If you look at the last three Florida Powerboat Club events during the toughest season in the Pompano Beach, Fla., outfit’s almost 30-year history, you can divide them into small, medium and large fleets. On the small side, you have last weekend’s Fall Key West Poker Run with five boats in the mix. A month ago, the Emerald Coast Poker Run attracted 70 boats, the club’s largest fleet of the year so far.
The fifth event of the 2020 Florida Powerboat Club season, the Tampa Bay Poker Run saw flawless—though hot and still—weather conditions. Photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Filling the bill for medium—and just-right size—was this weekend’s 45-boat Tampa Bay Poker Run. And that was exactly what club president Stu Jones wanted for the event given group-size limitations in restaurants as a result of COVID-19 social distancing mandates and safety requirements.
“Everything went great,” Jones said. “Everything went pretty much to plan. It was an awesome weekend.”
The activities began on Friday with a casual lunch run to the Tiki Dock Bar and Grill in St. Petersburg. Jones said that, thanks to the staff’s helpful dock-hands, they had no trouble getting 40 boats tied up at the venue.
Mystic was one of three Florida-based center console brands strongly represented in the run.
The only downside? Sweltering heat and faint breezes, not exactly uncommon in Southwest Florida in late September. That’s why Jones usually schedules the event for April—and plans to return to those dates in 2021.
Saturday’s poker run faced identical conditions. The run included three floating card stops before lunch. Jones and company separated the fleet into three lunch groups with three different lunch stops on the Manatee River: Pier 22 at the Twin Dolphin Marina, Woody’s and Caddy’s. For the most part, said Jones, that made lunch service more efficient.
“That supports my theory that all poker runs should have multiple lunch stops when you have large groups of close to 200 people,” he said.
Though multiple powerboat brands were represented during the event, models from Mystic Powerboats, Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats and Statement Marine—all Florida-based builders Jones noted—comprised more than half of the fleet. Among those was a new Mystic M4200 center console powered by quad Mercury Racing 450R engines, which earned the club’s Best Center Console award for the event.
Enjoy more images for the Tampa Bay Poker Run in the slideshow above.
Holding the best poker hand, Wes Harlow, who owns a 35-foot catamaran from DCB Performance Boats of El Cajon, Calif., used $1,000 of his prize money to create sign-up incentives for the club’s November 11-15 Key West Poker Run.
“Wes donated $1,000 of his winnings to other FPC members if they would register for the Key West run,” said Jones. “That’s the first time anything like that has ever happened. Five teams immediately lined up to sign up and take advantage of his generosity.
“The total prize purse was $5,000 for the three winners, but most took the opportunity to cash in for a 25-percent increase as a credit toward, future club events,” he continued. “Above all, that showed their loyalty to the Florida Powerboat Club and its future events.”
Tampa’s famed Sunshine Skyway Bridge never fails to deliver a perfect frame for Florida Powerboat Club poker run enthusiasts.