Posted by on January 13, 2005 at 00:24:23:
In Reply to: Truth Aquatics becomes temporary ferry service posted by on January 12, 2005 at 15:49:23:
Tour operators are ferrying people along the coast
By Jessica Keating, jkeating@VenturaCountyStar.com
January 12, 2005
West Aycock cut short his Phoenix vacation after he saw the devastation on television: his neighbors running, the hill above La Conchita sliding toward the sea, the roaring river of earth reducing homes to splinters.
The 23-year-old hotel concierge drove with two friends overnight through the rain-battered desert, hoping to reach his girlfriend and 1-year-old son by early Tuesday morning. He was less than 20 minutes south of Carpinteria, where his family had safely fled, when he reached the barricades on Highway 101.
Mud still covered the highway, and Caltrans officials were predicting the freeway would stay closed until Friday. Train service between Ventura and Santa Barbara also was shut down.
With a six-hour detour -- to Bakersfield and Paso Robles, then south to Santa Barbara -- their only driving option around the barricaded highway, Aycock and dozens of other travelers Tuesday looked to the sky and sea for alternate routes.
Aycock and his friends secured seats on a 75-foot catamaran at Ventura Harbor after the trio learned that Condor Express, a Santa Barbara tour operator, planned to ferry stranded travelers between the two cities.
"I'll do whatever it takes to get to the other side," Aycock said. "Thank God I found out about this boat."
About 70 others lined the wind-blown dock at Ventura Harbor, some Santa Barbara residents and others visiting from as far away as Chicago. Nobody complained when the captain asked for $50 a head, one way.
After three days on the road, Nicole Neilson and Chase Cox sank gratefully into their seats. They drove a friend to Victorville on Sunday, then got delayed in the rain in Palmdale on the drive back to their Buellton home. Cox called the Caltrans road hotline so often, he finally wrote the number on his blue jeans.
By the time the couple got to Ventura, Neilson said, their car gave out. Cox's mother planned to pick the couple up in Santa Barbara on Tuesday afternoon.
"We're inching our way back," Cox said. "It's been one big adventure."
Condor Express pulled into Ventura Harbor about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday after about 45 minutes at sea. After leaving the Sea Landing in Santa Barbara, the boat hugged the shoreline, passing the La Conchita rescue area.
Ventura resident Scott Nething, trying to return home after a skiing trip in Vancouver, bounded off the boat, ticked off a list of the debris in the sea: a purple hot tub, tires, wood. "Man, that was gnarly," Nething said. "The hill just went 'blech.' "
Caltrans officials predicted Tuesday afternoon that it would take two more days to clear the Highway 101 landslide. Elsewhere, sinkholes and high water have shut down rail service between Ventura and points north and south.
Amtrak has canceled its Pacific Surfliner service north of Los Angeles through Thursday, because of a sinkhole near Gaviota. Water raging under a 100-foot stretch of rail in Somis is preventing Metrolink trains from reaching Camarillo and Oxnard.
Metrolink is running buses between Moorpark and those cities. Montalvo station customers in Ventura are being asked to drive to Oxnard.
In the meantime, Condor Express in Santa Barbara and Island Packers in Ventura plan to provide ferry service between the two cities. Both operate catamarans with indoor and outdoor seating and galleys stocked with sodas, M&Ms, cheeseburgers and quesadillas.
"We have been just bombarded by phone calls," said Cherryl Connally, Island Packers' co-owner. "But it's nice to help people out."
Channel Islands Aviation, based in Camarillo, also swooped in to help travelers Monday and Tuesday. Flights to Santa Barbara leave the Camarillo Airport every two hours beginning at 8 a.m., company owner Janie Oberman said. Tickets on the company's least expensive charter plane, a 10-seater, are $200 one way.
"I've got a terminal full of people right now just ready to go," Oberman said Tuesday.
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