In 1984 Susan and Dennis Swiderski had been married for three years and were living in Anchorage. They had a joint dream of owning a lodging business and towards that goal they purchased a single one-acre lot in Humpy Cove, just 9 miles outside of Seward, accessible then and now only by boat. After purchasing the lot, they continued to live in Anchorage and dream of the future. They had three sons and got into the Bed & Breakfast business, managing the Gallery Bed and Breakfast in downtown Anchorage. In 1995, they noticed an ad in the Anchorage Daily News selling the island property in Humpy Cove that was located in close proximity to their mainland lot. The original owner had died and his sister was selling it before she left the state. The couple drove to Wasilla and bought the property, another step towards their goal of building a lodging business on Resurrection Bay. In 2004, the Swiderskis started building on the island property. That first year they constructed just one yurt, built a dock and they brought in a houseboat that they had purchased, which served as a second floating cabin rental. The following year, they added a second yurt, carrying all of the supplies from Seward by boat to their little island building site. “It was endless trips,” said Susan, as everything had to be brought in, and remembered.
In the ensuing years, the family has added more yurts and sold off the houseboat, for a total of seven yurts, each of which can lodge up to four people. There are three yurts on the island and four more on the mainland, each of which is situated to have direct views of the water. The lodging is considered a version of glamping, in which guests have the opportunity to stay in a remote setting, with many amenities, such as full bathrooms and kitchens, plus propane cast iron stoves in each 20 foot diameter yurt. The Swiderskis have constructed their business of sustainable eco-friendly practices, using composting toilets, solar panels and on-demand water heaters. They currently transport their water to the site from the Seward Boat Harbor, and each yurt has its own 100 gallon tank. Orca Island Cabins is a family run business. Susan, Dennis and their son Simon rotate being out at the property, and their daughter-in-law, Yen is their operations manager.
Guests come from all over the world to stay at Orca Island, and are treated to regular wildlife sightings. Susan said that one of the surprises has been the abundance of wildlife that they see right from the decks that surround all of their yurts, including humpback whales, porpoises, harbor seals and river otters. This past weekend, as part of Harbor Opening, the Swiderskis hosted an afternoon for local folks to get to experience the peacefulness of Orca Island Cabins. They expressed their gratitude for “people coming out to see what’s right out in their own backyard.” More information about Orca Island Cabins can be found at their website: http://orcaislandcabins.com/