Wednesday, January 17 , 2018, 11:29 pm | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Commuters Aboard Emergency Ferry Service After Mudslides, Flooding Close Highway 101

Condor Express and Islands Packers step up to help commuters get to their jobs

Passengers queue up in the early morning hours for a ride aboard the Condor Express from Santa Barbara to Ventura. The ad hoc ferry service is helping people make the trek while he freeway in Montecito is closed down due to this week’s flash flooding. Click to view larger
Passengers queue up in the early morning hours for a ride aboard the Condor Express from Santa Barbara to Ventura. The ad hoc ferry service is helping people make the trek while he freeway in Montecito is closed down due to this week’s flash flooding. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Teodoro Santoy of Santa Barbara is facing some tough choices in getting to his job in Oxnard.

Taking the circuitous route north to Santa Maria, then east on Highway 166 to Interstate 5, then west on Highway 126 would take five to six hours.

So Sanoy decided a nearly 30-mile boat voyage would be a better bet for reaching his job as a service advisor at Alexander Buick GMC Cadillac.

“I decided to take the boat instead of driving all the way around,” Santoy told Noozhawk.

Santoy was hustling to the line wrapping the Sea Landing dock at Santa Barbara Harbor just before 6:30 a.m.

It was so cold outside you see your breath. 

Some passengers bundled in scarfs were carrying backpacks with their lunches, computers, extra clothing, and anything else they might need while away from home.

Other commuters with more to haul opted for small wheeled suitcases.

The Condor Express heads out to Ventura, helping commuters make the trip to their jobs while the freeway is closed down. Click to view larger
The Condor Express heads out to Ventura, helping commuters make the trip to their jobs while the freeway is closed down. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The attentive crew greeted passengers as they loaded onto the Condor Express, and the cafe staff served hot or cold breakfast in the galley or drinks for after-work travelers.

The Condor Express normally operates a high-speed catamaran that takes whale watchers and day-trippers through the Santa Barbara Channel to experience marine life and the scenic coastline.

But deadly mudslides and flooding in Montecito this week have temporarily closed Highway 101, cutting access to the main vehicle route up and down the oceanfront highway.

The company’s 75-foot-long vessel is playing a vital role in providing emergency transportation for residents between Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

The Condor Express — which can carry up to 127 people — is helping transport passengers between areas that are otherwise inaccessible by car because Highway 101 is shut down indefinitely in both directions in Montecito.

Island Packers Cruise, which operates catamarans, is also offering the same ad-hoc ferry service.

Passengers board the Condor Express. Click to view larger
Passengers board the Condor Express. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Both companies provide daily trips northbound from the Ventura Harbor, at 1415 Spinnaker Dr., and southbound from the Santa Barbara Harbor, at 301 W. Cabrillo Blvd.

The Condor Express is continuing its service over the weekend, said Capt. Dave Beezer. 

“This boat has been part of the community for almost 20 years, and it’s what we do — the community comes together, and we are offering the service because people have to get back and forth,” Beezer said. “Right now, we are scheduled through Monday. There’s good weather over the next few days.”

Beezer said a one-way trip takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes, and boats are filling to capacity.

“This is an emergency service, so people have to understand to bear with us — we are doing the best that we can,” Beezer said.

Fares are $32 for adults and $24 for children, and both companies accept online bookings. 

For James Schaeffer, a dentist at Pacific Dental Group in Oxnard, Thursday morning marked his second emergency shuttle ride with the Condor Express.

Schaeffer boarded the 7 a.m. boat ride, and was planning to see his first dental patient at 9 a.m.

“I did this before — I’m a repeat customer,” said Schaeffer, who has been living in Santa Barbara for 31 years. “The train is probably how I’ll come back home.” 

Amtrak began service between Santa Barbara and Oxnard Thursday morning.

As of Thursday evening, Amtrak bus service between Santa Barbara and Oxnard remained canceled due to the freeway closure.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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