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Commentary: A Boat Ride For A Fan

Since the first time I spoke with Dave Burgess of St. Clair, Mich., many years ago, I have been a big fan. He’s just one of those instantly likable guys.

Getting older being what it is, meaning hell on the memory now and then, I cannot remember what we first talked about. But I suspect it had something to do with the annual offshore race that comes to his home-water each July. For the past 28 years, Burgess’ Raymond Excavating/Raymond Cranes family business, has provided all the cranes for the St. Clair River Classic.

The 68-year-old company was founded by his father, Raymond Burgess. Dave’s son, Brandon, the outfit’s vice president, operates the crane during the race weekend.

The organizers only get charged for Brandon Burgess’ time, crane move-in/move-out and fuel costs. Crane rental is gratis.

A boat ride with Dave Burgess (above) is a privilege, especially for one of his biggest fans.

“The organizers provide me a large VIP tent with chairs and tables for my customers,” explained Dave Burgess, who is a longtime member of the locally based Bluewater Offshore Racing Association.“We entertain about 250 guests and provide food and beverages. I also invite several race teams.

“I usually get work thrown my way by doing this—and we really enjoy doing it,” he added.

An exceedingly kind, gracious and intelligent gentleman, Dave Burgess has owned some wild powerboats during the years—“pretty much two of everything” he likes to say—including Maximus, a 45-foot beauty from Cigarette Racing Team and the first outboard-engine-powered Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats SL 41. For years, he has invited me to join him and his wife, Susie, at their waterfront home for the race weekend or to “just go boating,” but the timing never worked out.

Until last Thursday when he treated me to a day on the water in his eye-popping Sunsation Powerboats 40 CCX center console with his wife and his sister, Julie Brown of Sarasota, Fla., her boyfriend Kenny Kreye, Sunsation Boats founder Wayne Schaldenbrand and his girlfriend, Renee Mariotti, during the 40th Anniversary Sunsation Sun Run.

Chill attracts chill, and this was one chill group of friends. They’re the kind of folks who make you feel like family when you’re a long way from home, the kind who give you the front bolster next to your soft-spoken host so you can swap stories with him all day.

The kind of folks you wish lived closer to you.

When I asked Burgess, who is one hell of a powerboat driver, if he missed some of the wicked go-fast rides he’s owned during the years now that an outboard-engine-powered center console is his main ride, he chuckled.

“I don’t miss all of them, but I do miss a lot of them,” he said. “Boating has become more about my grandkids and family and the friends who come on board. A five-seat boat that goes 130 mph is a ‘me’ boat. This boat is good for everyone.”

At the end of the Sun Run, Burgess and company dropped me back at Cabana Blue in Clay Township, our waterfront restaurant starting point that morning. I said my goodbyes, hopped off the boat and went to work. I had a story to write and publish the following morning.

But it didn’t seem like work. I had just enjoyed a day on the water—one of my best ever—with my friend, Dave Burgess, and members of his inner circle.

And I left St. Clair an even bigger fan.

Said Burgess of his Sunsation 40 CCX, “This boat is good for everyone

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