While the boating season is over or close to it for most go-fast powerboat enthusiasts around the country, the 120 members of Fort Myers Offshore are just starting theirs. The Florida-based club, which draws the bulk of its membership from second-home owners on the “Gold Coast” between Port Charlotte and Marco Island, will kick off its “Beach Day at Cayo Costa” fun run—one of six events including a mid-season overnighter in Sarasota—next weekend.
“For Myers Offshore is different than a for-profit club—and I have no problem with any of them because they are businesses and I am a businessman—in that we want to provide an affordable boating experience for everyone in the club,” said Bob Barnhart, one of the organization’s founders. “Four of the six events we do every year are free. Two are fundraisers. We are a 501c3 charity. What we do is provide scholarship money to deserving high school students who want to go to college but may not be able to afford it.
“We have seven members on our board,” he added. “All of us are volunteers. No one gets paid.”
Less than 20 percent of the club’s members reside year-round in Florida. A substantial percentage of them come from the Northeastern United States and Canada—Barnhart is a Canadian—but there also is healthy membership contingent from Michigan, Ohio and the Midwest.
“Some of our members are the same friends I go boating with in Canada,” said Barnhart.
Fort Myers Offshore has another asset that most other go-fast powerboat clubs do not—a resident photographer in the form of Jay Nichols, another one of the club’s founders.
“For Myers Offshore has to be one of the premiere and most active clubs in the country,” said Nichols. “And now, Statement has come on as a corporate sponsor this season.”