With Hurricane Irma careening into the Florida Keys just two months before the Florida Powerboat Club’s 25th annual Key West Poker Run—the organization’s signature happening—it was no small wonder that the event even came off at all. So much of the supporting infrastructure, from Grove Harbor Marina in Coconut Grove to Gilbert’s Resort and Tiki Bar in Key Largo, was heavily damaged by the storm. That left Stu Jones, president and founder of the club, and company to improvise lunch and docking arrangements for what would be a 185-boat fleet and some 850 people heading from Miami to Key West on Wednesday and Thursday.
Members of the Florida Powerboat Club put on another great show in Key West. Photo courtesy Florida Powerboat Club
“As usual, we had our two-day departure format and, as usual, it was heavily weighted toward Thursday,” said Jones. “We had 650 people traveling—650 people to organize lunch for—that day. It was the first time we’ve ever had to have four separate lunch venues.
“Hurricane Irma knocked out a lot of the facilities we would use going down to Key West,” he continued. “We didn’t have the full use of the docks at Gilbert’s, for example, but I was able to get docks at The Anchorage and shuttle people by pontoon boat to Gilbert’s for lunch. Managing logistics for this year’s Key West Poker run was our biggest challenge, ever.”
And quite suddenly, all of that hard work became a side note to tragedy when poker run participant and Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats principal Joe Sgro sustained what would be fatal injuries when his new 50-foot canopied V-bottom rolled in the protected Intracoastal waters off Marathon. Fellow Outerlimits owner Michael “Doc” Janssen did all he could to keep Sgro alive for his emergency evacuation by medical helicopter, but Sgro died en route to Miami.