Hospitality, Akun style
A new hotel is now operating in the Aleutians, linked to the region's newest airport on Akun Island.
The Surf Bay Inn is owned by the city of Akutan, with 31 double occupancy rooms, a restaurant, wireless internet, cable television, swimming pool and ping pong tables. The prices are similar to Unalaska rates, at $165 per night for a room, and $65 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ordered separately, a hamburger is $10, a cheeseburger is $13, and a cup of coffee is $2, according to hotel manager Peri Jordan.
The hotel serves airline passengers forced to overnight when the hovercraft can't carry them across the water to the village of Akutan and Trident Seafoods because of poor weather conditions in Akun Strait, which hovercraft pilot Richard Thurlow calls a "very violent body of water."
"We're limited sometimes by the wind state, sometimes by the sea state," said Thurlow. A study cited "steep waves, breaking waves, chaos and confusion," as typical marine weather issues in the area, according to HDR consultants in a 2005 review.
Surf Bay is located between two places on Akun with unfortunate names, Lost Harbor to the north, and Jackass Point to the south. The new airport has also been called some unfavorable names, and viewed as a boondoggle, a big waste of taxpayer dollars.
Jordan sees that criticism as unfair, and says she's "100 percent positive" about the new facility.
"It is what it is. We are remote," she said, and costs are high.
"It's a learning experience for all of us," she said of the only one-month-old facility.
"I just don't understand their moaning and bitching. I just don't have time for it. If we all work together, it's going to work. It's going to be awesome," said Jordan, who described herself as one of three full-time Akun residents, along with the hotel cook and maintenance worker. She said she previously lived in the village on Akutan Island.
The hotel was originally erected for construction workers building the new airport.
The airport itself cost between $50 and $55 million, according to Akutan Mayor Joe Bereskin.
The paved 4,500 foot long runway is unusual for a small rural Alaska community, said Grant Aviation pilot James Miller, adding that a more typical village airport is Nikolski's unpaved landing strip.
"It's amazing," Miller said. "It's pretty over-the-top for the amount of traffic that goes there."
Grant is now servicing Akun with two regularly scheduled aircraft — a King Air, and a former Peninsula Airways Piper Navajo — flying the short hop between the main Aleutians hub of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor.
The Surf Bay Inn may take a while before it needs a "no vacancy" sign. Jordan reported just three Trident employees spending a night when the hovercraft was weathered in about a week ago.
Jim Paulin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org