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Gallery Of The Week: Orange Beach Awakens

What makes for a good poker run story has more to do with water and weather than who had the best hand, the liveliest crew or the prettiest boat. Those are simple details, great for embellishment yet not enough to support a story worth reading.

But big water—OK, sporty water for those itching to debate what constitutes big water—of the kind the Florida Powerboat Club Orange Beach Powerboat Week poker run fleet faced yesterday in the Gulf of Mexico?

Money. Or more accurately, money shots of the pretty boats with lively crews flying through the air.

Yesterday’s sporty water for the Orange Beach Powerboat Week poker run produced high-flying action. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Conditions were sporty enough to send most of the 50-boat fleet back to the Intracoastal Waterway once they got a glimpse at open water.

“Maybe 20 boats went offshore today,” said Stu Jones, the president of the Florida Powerboat Club. “We went in the Top Gun Flight 1130 Cigarette and it was freaking awesome.

“Some like it rough,” he added, then chuckled.

On some days, a substantial V-bottom is exactly what you need for the conditions.

From his helicopter perch, speedonthewater.com chief photographer Pete Boden estimated that the group faced four- to six-footers. Among those willing to tackle them was Devin Wozencraft in his 30-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran, a stout boat to be sure but hardly a wave-crusher.

“I don’t think we got above 30 mph,” said Wozencraft, who was joined by Ry Bassett, the latest member of his high-performance powerboat insurance and finance team. “It was big out there.”

Wozencraft laughed, then continued.

“I think I disappointed Pete Boden in the helicopter,” he said. “He wanted me to launch it.”

A few center console owners were willing to take on yesterday’s lumpy conditions.

Another couple of would-be gamers, Stephen and Heather Miles got right to the edge of the rough stuff in their MTI 340X before a mechanical issue forced them back to the docks. The issue turned out to be a fried lower unit on the catamaran’s port outboard engine, and the Kentucky-based powerboat painter thought he and his bride were done boating for the weekend.

“It’s better than losing an engine, but I thought we were out of it for sure,” Miles said. “But we got a hero here, Cliff Anderson, who also owns a 340X with (Mercury Racing) six-cylinder 400Rs. He’s loaning me a lower unit, he brought several with him in his trailer, so it looks like we are going boating today.

“But yesterday? Conditions were horrible,” he added.  

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Enjoy more images from yesterday’s run in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Jones, today’s conditions for the second leg of the Orange Beach Powerboat Week Poker Run will be better.

“The winds are lighter and the weather looks better,” he said. “Plus, we’re running a shorter course.”

That will be better for everyone involved. As for the story of the event, yesterday’s sporty water already made it.

Said Wozencraft, “I think I disappointed Pete Boden in the helicopter. He wanted me to launch it.”

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