With 80-plus high-performance powerboats taking to the water last Saturday, the Boyne Thunder Poker Run, which is based out of Boyne City, Mich., on the shores of Lake Charlevoix, boasted the largest fleet in the 10-year history of the event. In 2012, the run pulled in 67 boats. The year prior, it attracted 44 boats. At a time when many poker runs are still on the decline, the near-doubling of Boyne Thunder’s attendance is significant.
“I think the word has spread about how welcoming everybody is in Boyne City and the area in general, and the clear blue waters we have—they are the big things people really appreciate,” said Pete Oppermann, who has worked on the Boyne Thunder organizing committee for the past three years and owns a 37-foot Outerlimits V-bottom with twin 700-hp engines. “We had the Mercury Racing support truck here this year, and when I thanked the Mercury guy for coming he said, ‘You know, there are about 33 people who have said that. People keep coming up and thanking me.'”
Originally limited to 80 boats, the event opened up five additional slots a week before it started. While all five slots quickly filled, attrition kept the boat count to roughly 80 entries.
“It’s a gorgeous area,” said John Cosker, the owner and founder of Mystic Powerboats in DeLand, Fla., who was on hand to help new owner Tom Borisch run Low Altitude (formerly JBS Racing), a turbine-powered 50-foot Mystic catamaran. “I couldn’t get over how clean everything was—the water was so gorgeous I thought I was in the Bahamas a few times—and the architecture is amazing. One of the other nice things about it is it’s a mixed-boat run with big boats and smaller boats.”
While electrical issues sidelined Low Altitude for much of the poker run on Saturday, the 50-footer did participate in the informal fun run (Read the story), which attracted 25 boats the day before.
“That was fun—we had a good time,” Cosker said. “On Saturday, because of electrical problems, we started late and went to Bay Harbor for lunch, hoping the boats would be there but they weren’t. As we were sitting there, the boats came in. After lunch run, we ran it to 180 mph on our way to the first stop, and then the boat wouldn’t start again so we pulled it out of the water.”
In addition to crediting local hospitality and the pristine environment for the run’s strong growth, Oppermann said that word of mouth from participants has made a major impact.
“I think the guys who come here from Chicago or Sandusky (Ohio) or the ‘Active Thunder cult’ go home to their buddies and say, ‘You have to do this run with us next year,'” Opperman added. “It’s amazing. One of the last 10 entries was a 40 Skater from the E-Dock (a Grand Lake, Okla., go-fast boat hotbed) crew. One of the guys I know from there said to me, ‘Next year, I am going to bring my boat and my family and stay for 10 days.'”