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Gallery Of The Week: LEOPA Thunderfest Shines Bright

Amongst the 60 stunning performance boats on hand for last Saturday’s Lake Erie Offshore Performance Association Thunderfest Poker Run to Ohio’s popular Put-in-Bay were at least 10 gorgeous models from Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats, including a very unique boat built by the Bristol, R.I., company—a 38-foot center console owned by Stephen Miles.

Several Outerlimits owners took part in Saturday’s LEOPA Thunderfest Poker Run in Ohio. Photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

Yes that Stephen Miles, the highly sought after painter behind Stephen Miles Design in Owensboro, Ky. Miles and his lovely wife, Heather, made the 450-plus-mile trek to Sandusky, Ohio, to hang out with Outerlimits client Ed Urbanek, who owns a 52-foot Outerlimits (pictured in the foreground in the image above) that he keeps at his Lake Erie home on Johnsons Island, and several other Outerlimits owners he’s painted boats for in the past, including Jason and Laurie Moe, who brought their 46-foot canopied catamaran Hurry Up to the LEOPA run from Washington.

Miles said he had a great time at the poker run but quickly admitted that he didn’t even know there was an event happening.

“I have to be honest I didn’t even know there was a poker run until I got there and Ed mentioned it; when he invited me a couple of weeks ago I thought it was just him and a few friends getting together at his place,” Miles said with a laugh. “As soon as I realized it was an event, I went ahead and got registered, and I’m glad we did. We had a great time and we met a lot of great people. The company was amazing and Put-in-Bay was cool. Ed’s place is spectacular, too.

“I enjoyed seeing boaters I don’t get to see often, such as Todd Fountain—that guy is cool as hell,” he added, referring to the well-known Michigan native who owns the 46-foot Skater Tom Cat, amongst other boats. “Seeing the Moes is always fun as well as people like Dave and Nicole Weschler. It was definitely worth the trip.”

Nikole Gilstorf, a former LEOPA officer and longtime event participant, had a blast at the Thunderfest Poker Run with her husband, Joe, in their 50-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran Fifty Shades.

“It was a great run and a nice turn out,” Nikole Gilstorf said. “Thankfully this year the weather cooperated.”

The Gilstorfs and several of their friends who went along for the ride enjoyed the lunch stop at Old Plat on the Huron River and the time spent in Put-in-Bay.

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Check out the slideshow above for 30 more images from the Thunderfest Poker Run to Put-in-Bay.

Another Skater owner who did the run and is a big fan of Put-in-Bay is Devin Wozencraft. The owner of Wozencraft Insurance in Santa Ana, Calif., enjoyed the event with his wife and twin son and daughter in their 30-footer powered by twin Mercury Racing 300R engines. They even rented a place on Put-in-Bay a few days before the poker run started through the weekend.

“That run is always so much fun,” Wozencraft said. “I recommend it to everyone. It was a great time again this year because of the good weather, the friendly people and the number of unique boats. One of my clients, Michael Boyas, recently sold Stray Cat, his 50-foot Statement Marine catamaran, and purchased an 82-foot Pershing so he brought it to the run. They actually ended up using it as the second card stop, which was funny.”

Wozencraft also brought up Jim and Sarah Wiley’s newest boat, a 2013 51-foot Magnum Marine dayboat that resided on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair. The couple had planned to sea trial the 51-footer early last week and ship it home to St. Petersburg, Fla., before Wozencraft, whose company insures the boat, suggested keeping it in the Midwest for an extra week to participate in the LEOPA Thunderfest Poker Run before transporting it to Florida. The Wileys ran with the idea and ended up enjoying themselves in Jim Wiley’s old neck of the woods as he grew up in the Detroit and remembers going by boat as a kid from Detroit to Cedar’s Point, the acclaimed amusement park in Sandusky.

“It was well worth pushing our transport out a week to enjoy the run on Lake Erie in the new boat before we take it to Florida,” Jim Wiley said. “The timing worked out perfectly and it would never have happened if Devin didn’t suggest it. He was also super helpful with all the event logistics. Overall, it was a beautiful venue and such a great time. Sarah and I were talking about going back again. We agreed that doing it in another boat would be better though.

“That boat did a great job in the run—it handles the water so well,” he continued. “We’d just prefer something a little sportier up there.”

Sarah Wiley agreed and commented that the boat, which is powered by pair of 1,600-hp MTU V-10 diesel engines and is in like new condition, felt extremely solid in the rough stuff they encountered on the lake.

“The boat is beautiful and the ride is fantastic,” Sarah Wiley added. “The run was fun—we met a lot of nice people. The boating is a lot different up north than it is down south.”

Jeff Upholzer, the 2020 LEOPA Commodore and current club treasurer, was excited to see the Magnum—and all of the other cool boats—at the event.

“Overall, it was a spectacular day,” Upholzer said. “There was lots of awesome hardware, amazing people and a fabulous venue. The perfect mixture of what you need for an outstanding event.”

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