If Lake Havasu, Ariz., can be a boating Mecca in the desert, why can’t Boyne City, Mich., be a Midwest boating paradise in some out-of-the-way ski country?
A mere 250 miles northwest of Detroit and 350 miles from Chicago, Boyne is close only to the ski mountain that shares its name and the shores of Lake Charlevoix, a 17,000-acre protected inland lake that connects to Lake Michigan, and as a result, the world.
“It’s a misconception that we are a seasonal ski town,” said Pete Oppermann, of the Boyne Thunder organizing committee. “We offer year-round outdoor recreation. In the summer it is golf or boating—but no one has time to do both.”
The hell with golf. We’re going boating. Frankly, given this stunning location and impeccable weather, it’s an easy call made even easier by my ride for the day—the latest M3900 from Mystic Powerboats. On board with me are Vinnie Foglia, the boat’s owner, Scott Sjogren of Shogren Performance Marine and—get this—Peter Hledin of Skater Powerboats.
Still, it’s not all fun and games, at least for Oppermann who has the thankless job of dock master for the 110-boat fleet.
“We added 10 boats this year in order to have new participants,” he said, then chuckled. “My wife, Kelly, says it grew because of our handing out can coozies at the Miami International Boat Show.”
What started out as a 30-boat event 12 years ago now sees manufacturers such as Mystic Powerboats and Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats showcasing new models. Boyne City’s regular Friday night “Stroll the Street” music event is expanded for the event and includes a car and boat show. And benefitting from all of it are two local charities: Camp Quality, which provides outdoor experiences for young cancer patients and their families, and Challenge Mountain, which provides outdoor experiences for physically and mentally challenged youth.
The 135-mile poker run we’ve just begun encompasses both Lakes Charlevoix and Michigan and kicks offs with a four-mile “parade lap” that is said to draw a spectator fleet of awesome proportion.
Just passing the spectators on the breakwater leading out to Lake Michigan. Time to stop writing and wave—and hang on.