There was a degree of apprehension on the docks at SeaIsle Marina as poker run teams from around the nation arrived for the dockside breakfast and captains briefing. With concerns about the wind and possible waves for the final leg into Key West….many were considering their options. But with a closer look at the weather report, it was confirmed that the winds had come down from the previous day, and by 10:30am the boats were on plane in Biscayne Bay, after getting their bonus poker card at Grove Harbour Marina. One thing was apparent as I looked around at the starting fleet….close to ten boats were not present for the Wednesday roster, indicating that some teams had already made their decision to hold over til Thursday.
What was very noticeable was the lack of Hi Performance Class boats….as only two, Windship (48 MTI) and FLY BYE ( 50 Skater) eased up the throttles and took flight south….while the other Performance class and sportboat crews, held back for their start signal.
For the Performance Class paceboat, I was riding aboard with Trent Fischer from Texas, on is 43 Nor-Tech Screws Loose III, fully equipped with all the gadgets and a spirited crew. Did I mention Three beautiful ladies? Trent immediately proved to be a seasoned captain, as he throttled up the twin 1075SCi machine and dialed in the heading for the Featherbeds. It was as if he’d done the trip a dozen times…locking in the heading and throttling the boat with skill…which soon gave me the comfort in knowing he did not need my navigation assistance! I could focus on communication with our chopper crew, and take a few snap shots of the crew and neighboring poker run boats.
The Safety Management Team, comprised of Florida FWC boats and Miami Dade Fire Rescue FIREBOAT One…were spot on. As the FWC boats flanked the poker run start, FIREBOAT One sprayed giant plumes of water from its four hoses….marking the featherbeds and making for easy passage through the first critical navigation point.
Continuing south…the group landed landed safely at Gilberts in Key Largo…rafing up for a hearty lunch and a pleasant Florida Keys welcome. A few boats were missing from the equation, and soon the texts and calls started coming in, as captains reported a few mishaps and mechanical woes. But remembering their information paks in the captains bags, one member Jeff Bognolo from the Tampa Bay area said…” Stu I called some of these guys on the list and Cobrapower said they had the parts I need…so it look’s like they’re gonna help me out.. Meanwhile, I’m out for now..see you tomorrow I hope!”
As the poker run teams enjoyed lunch, the newest member of our FPC video team, Bill Ciani, piloted his RC drone chopper, equipped with a Gopro HD camera…up and down the docks at Gilberts, getting a bugs-eye view of the impressive fleet. These shots will certainly add to the colorful content that the 7-man photo and video crew will be gathering all week long.
Back on the water, the next leg of the run headed through the scenic waters of the Upper Keys, as I hopped on board with new member Jim Bradley, on his brand new 39 Nor-Tech center console, powered by quad Merc Verado 300’s. Louisana performance marine expert Mark Boos had taken the helm, and he was quick to confirm that he was a little outside his normal element….as he typical throttles high performance cats with other poker runners on most events. The ride was pleasant…and pulling up the rear of the fleet allowed us to deal with other potential incidents along the way. Only one boat, Daniel Blooms classic Cigarette Talkin Trash….appeared to succumb to mechanical challenges, as a shaft boot melted and left a boat full of kids wondering what was next. ” No problem, we yelled to Frank and Danielle…at least you broke just a few miles from Hawks Cay Resort…where there’s a good boat ramp!” Along we went, cruising into Marathon a few minutes later. We got dropped off at Island Tiki Grille in Marathon and waived off the Nortech crew, as they continued the last fifty miles of the run to Key West.
Soon the updates and reports from other members were coming in. David Tievy and the Spec Ops crew were already docking in Key West by about 3:30pm…indicating the ride on the final leg did not appear to slow them down. Then more reports of boats arriving in Key West…confirmed what we had suspected…that in spite of the rough seas on the final leg, the following-sea swells were manageable for most captains. But there was one boat that I had my concerns over, as Alberto Cruz in TASSO LISTO, a 28 Pantera had pointed out earlier in the day, he really was not looking forward to those monster seas. As I rolled into the Marriott in our support van shortly after 6:45pm……a text came over my phone.. “Stu is Alberto..we actually decided to make the (final) run and we arrived two hours ago. Just wanted to let you know we made it OK!” To that I replied,” You’re the man, you deserve a special award!” Alberto quickly replied...”My wife was not very happy but she was a trooper..!”
Well Alberto….I think we should be giving HER the award !
The KEY WEST POKER RUN, presented by TANTEO and OFFLEASEONLY.COM, continues November 7th..with over 90 poker run teams making the trip from Miami to Key West. More to come!