With the Florida Powerboat Club’s annual Key West Poker Run looming in early November, Stu Jones, the founder and owner of the club, said he will be pushing harder than ever for complete compliance on all rules for all participants. That includes enforcing the mandatory attendance/roll-call for all drivers the evening before each departure. Though most of the fleet, which likely will be between 150 and 160 boats this year, heads from Miami to Key West on Thursday, there are organized Wednesday and Friday departures as well.
“With longtime club members who had done four of five of my runs in one year we have in the past not been harsh or strict if the member couldn’t make what is essentially the same meeting every time,” said Jones. “But we really need everybody to be there. It’s important, and we can’t let it go.”
Jones also said he expects all members to comply with speed limits for the run. That means a top speed of 110 mph for boats with passengers behind the driver and copilot, and an absolute top speed of 150 mph for all boats. While in the past such speed limits have been difficult to enforce, the Florida Powerboat Club, which has State Police and Fish and Wildlife Commission Patrol Boats observing the run, as well as fire department boats providing on-water safety services, will do everything in its power to make sure everyone abides by the rules.
“These are the protocols laid out by our insurance company,” he explained. “I have to do everything I can to make sure people are following and respecting them. If something happens and the protocols are not being followed, our insurance coverage could be in jeopardy.”
Jones said that, per the club’s United States Coast Guard permit for the run, he notifies marinas from Miami to Key West about the schedule times and days for the runs. His goal is to keep spectator boats as far away as possible from the go-fast boat fleet.
“Poker runs are not spectators sports—they were never meant to be spectator sports,” he explained. “Offshore races are spectator sports. That why they are short, a few miles pin to pin, and that’s why the come close to the shore, so people can see them. We let all the marinas know we are coming so they can warn people that there will be fast boats coming through their area and that they need to stay away.”