Although the April showers appeared to be a threat to staging the Tampa Bay Poker Run in the days leading up the St.Petersburg based event, the weather took an 11th hour turn for the better and by Saturday morning, the forecast was for light winds and no rain! The morning sun glistened over the calm waters of the Vinoy Marina basin, the FPC flags hung motionless from the absence of wind. Over the next hour, relieved organizers and participants alike were beaming with joy, as this confirmed they were going to get what they came for… a fantastic poker run on the beautiful Tampa Bay waters!
By about 10:30 am, the eclectic fleet of high performance cats and vees, center console sportboats, along with the enormous Lady Lisa, an 80 foot Nortech performance yacht…were milling around the docks and began gathering up their first card. The course was mapped out in similar fashion to previous years, although a new lunch stop had been added to the mix. After getting their first card dockside, the next two checkpoints were rendezvous’ with boats at anchored positions in the bay area, although the majority of the fleet completely missed the first. After Egmont Key, the new course took the fleet up the Manatee River, to the Bradenton waterfront, where the group settled in for lunch at the new Tarpon Pointe Grill, located just a few miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico.
This new hotspot provided a casual, beachfront setting, with plenty of floating dock space provided by the adjacent Tarpon Pointe Marina. The restaurant’s owner Bruce Bottorf was one of the first to greet the arriving boats, as he used his center console to escort boats in through the shallow waters to the awaiting docks. Lunch was fabulous, the staff was friendly, and guests enjoyed live music as they dined. A handful of energetic poker run teams even engaged in a few games of beach volleyball!
Back out on the poker run course, participants were given the option of a long run up into the Downtown Tampa, where they dock and get a poker card at Jacksons Bistro. The idea was really to give the faster boats a good long run to stretch it out, and enjoy the performance of their highly tuned machines. Others took a course towards the Northwest pocket of Tampa Bay, arriving at the landmark Tampa Harbor Yacht Club & Marina for another card. Some decided to stop and enjoy the ambiance of the Hula Bay Club, before heading back to the Vinoy Basin, to retire for the day.
During all of the boating activities, two safety boats followed the poker run with a total of four St. Petersburg Fire Rescue crew members, who were recruited by FPC to provide emergency-response in the event of any on-water incidents. Fortunately, it was an incident-free day, and everyone returned to the marina safely.
Saturday evening, the group congregated at SUITE SIX Nightclub in the bustling Central Ave. restaurant and entertainment district in downtown St. Pete. While dinner was served, the cards were played out for thirty five poker run teams, and over a dozen peoples choice awards were handed out.
Congratulations to the winners:
1st Place: Joe Calvanese- Team DeCal – 46 Skater ( 3 of a kind)
(Thanks to Joe and crew for donating their prize winnings to the Next poker run event)
2nd Place: John Woodruff – Team Windship – 48 MTI ( two pair)
3rd Place: Bill Robbins- Team All In Again – 40 Nor-Tech ( two pair)