The annual Florida Powerboat Club Emerald Coast Powerboat Week Poker Run, which saw the outfit produce a fun-run last Friday and a 120-mile poker run Saturday—with plenty of nighttime activity in the mix—will have the same name and fall dates when it returns to Destin, Fla., in 2022. But FPC head Stu Jones has come up with another handle, at least as far as his Pompano Beach, Fla.-based business is concerned.
Running his Fountain Powerboats 42 Lightning, Kuttawa Cannonball Run organizing group member Jeff Hoefling and Audra Meyer of Evansville, Ind., were among the Florida Powerboat Club members who enjoyed last weekend’s Emerald Coast event. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
“If there was ever a good name for this new event format I would call it Emerald Coast 2.0, because I really feel like the new dates are a complete reboot,” he said. “They have breathed new life into the future of the club on the Emerald Coast and it will attract visiting poker-run teams for years to come.
“I’m thinking of so many ways to make it even better next year but one thing is certain,” he continued. “Emerald Coast Powerboat Week is locked in as a fall-season opener for FPC. And I think 84 poker run teams would agree that it’s the right choice.”
Among the participants who were thrilled with the later dates was Floridian Jorge Arellano, who owns a DCB Performance Boats M35 Widebody catamaran powered by Mercury Racing 1350/1100 engines. Arellano has done the event 15 years in a row, but until this year its now-former August dates had it on the weekend before the Lake of Ozarks Shootout.
Florida Powerboat Club member Jerry Swanson had room for a crowd in his 46-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran.
“I love the new dates,” he said. “I have never been able to go to the Lake of the Ozarks event because I can’t do back-to-back weekend events with my business. So for the past 15 years, I’ve missed it. Now, I can go.
“The poker run itself was the perfect length—it was awesome—and the boat ran flawlessly,” he added, then chuckled. “But you know what I always say, ‘You know you’ve had a good poker run when you go out and come back under your own power.’ ”
On the flip side, Maryland’s David Carey was experiencing the Emerald Coast event for the first time with his friends in his 39-foot Midnight Express center console powered by four Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines. Since getting into the go-fast boating scene a few years ago, Carey—the owner of the famed Tiki Lee’s Dock Bar in Sparrows Point, Md.—has enjoyed more than 20 poker runs.
The Emerald Coast run may well end up being his favorite.
The event’s permanent move to fall will enable Jorge Arellano—above with friends in his DCB Performance Boats M35 Widebody catamaran—to make it to the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout for the first time next year.
“I have never been to that part of Florida before, and I loved it,” said Carey, who organized and hosted a multi-faceted poker run and top-speed shootout of his own in early July. “Between the shakedown run on Thursday for those who haven’t been there before and the Friday fun run, for a first-timer I felt I like I knew the place by the time the Saturday poker run even started.
“It was an interesting format, and I love that there were seven different places you could have lunch,” he added. “You weren’t trying to trying to jam 100 boats into a place set up to handle 15 boats. I thought Stu and his team did a really great job.”
Having 84 boats in the mix, especially with the ongoing influx of center consoles, translated to more than 400 participants. That, too, left Jones feeling good about his decision to move the run from its former mid-August dates to late September. The waters off Florida’s Emerald Coast are busy in August with recreational powerboats, parasail boats, personal watercraft and more, and Jones said that presented safety concerns for him and his team. Plus, he felt that the glamour of the event, which caters to high-performance powerboat owners and their guests, was getting diluted.
In recent years, he explained, the club had opted to make its Emerald Coast happening “a solo act focused more on powerboat owners in a format geared toward high performance.”
Enjoy more images from the 2021 Emerald Coast Powerboat Week Poker Run in the slideshow above.
“With four days of boating activities, luxurious accommodations at the landmark Emerald Grande in Destin and first-class marina services for visiting boaters at the enormous, 850-boat Legendary Marina, attendees were treated to a touch of class in every aspect of the event,” Jones said.
Epic fall weather and water conditions for Saturday’s poker run mirrored those of Friday, meaning blue skies, temperatures in the low 80s and low humidity. Sponsors included Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Deep Impact, Blackwater Boats and Midnight Express. And to everyone’s delight, Florida Powerboat Club’s safety assets, which included an array of local first-responders as well as the United States Coast Guard, had nothing to do during the 120-mile run.
With the cool fall evening temperatures, the Emerald Grande resort was able set up an outdoor tent for Saturday night’s celebration, card-play and awards dinner. The party started at 7 p.m. and saw club members Roger and Pam Anderson take home $5,000 a piece in a 10-player poker-hand “playoff” format.
“While everyone attending had a wonderful time, at the end of the day the Florida Powerboat Club is happy to report that close to $15,000 in charitable proceeds raised will be going to at least five local charities in the Destin and Fort Walton Beach areas,” Jones said.
With its new fall dates, the event enjoyed the best weather in its 20-plus-year history. The poker run also saw an extremely cool group of boats led by the Oklahoma-based Wachob family’s fleet, which included two MTI cats and a Cigarette 59 Tirranna.