With its first run of the year—the Miami Boat Show Poker Run (Feb. 21-24)—a little more than a month away, the Florida Powerboat Club (FPC) is cranking away on a full calendar packed with both the flagships and some new additions.
For one, the club is returning to southwest Florida in March with the new Fort Myers Poker Run at the Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina (March 22-24). The poker run will mark the first event held at the prominent resort’s recently renovated marina.
“The only reason we haven’t had an event in southwest Florida is because, as with poker runs anywhere, you’re only as successful as the venue,” said Stu Jones, the club’s president and founder. “If you don’t have a good venue with a quality hotel, decent service and a high-quality marina, it’s really challenging. We’ve always wanted to go back to the Pink Shell and now that the new marina with floating docks is finished, it was the perfect time to return.”
Following the run in Fort Myers, the club will return to St. Petersburg for the Tampa Bay Poker Run (April 12-14) in conjunction with Festivals of Speed. Jones said the run will be completely different this year with course changes and a new lunch destination—the Tarpon Pointe Grille in Bradenton.
For the second year in a row, the club is organizing the Jacksonville River Rally Poker Run (May 31-June 2), and Jones is expecting bigger and better things for the 2013 run along the St. John’s River.
Also in June is a new event, which Jones hopes will welcome the class of boats he calls the “sportboat division” to participate in a run from Florida to the Bahamas. The Sportboat Poker Run to Bimini (June 28-30) is open to boats with cruising speeds in the 40- to 50-mph range such as cruisers, center consoles and single-engine sportboats and runabouts.
Following the run to Bimini, the club will head back to the Bahamas again for the Bahamas Poker Run to Grand Bahama and Bimini (July 18-22) that is open to all classes of boats.
Another staple on the FPC calendar—the Emerald Coast Poker Run (Aug. 17)—has been pushed back a couple of weeks with Boat Week activities starting on Aug. 13. This must-attend event draws an amazing fleet of boats with stops at many of northwest Florida’s hottest spots.
Jones said the calendar is open for September and October—for now. He’s looking to add an additional sportboat event and possibly another open-class run. While he’s attempted to host sportboat-specific events in the past for those who may be intimidated by some of the club’s staple poker runs, he made it clear that every boater is welcome to attend any and all of the FPC events.
“We have classes for everyone at every event,” he said. “And that includes Key West. At the 2012 Key West Poker Run—our 20th anniversary—we had quite a few boats under 30 feet and some big express cruisers and sport yachts.”
Speaking of Key West, the event will return for its 21st annual run from Miami to Key West from Nov. 5-11. Jones said he’s working on minor changes to the event, but the only major change will be that the run will take place over three days (Wednesday-Friday) rather than four days as in the past.