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In The Heart And Soul Of The Kuttawa Cannonball Run

Returning on a houseboat to Kuttawa Harbor Marina from Prizer Point Marina on the shores of Lake Barkley—the lunch destination for the two-day Kuttawa Cannonball Run—on Friday afternoon, I asked my host Stephen Miles how many boats were registered for the sixth annual Kentucky happening. The founder of Stephen Miles Design in Owensboro, Ky., he helped launched the event and remains one of its driving forces.

So I figured he’d have a ballpark notion. I figured wrong.

“Bro, I have no idea,” he said, then cackled. “I don’t actually do anything to organize this. Jeff and Terry do all the work.”

Kuttawa Cannonball Run organizer Jeff Hoefling, and his girlfriend, Audra, put a new-to-him Outerlimits 39 GTX through its paces this weekend. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Miles was referring to his fellow Kuttawa Cannonball Run founders and organizers Jeff Hoefling and Terry Martin, who I caught up with during yesterday’s Breakers Marina lunch stop, 60 miles from Kuttawa Harbor, in Tennessee. And I asked them the same question.

“We don’t have a final count yet, but I think we were at 130 registered boats yesterday,” Martin said.

Hoefling nodded.

“Yeah, 130 boats yesterday but people were still registering this morning so we’re probably somewhere between 130 and 140 boats,” he said.

Either number left the event well shy of the 180 registered boats record it set last year, but that wasn’t at all how it felt. Like the weekend itself, the fleet felt big.

Among the hardware in the mix was Burton and Yvette Kirsten’s brilliant 46-foot Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats catamaran called Jet, a slew of 50-foot V-bottoms including a massive (and impressively fast) 50-foot Nor-Tech, an array of center consoles from Sunsation Powerboats, MTI, Deep Impact, Midnight Express and more, plus and a small army of outboard engine-powered sport catamarans.

And of course there was a thundering herd of well-kept Fountain Powerboats, Baja Marine and Sunsation sportboats from the past few decades.

Thanks to the Michigan-based Kirstens and South Florida’s Greg Harris and Yvonne Aleman, I enjoyed two polar opposite yet equally exceptional experiences yesterday. (This proves what great friends they are to me as I declined invitations from both couples Friday for a comfy houseboat ride to and from lunch at Prizer Point.)

On the 60-mile outbound leg to the Breakers Marina on Kentucky Lake, I joined the Kirstens, our mutual friend Adam Seraphine and Scrapyard Media/Speed On The Water “In The Lead” series videographer Brad DiMaggio in Jet, which happens to boast a rocking air-conditioning system. For the trip back to Kuttawa Harbor, I jumped shipped and joined Harris and Aleman, and our mutual friend Corey Hakes, in their immaculate new DCB Performance Boats M37R Widebody catamaran called Mad Props.

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A photographic tale of two incredible boat rides, courtesy of Burton and Yvette Kirsten and Greg Harris and Yvonne Aleman.

Which cat did I like better? It’s a fair, reasonable and completely ridiculous question.

My simple answer, with a big grin across my face, is just yes, please because comparing a 46-foot canopied cat to an open cockpit 37-footer is a fool’s errand. Of course, as you’d expect from those vaunted brands, both boats were built with impeccable attention to detail. Both handled the confused lake chop as if it weren’t there.

But what I loved most about both rides was watching each couple communicate. In Yvette Kirsten’s case, that meant tapping her husband on the top of his throttle-hand when she wanted him to slow down. For Aleman and Harris, who split cockpit duties—she drives and he throttles—communication took the form of headsets and hand signals.

Bottom line: I’ve never had two more delightfully different boat rides in the same day.

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Enjoy more images from the 2022 Kuttawa Cannonball Run in the slideshow above.

Once the fleet returned to Kuttawa Harbor, participants disappeared to clean up before last night’s food-truck-catered post-run celebration and auction. Among the items on the block were a Stephen Miles Design-painted shuffleboard game, two SMD-painted shot-skis and a motorcycle.

In 2021, a pair of Miles-painted shot-skis commanded $21,000. So the question on many minds, especially that of returning auctioneer Nolan Ferris, was whether that shot-ski auction price record would fall last night.

“I think we can do it,” Ferris said a couple of hours before the auction. “I have a lot of faith in this group.”

Marine industry veteran Mike Livorsi changes boats fairly often, and he brought his latest Fountain to Kuttawa this weekend.

That was exactly what anyone who knows Ferris, a decidedly “glass half-full” guy who lives in Upstate New York with his wife, Kim, would expect from him. But when the first shot-ski went for a more-than-respectable $6,000, it didn’t look like the record would be broken.

Until the second fetched a mind-blowing $27,000 from top-bidder Andy Robinette of Waverly, Ill., who owns an Outerlimits SL 44 V-bottom called Fueling Addiction.

By the time the auction was finished and people began wandering off to keep the party going, the event had raised more than $92,000—including $25,000 from a shuffleboard game built by Chris Humphrey and painted by the Miles crew and $15,000 from a motorcycle donated by Hoefling—for the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department and its youth programs.

The total amount of money raised almost doubled that of the 2021 event.

Asked why he dropped a record-setting sum of money on a shot-ski, Robinette offered two reasons that also sum up the heart and soul of the Kuttawa Cannonball Run.

“First, it’s for a great cause and the people here are amazing,” he said. “And second, it matches my boat.”

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