While the story should never be about the writer, I just had a top-three poker run and a top-five day-on-the-water experience. And I have the organizers of the Boyne Thunder Poker Run in Boyne City nestled on the shores of Michigan’s Lake Charlevoix, not to mention my gracious on-water hosts, to thank for it.
Tucked away in a far northwestern corner of Michigan, this hamlet of about 4,000 people is known as a winter ski resort, but may be one of the Midwest’s best-kept boating secrets. I suspect that the locals and seasonal residents would like to keep it that way, but it’s too late. What began 12 years ago as a 30-boat poker run, Boyne Thunder has evolved into a 110-vessel fleet fleet that’s part of community-wide celebrationr raising money for two local charities: Camp Quality, which provides outdoor experiences for young cancer patients and their families, and Challenge Mountain, which provides outdoor experiences for physically and mentally challenged youth.
To give credit where it’s due, the Boyne Thunder organizing committee had tremendous help from the volunteers and the gorgeous scenery. Plus, Mother Nature kicked in big time with near-perfect weather. Even so, the organizers deserve huge props for putting on a top-flight event that went off on-time the entire weekend.
As in years past, Boyne Thunder kicked off with a Friday night street party that industry veterans say rivals that of Dessert Storm.
“I’m amazed that in the middle-of-nowhere-Michigan they can get this many people in on an event like this,” said Scott Sjogren, of Shogren Performance Marine, referring to the street-fest, the thousands of viewers lining the seawalls during the opening “parade lap” and the spectator fleet of a couple-of-hundred boats ranging from 14-foot aluminum skiffs to 110-foot yachts.
For action from the 12th annual Boyne Thunder Poker Run, check out the slideshow above. All photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Sjogren was my captain/host for the day aboard the brand new Mystic Powerboats M3900 center console power by quad Mercury Racing 400-hp Verado outboards. Joining us for the run was industry icon Peter Hledin, the founder of Skater Powerboats in Douglas Mich. Hledin said he hadn’t logged much time on any center console, but after his day on the M3900 I’m guessing that could change.
“It’s a big 39-footer—it’s a huge 39-footer,” he said. “Lake Michigan got a little rough in the afternoon, the boat was very comfortable, very stable, and the speed was good—the boat is quiet. It was very enjoyable. I see the practicality and functionality of these boats.”
To build on Hledin’s points: Four passengers were seated in the bow having a conversation (and staying dry) as we broke through the tops of four-foot waves at 60 mph.
Sjogren said that he and Mystic owner John Cosker wanted a “Range Rover-style” luxury performance center console that answered a market need, and from where I sat, so to speak, they accomplished that mission.
“People are concerned about being overly wind-blown and wet,” Sjogren explained. “The boat has a reverse chine and a reverse flair and it throws water away from the boat, not over it or in it.”
To top it off, a set of wind doors on each side of the console dramatically reduced the blow-about at the helm and the aft seating.
The boat featuers two-piece hull construction using foam core and carbon-reinforced epoxy, the first infused center console of its kind. Said Sjogren, “There’s no wood, no calk and no screws in this boat.”
Of course, the 39-foot Mystic wasn’t the only center console in town. Terry Sobo of Nor-Tech High Performance Boats brought a stunner to the area’s already strong center console fleet.
“We sold our first boat up here 10 years ago, and today there are 15 Nor-Techs here and half of them are center consoles,” said Sobo, who has attended Boyne Thunder for the past four years. “What we built as a Florida fishing boat has become a Great Lakes poker run boat, apparently.
“Sure it’s a little hard to get to, but it’s amazing the way the entire community gets behind this event,” he added. “We’re not used to having people lining the seawalls cheering at most poker runs.”
Mercury Racing’s Rick Mackie—a native of the near-by Michigan upper Peninsula and one of the many manufacturers displaying at Boyne Thunder—compared the weekend to Desert Storm
“Except we didn’t seem to have any down time during the street party, a constant flow of people that were enthusiastic and asking good, intelligent questions.” he said, adding that the event is easy to support. “They have two very good charities, the people are wonderful, and it has grown so rapidly and is practically in our backyard.”
After more than 20 years working on the media and marketing sides of the high-performance powerboat world, it is easy to get spoiled and jaded and cynical about covering poker runs. Regardless of the fine hardware and great people present, there can be a “Been there, done that” aspect to them that makes it tough to find freshness, if that’s the right word, in reporting the story. So finding a gem such as Boyne Thunder was special.
Fancy yourself a poke run aficionado? Put Boyne Thunder on your (very) short list. But do it now because, for all the right reasons I experienced firsthand, registration usually sells out in hours.
About the author: A frequent contributor to speedonthewater.com, Tony Esposito is a veteran print and radio journalist . Esposito was the director of marketing and sales for Mercury Racing for five years and worked for Mercury Marine for five years prior to taking that position. This is his fifteenth article for the daily news site.