle. They are returning back to work since mudslides ravaged Montecito.

“We need to be there for our residents,” said Casa Dorinda employee, Tim Gallagher. “They are like our parents, our friends, our sisters and grandparents. We just need to be there for them.”

It’s the first time the Ventura residents, Gallagher and his colleague, Bruce are heading to work by water taxi.

“We’re kind of anxious to see what is there and what is going on,” said Casa Dorinda employee, Bruce Cleavenger. 

It’s a service that Alex Brodie of Island Packers says began for first responders.

“Back in 2005 during the La Conchita slide, we started a shuttle service just to help people that were trapped in Santa Barbara and it turns out that our biggest concentration of customers was from Cottage Hospital and some first responders so we kind of have a standing agreement with them,” said Bodie. “If ever there is a problem we will make our boats available.”

Those available boats are helpful for Alan Hancock teacher Helen Talkin, who has been waiting to get home to Lompoc since Monday night.

“I was thinking when the rain stops maybe I can rent a car and go home,” said Talkin. “Of course I didn’t realize how serious it was and the roads weren’t going to be open.”

These boats are closing the gap between Ventura and Santa Barbara when Highway 101 is no longer an option.

“It brings it home to you to see that we live in a community where we are so dependent on the 101 and where conditions like this can really impact us in a big way,” said Talkin.

The Island Packers have trips scheduled through Thursday. For more information on how to book a trip, please visit

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