Story last updated at 4:33 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 2002

Kasitsna Bay couple hosts tenters in luxury
by R.J. Kelly
Managing Editor

photo: business
  Photo by R. J. Kelly, Homer News
Mary Jane Lastufka sits on a bed in one of the wall tents she and her husband Tony offer guests at Across the Bay Tent and Breakfast, near Seldovia.  
"Tent and breakfast." It may sound a bit like summer camp or a day on the trail, but for the last 10 seasons, Mary Jane and Tony Lastufka have turned what they call "soft adventure" into a low-key business on the pristine shore of Kasitsna Bay.

Across the Bay Tent and Breakfast has taken the popular idea of lodges with food and comaraderie to the more rustic level of tent living. And at this summer camp, you get to tell the "counselors" what you want to do.

With five canvas wall tents on carpeted wooden platform floors, a maximum of 17 guests can be accommodated in parties of five to two campers.

Mary Jane calls the sturdy handmade beds, mattresses and pillows "cushy tents." Guests need only bring their own sleeping bags.

Getting there is part of the adventure. Typically a 40-minute water taxi ride across Kachemak Bay from the Homer Spit, the trip takes guests around spruce-covered islets that dot the far side of the bay below snow-scattered peaks.

Another alternative is to fly one or both ways by floatplane and package arrangements are available.

As part of the Homer Chamber of Commerce monthly series of business socials, the Lastufkas hosted last Friday's chamber "mixer" to show off their remote beachside location 8 1/2 miles from Seldovia and about two miles from the Jakolof Bay dock.

Co-hosting the chamber event were Mako's Water Taxi, Rainbow Tours and Tutka Bay Taxi.

While snacking on salmon and various other local delicacies, chamber members peeked into tents tucked into the brushy hillside, admired the large wood-fired sauna and chuckled over the whimsical decorations and stained glass ornaments of the outhouses. "It's a little funky, but functional," Mary Jane said.

There is also hot and cold running water in the shower house supplied by a filtered mountain stream.

Here and there a mannequin posed in lifelike casualness startled several visitors who found themselves beginning conversations with what turned out to be one of several store dummies Tony has arrayed around the campsite.

Starting from their own hand-built summer retreat on property they bought in 1978, Tony, a former Chevron Oil administrator in Anchorage, and Mary Jane, a now-retired teacher, tried commercial fishing for about five seasons with their two daughters Kjerstin and Marne. After hosting a commercial kayaking group, Mary Jane decided, "we can do that," and began developing their tent and breakfast idea in combination with kayaking and mountain biking.

Now a fleet of sea kayaks are available for guided touring and adults may rent bikes for those fit enough for what she called "a fairly strenuous "up and down" bike ride to Seldovia. Guests must also climb about 600 feet on the hand-hewn steps built into the steep hillside to reach the road.

Now an established business with a full-time staff of four, plus another part-timer, the Lastufkas have been branching out to host a series of writing, art and photography workshops in addition to the regular kayaking tours and other activities. A three-hour fishing trip is a new feature this year, Mary Jane said.

Displaying the "regulation-sized" volley ball court, Mary Jane ponders the possibilities of hosting occasional cross-bay games or perhaps a small bluegrass music festival on the site.

All campers get a European-style breakfast featuring homemade granola, fruit and other items. Lunch and dinner is optional.

Adult rates are $58 a day with breakfast or $85 with all meals. Children under 6 are free, with half price for kids 6-11. Guided kayak tours cost $95 per day. Bike rentals are $25 a day or $15 per half day. Guests may also bring their own bikes.

A boat, kayak and fly package is also available from Mako's Water Taxi for $165.

For further information call Across the Bay Tent and Breakfast at 235-3633.