With Monday's news that state regulators had revoked the liquor license of the Wild Alaskan in Kodiak, most people will likely never be able to answer the following question: Just what, exactly, is a floating strip club like?
But after a trip to Kodiak to cover a U.S. Senate candidate debate in early October, I happen to be uniquely positioned to shed a little light into the dark corners of the 120-foot converted Bering Sea crabbing boat.
On the night of Oct. 1, I unwound over a beer with a friend at a downtown Kodiak bar, following my coverage for the Alaska Dispatch News of a lively fisheries discussion between incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Republican challenger Dan Sullivan.
It was a quiet evening, until a middle-aged, heavily intoxicated Kodiak fisherman stumbled in, claiming to have $11,000 in his pocket after four months on the Bering Sea. After declaring all politicians to be pathetic talking heads and ordering a round of "duck fart" shots -- a whiskey-based drink apparently favored by Phil Harris, the late star of the TV show "Deadliest Catch" -- the fisherman told us he was leaving to catch the water taxi to the floating strip club, which he described using terms not fit for a family publication. And he encouraged us to join him.
I'd never been to a strip club before, but I made a quick decision that there is probably no better way to experience one for the first time than by taking a water taxi to a floating crab boat in the waters off Kodiak Island.
At the dock, just a few blocks from the bar, we were met by the water taxi, helmed by a trim, casually dressed man who greeted the fisherman using more unprintable language, then asked about his progress through rehab.
As we pushed off from the dock, and tried on the hair-band rocker wigs a previous party had apparently left behind on the boat, we were asked to sign a register, and a few ground rules were explained -- namely, that the water taxi left every hour on the hour, and that the shuttle would cost us $20 round trip.
We slowly approached the Wild Alaskan, which in the darkness resembled a gigantic floating bathtub trimmed with Christmas lights. A bulky figure -- the bouncer, we learned later -- emerged to steady the water taxi as we drew alongside. Then we hopped on board.
Inside were smooth wood floors, dim-but-warm lighting, a full bar, a sound system blasting hip-hop music, and three nude dancers, one heavily tattooed -- including a stencil on one buttock that read: "YOUR NAME."
There were also two other patrons, who promptly left as soon as we showed up.
For the next hour, my friend and I sat awkwardly sipping drinks poured by a surly looking bartender wearing a Patagonia trucker's hat that would have been more at home on a hipster's head in Spenard than at anchor in Kodiak. Behind us, the women gyrated on a makeshift stage; one of them headed off into the darkness at the other end of the boat, sloshed fisherman in tow.
After several times gently turning down offers of lap dances, my friend and I learned through conversation that Kodiak was, in fact, a great place to be an exotic dancer, and that the one-to-one performer-to-customer ratio stemmed from regular patrons being busy in the lead-up to fishing season. It was also "dart night" back in town.
It being late, my friend and I decided to take the water taxi back after an hour, along with our new friend, the fisherman.
With no other customers left on board, the bartender, the bouncer, and the strippers joined us for the ride back. Once on land, we all headed our separate ways. I headed towards my hotel, as the dancers, clad in fur coats, pranced off into the night.
My recollection of the evening has by now mostly faded, along with the more quotidian elements of the U.S. Senate campaign.
But if there are any doubts about the Wild Alaskan's capacity to entertain, there is one quote from the evening that I remembered to jot down. It came from my friend, who proclaimed, as we walked back towards town from the dock: "God almighty, Nat, this was fun."
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for Alaska Dispatch News.