A trio of go-fast boat-loving friends from Vermont, Chris Fisher, Brian Hoar and David Wulfson, love their home state and speed on the water. Last year, the friends combined those shared passions to produce the inaugural Lake Champlain Poker Run. The event attracted 25 boats to the 124.9-mile-long, 13-mile-wide waterway, the northernmost portion of which stretches into Quebec, Canada.
Stunning backdrop on both sides of the waterway were just part of the charm during the 2020 Lake Champlain Poker Run, which attracted 50 boats from 22 to 47 feet long this year. Photos by Tim Sharkey copyright Sharkey Images.
Last weekend, they produced their second-year event, which attracted 50 boats and sold out in 13 days (with a waiting list). By any measure, particularly in a year that has seen widespread event cancellations thanks to COVID-19, that’s outstanding growth.
To help fuel that growth, the organizers kept the entry fee low at $150 a boat with three meals included for the captain and two passengers. (Additional passengers could purchase meal tickets a $25 a ticket.)
“A few years ago, Chris, David and I and got more serious about going to poker runs around the country—the majority being in our region,” Hoar said. “We recruited various friends to come join us on some of these adventures, which led us all to talking about having a bigger run on Lake Champlain.
“Simply put, we have some of the most beautiful mountain scenery on both sides of the lake, which the majority of the poker runs that I’ve been to are missing,” he continued. “We have the majestic Adirondack Mountains to the west and the awesome Green Mountains of Vermont to the east.”
The 2020 event opened Friday night with a casual dock party at the Burlington Harbor Marina, the event’s host venue. Most of the approximately 200 participants stayed the night at the Burlington Waterfront Hotel overlooking the marina.
Uncommonly punctual for a poker run, the fleet departed the marina promptly at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday for the 115-mile roundtrip run, which included three floating card stops. For lunch, the group headed to the Freaky Tiki Bar and Grill in New York’s Mooney Bay Marina. In keeping with local pandemic guidelines, participants were split up into 50-person groups to dine.
The final two cards of the poker run were dealt at the lunch stop.
“Both the owner of the marina, Brent, and the restaurant manager, Steve, were amazing,” said Hoar. “The food was great and plentiful, as was the service.”
Check out the slideshow above to enjoy more images from the 2020 Lake Champlain Poker Run.
Fisher agreed. “They did an outstanding job hosting and feeding 200 people,” he said.
After lunch, participants went their separate ways for much of the afternoon. Some headed back to the Burlington Harbor Marina. Others took off for Thayer Beach, which is Vermont’s most popular strand, according to Fisher. Later that evening, the party spilled into the college town of Burlington.
High-performance powerboat insurance man Devin Wozencraft traveled all the way from Southern California for the event.
“It’s an incredible venue with wonderful people,” said Wozencraft, who ran his 30-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran. “I think they’re onto something.”
The organizers plan to cap event at 70 to 80 boats. Based on feedback from this year’s participants, they should have no trouble filling it in 2021.
“Through Facebook on Sunday morning, every single person who came said, ‘Let us know what the dates are next year because we’re coming,’” Fisher said.
Added Hoar, “Our goal is to keep the group size manageable and allow the three of us organizers to not only run the event, but also enjoy it as participants because we all love boating.
“It has been super rewarding for us to have friends we have met at other locations to come enjoy our lake,” he added. “And we owe a huge thank-you to members of our local boating community who volunteered their time to join us and help make all our guests from out of town feel welcome. We could not have done it without them.”
Californian Devin Wozencraft was dazzled by the waters of Lake Champlain.