Yesterday’s downright wild Lake Erie conditions forced the inaugural Erie Poker Run in Pennsylvania to be abbreviated—to put it mildly—as the lake delivered on its reputation for producing big water in a big way. The three- to five-foot rollers inside Presque Bay gave way to six- to eight-footers outside—with some participants claiming to have encountered rouge ten-foot waves—and that was enough to turn back all but a handful of the hardiest members of the 45-boat fleet.
Nasty water greeted participants in yesterday’s Erie Poker Run, as Vance and Anita Hagen discovered in their 38-foot Hustler Slingshot V-bottom called Mean Streak. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images. (Click image to enlarge.)
One intrepid duo, Monica and Bill Reiffer of Grand Rapids, Mich., managed to get their one-off 43-foot Checkmate with twin Mercury Racing 700 SCi engines about three miles offshore before heading back.
“We looked around and realized we were the only boat still out there,” said Bill Reiffer. “This boat is made for nasty water, that’s its heritage.”
As for Monica Reiffer, who owns the boat, she said she wasn’t the least bit concerned. “We had a great time—got a little wet, but it was an adventure,” she said. “I feel very secure in that boat.”
Most of the fleet did a quick turn-around and opted for speed runs up and down Presque Bay to burn off adrenaline and provide a show for the locals who lined the seawalls.
“This was the biggest water I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Vinnie Diorio, who brought his brand new Outerlimits SL 41 from Richfield, Wisc. “We had it coming over the bow and the swells were too close together to do anything about. I didn’t want to beat up the boat or us.”
Just the day before on Friday, Diorio ran 50 miles on the lake in his impressive V-bottom. “And it was almost glass, just beautiful,” he said. “We topped out at 118 mph.”
Organizer Anthony Scioli of Elite Poker Runs LLC was frustrated but philosophical about the turn of events. “You put hundreds of hours into organizing, people drive hundreds of miles to participate, and the event is cut short by the one thing we have no control over,” he said, and sighed.
Although the participants were equally disappointed that the run had to be scrubbed, they were anything but demoralized. (These are performance-boat owners, after all, and the season is just getting rolling.) Just three “local” go-fast boat owners signed up for the run but one of them, event sponsor David Weschler of Empire Landscaping and Snow Removal, offered, a solid perspective on the local turnout.
“There are only about six big boats like these around here, so we drew 50-percent,” said Weschler, who showed up with a crew and his 34-foot PowerQuest Viper- powered by twin Mercury 496 HO engines, with a chuckle. “A lot of the locals with smaller boats were unsure of how it would go. It’s like buying a new boat model. You always buy the second year so they have all the bugs worked out.”
Enthusiasm ran high back on the docks and just about everyone shared a story of a rogue wave, a giant hole in the water or a thorough soaking. As poker run venues go, The Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel and Wolverine Park Marina made for an ideal, convenient and efficient site with the facilities, local government, and various regulatory organizations working together to create a welcoming environment.
The great mood carried over into the evening’s dinner and awards ceremony, where Ron Sertz of the Erie Sports Commission welcomed what he called “a most unique group.”
“We didn’t know much about your sport or your equipment, but we thought that we could at least party with you when you came to town,” he said. “We were wrong.”
The appreciative crowd roared its approval.
The Erie Poker Run raised $1,200 for the local Bayfront Marine Center which provides adaptive sailing, boat building and other marine related learning experiences for youth and veterans. And in what can only be deemed a twist of fate, Dave Weschler, who earlier in the day informed Scioli that he would be increases his sponsorship for the 2016 Erie Poker Run, did his part to increase local participation next year by drawing the top poker hand. Weschler took home the $1,000 first prize.
Editor’s Note: Look for photographer Tim Sharkey’s slideshow from the Erie Poker Run on speedonthewater.com early next week.
Inagural Erie Poker Run In Gear
Erie Poker Run Reopens Slots
Erie Poker Run Organizer Seeking Feedback On Event Shirts
Erie Poker Run Selects Charity For Inaugural Event
New Poker Run Coming to Erie In 2015