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Commentary: Speed On The Frozen Water

In two days, my longtime friend and speedonthewater.com partner Jason Johnson and I head to Vail, Colo., with our significant others to ski with our mutual friend Fred Kiekhaefer, the former head of Mercury Racing. For those of you who don’t know, Kiekhaefer is a phenomenal skier. The best outcome Johnson and I can hope for is that we don’t destroy ourselves trying to keep him in sight.

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By performance boat or snowmobile, speed on the water is speed on the water.

Regardless, chasing Mr. K through the back bowls of Vail will be a great way to celebrate the completion of the 2018 Speed On The Water Year In Review print edition, which is headed to the printer today. Order your copy this week to ensure you get it straight from the printer and before the price goes up.

January is the slowest month of the go-fast boating year. With the exception of the Florida Powerboat Club’s Winter Poker Run (Jan. 18-20), organized events are nonexistent. Any new boat or engine models won’t be released until the Miami International Boat Show (Feb. 14-18). So while we’ll still publish daily news—like the characters in all those hilarious GEICO Insurance commercials, that’s just what we do—it’s a good time to go skiing.

Or snowmobiling, which appears to be the wintertime sport of choice among high-performance powerboat enthusiasts in parts of the country that actually have winter. Last year, Johnson and his wife, Stephanie, got a taste of power-sledding at the annual Sarasota Hot Springs/Snowy Mountain Brewery Resort International Snowmobile Rally in Wyoming. The resort venue is owned by former offshore powerboat racer and current Outerlimits SV 53 owner Michael “Doc” Janssen, a noted spinal surgeon. This year, speedonthewater.com national sales manager Ryan Johnson will be there with his lovely longtime companion.

Nolan Ferris, a well-known member of the go-fast boating community and one of the organizers of the 1,000 Islands Charity Poker Run in upstate New York, estimates that 75 percent of boating friends go sledding when the weather gets gold enough. Ferris doesn’t just come to the subject as a boater who digs snowmobiles—he makes his living as a product specialist for Ski-Doo, the snowmobile side of Bombardier Recreational Products. From November through April, he puts in approximately 6,500 miles on a sled.

“From the second week of February to the second week in April, I’m touring from the bottom of Pennsylvania to the top of Maine to the west side of Minnesota for dealer training, shows and demo rides,” he said.

When I asked Ferris why he thinks that snowmobiling has such strong crossover appeal with performance-boat enthusiasts, he laughed.

“Honestly, in the summer there is a lot to do here,” he said. “But in the winter, when it’s minus 25 degrees and there are four feet of snow on the ground, your options are limited to a bar, a church or a snowmobile.”

Ferris was, of course, being funny. He knows the appeal is speed on the water—even if the water happens to be frozen.

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