Island Packer (#251991) (1943-1969), 52-foot wood Liberty launch built for the U.S. Navy in 1943. In the 1950s, she was converted to a charter fishing vessel and named Verna F. She was licensed to carry 49 passengers with a crew of three. In 1968, Bill Connally, founder of Island Packers, Inc., purchased her from Kenny Lamb, owner of Ventura Sport Fishing, and renamed her the Island Packer. She was converted to an island transportation and tour vessel, hauling people and supplies to Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands. Four gold stars after her name represented the four Connally children, Mark, Kirk, Cherryl and Brad. Curley Oliver was her first captain.
On December 8, 1969 returning from a cargo run to Albert’s Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island in a storm, Island Packer was wrecked on the north side of East Anacapa Island. Her engine quit due to clogged fuel filters. The Coast Guard was called and Island Packers was called. The Coast Guard was delayed when they ran aground on a sand bar leaving Santa Barbara Harbor. Island Packer drifted until she was anchored near the island. The weather came up. By the time the Coast Guard arrived, they attached a tow line to the vessel's Samson post on the bow, pulled out too fast and snapped the post. Coast Guard ordered the crew to abandon the vessel, and they picked up the two crew from the water. Island Packer was wrecked on the rocks.
The Connallys went out the next day on the Paisano and dove for pieces of the wreck. The next vessel the Connally family bought was We Seven.
In the News~
December 15, 1969 [VCS]: “Island Packer, December 9, 1969. Vessel went aground due to engine failure & weather conditions. About 16:00 while on the way back to Channel Islands Harbor from Albert’s Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island, and about two miles north east of the West end of Anacapa Island, the engine quit. Occupants of the boat were its captain, Bruce R. Dexter, and a deckhand, Keith McGrew. The wind was blowing from the northwest, velocity 35 to 40 knots. The swells were 8 to 10 feet in height running with the wind. The current appeared to be running south, toward the island. Although the exact cause of the engine failure could not be ascertained, the difficulty seemed to be in the fuel system. Fuel supply was adequate but filters and lines had become clogged with foreign matter apparently stirred up in the tanks by rough water. The Coast Guard was called immediately and the Cutter, Point Judith, was dispatched from Santa Barbara. The Coast Guard had tried to send a smaller boat out from Port Hueneme but due to weather it had to turn back. While waiting for arrival of the Coast Guard, the fuel system was worked over with the filters being cleaned out and the lines bled and blown out. Attempts to restart the engine were fruitless. Periodic fathometer readings were taken until a depth of 130 ft. was reached and the anchor dropped. The anchor took hold with 175 feet of chain and 250 feet of ¾ inch line out. Severity of weather conditions made it apparent the anchor tackle might be inadequate to hold and the Coast Guard was so notified. About 18:55 the anchor line parted and the vessel started drifting toward the east end of Anacapa again. The Point Judith arrived at 19:05 and got a line aboard but the Sampson post over which the loop was placed broke and by that time the boat was too close to the island for the Point Judith to make another pass. The crew evacuated the boat as it went on the rocks at approximately 19:10.”
December 29, 1969 [San Bernardino County Sun]: “Anacapa Isles Offer New View. The Channel Islands, extending over a range of about 150 miles off the Southern California coast, with such colorful Spanish names as Santa Catalina, San Miguel and San Clemente, offers new adventure to the visitor. None except Santa Catalina has been developed. The most rugged of these Channel Islands is Anacapa Island. This small chain of islands, about five miles long, consists of three islands, with numerous caves. There are no accommodations here, but primitive camping is permitted at Frenchy's Cove. Anacapa's lave islands abound in marine mammals: seal elephants, the fur seal and the California sea lion. On rare occasions, a sea otter might be sighted. There are also many sea birds, mostly gulls and pelicans. Unique plants such as the giant tree-like sunflower grow on Anacapa Islands. The only way to the Anacapa Islands is by private boats, such as the Island Packer, out at Oxnard or Ventura. This boat takes trips to these islands for those who like to picnic, skin dive, camp or just plain sightsee. The ride out is exciting as flying fish sail by or a whale might leap out of the water. Ashore you will see the undersea gardens with sea urchins, star fish and Garabaldi fish. Or maybe you might like to explore the sea caves and be greeted by the loud barking of hundreds of sea lions. ”
May 2018 [VCS]: “In December 1969, the Island Packer broke down and crashed on Anacapa's rocks in bad weather — ironically on return from hauling debris from an old dive camp and Polynesian-themed tourist draw on nearby Santa Cruz that had been hit by a landslide a month earlier.. Cherryl, who doubles as treasurer and marketing director, said she'll never forget her mother and others listening to U.S. Coast Guard reports on the radio as rescuers tried in vain to save the boat. The loss cut the fledgling company's fleet in half, leaving it only the Paisano, an old World War II Navy rescue boat they had started leasing a couple months earlier. The next day, the family dived for remains off Anacapa. Since the boat had no paying passengers on it when it wrecked, Bill announced, insurance would not cover the loss — but the family voted to continue the company anyway. The Connallys sold their Oxnard Shores home, moved into rental quarters in Ojai and borrowed money. "Those were some tough times," Cherryl recalled.”