by Ross Williams
We often can take for granted that which is always there. All my life I’ve looked out across our ocean and the Anacapa Islands have stared back at me. Warm sunny days, cold wind-swept mornings and hazy sunsets as I watched the orange glow of daylight recede into cool pinks and purples silhouetting those islands.
The distance, so close and yet so far has made the islands just a background of summer days on the beach. And on very special days when driving down the grade you can see out to forever and the islands dot the horizon. But for most of us, we don’t see the adventure. The wild. The truly magical experience that lies just out of reach.
In 1967, when Bill M. Connally looked out across the ocean expanse, he saw so much more. He saw a treasure for all that yearned to be explored and shared. He saw adventure and beauty and he wanted to be its docent. The fact that within a mere 20 miles you could leave the hustle and bustle of Southern California and find an island that belonged solely to nature and time was pure magic to Bill.
With that the Island Packers was born. In fact, it became a family affair, for the first two years the boat actually did not have an outboard motor and so Bill’s sons, Mark, Kirk and Brad took turns rowing the boat to and from the islands while Daughter Cheryl served snacks to the patrons. With kids in tow, Bill and wife Lillian Mae created a path to the islands for those who had never been before, connecting them to an untouched nature and the islands to the mainland for all to enjoy.
55 years later the Island Packers is still doing what it does best, scheduling trips to and from the islands, setting up whale watching tours and connecting the public to the magic of the Anacapa Islands. In the 70’s they became the official Concessionaire to the Islands with deep ties to the Channel Islands National Park Staff. The Island Packers themselves have grown to a staff of over 50 employees and pilots out of both Ventura Harbor and Oxnard Harbor. The options have changed as well. You can kayak through the kelp forests and camp on Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands. You can hike from Prisoners Harbor to Scorpion Cove or just enjoy lunch away from the rest of the world. Adventure is only an hour away.
Cherryl Connally is still at it. The dream still lives within her and her family. Her son Jason now captains a boat out of Oxnard harbor. When asked what her favorite part of being part of the Island Packers story is, she replied, “Being on the ocean, seeing marine life in the wild. Thousands of dolphins dancing near our vessels and welcoming us to the islands. Whales almost year-round too. Every day is special and a different experience even after all these years. I love the islands so very much. I feel the ocean frees your soul, you are released of all the day to day worries and challenges. I love seeing our passengers get that experience and bringing joy to their day exploring the Channel Islands.”
You can reach out to the Island Packers to schedule your next adventure.
Island Packers Cruises
1691 Spinnaker Dr #105B, Ventura, CA 93001
And book online at