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FPC ‘Letting People Make Their Own Decisions’ On Key West Departures

This Wednesday’s marine forecast for the Florida Keys from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Data Buoy Center is less than enticing with 20- to 25-knot north/northwest winds, scattered showers and “very rough” bay waters is creating concern among participants in the 30th annual Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run. More than 270 boats are registered for the event and scheduled to depart in Wednesday and Thursday waves.

Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run participants will be watching the weather carefully this week. Photo from the 2021 FPC Key West Poker Run by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

The forecast for Thursday is considerably better with 15-to-knot-20 winds out of the south/southwest and bay waters—important as most of the 200-plus trek is on the protected Intracoastal Waterway—are predicted be calmer, though still classified in the forecast as “rough.”

Florida Powerboat Club head Stu Jones is keeping close tabs on the forecast.

“I don’t really have a ‘Plan B’ in place yet—it’s going to have to play itself out,” Jones explained. “These winds are not uncommon for the Florida Keys in November. We run the bay waters and backside all the way to Key West. It’s never been an issue.

“But I will watch it closely nonetheless,” he added. “Some people who are skeptical may push their Wednesday plans to Thursday, but I hope that doesn’t happen because we are maxed out Thursday at every lunch stop.”

The worst conditions of the week, of course, will be in the open and unprotected nearshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Only the final leg of the poker run course, Jones noted, takes poker runners into the Atlantic, and there are alternatives if it proves too rough.

“My position is that the weather reports are focused on coastal conditions and any discussion about high seas are primarily offshore,” he said. “Since we are taking the protected bay waters and backwaters through the Florida Keys, the majority of the boats in our club can make safe passage. But I am warning people with smaller boats to consider holding back until later in the week when the winds die down.

“The other issue is that the north component of the wind will play a big factor in how we decide to make the final leg from Marathon to Key West,” he continued. “Any winds with a strong northerly component result in a protected leg on the south side of the Keys going into Key West, which we have experienced many, many times. That decision can be made in Marathon, with the alternative being the north passage through Saddlebunch Keys. Either way, I’m allowing people to make their own decisions.”

Florida Powerboat Club members who opt out of the run, Jones emphasized, will have to cancel their own hotel and marina reservations.

“We are already fully engaged in setting up our own venues,” he said.

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