Staring tomorrow, groups of high-performance powerboats led by the Florida Powerboat Club will leave Sea Isle Marina in Miami and head south for Key West. The daily parade will continue on Wednesday and it will peak on Thursday with up to 100 boats. By the time the last group reaches Key West on Friday afternoon, more than 150 go-fast boat will have pulled into town.
The Key West Poker Run, combined with the Super Boat International Key West Offshore World Championships is by most accounts the biggest economic week of the city’s year. In addition to the hundreds of folks who come down on the go-fast pleasure boats and the racers and crews for 50-plus offshore racing teams, thousands of powerboat enthusiasts from around the country head to Key West by car and plane for the week and what has become high-performance boating’s longest—and loudest—party.
Most hotels sell out. Bars and restaurants pack them in. Walking down the Duvall Street, ground zero for the nonstop revelry, anytime after dark is a shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes wobbly affair.
The crowds that fill Mallory Square and the surrounding viewing areas and bars and restaurants when the races happen Wednesday, Friday and Sunday cheer the raceboats as they roar by. But the real cheer you find in Key West this week has to do with people who share a common interest, speed on the water if you will, coming together and celebrating their shared passion.
That’s the magic of Key West this week—not the poker run, not the offshore racing, but the people who love it all so much that they just can’t stay away. It’s as if they are programmed by evolution to be there. And so for one week just before winter really starts to take hold, they migrate to Key West.