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On Scene: Poker Run Newbies Ace Atlantic City

The “fairytale ending”—at least so far—in the storybook-like life of Bruce and Terry Michaels was buying their Monterey 328 SuperSport in March, which they ran yesterday in the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club’s 17th Annual Atlantic City Poker Run. High school sweethearts from humble backgrounds, they struggled through starting a computer-programming business while raising a family.


Bruce and Terry Michaels enjoyed their first Atlantic City Poker Run yesterday. Said Terry, “Being on the water was great, but the people are really great.” Photo courtesy/copyright Tony Esposito.

As they became more successful, they saved for their kids’ educations and a boat, which turned out to be a 29-foot Scarab with twin 383-cubic-inch “Stroker” engines and a top speed of 70 mph. The Michaels used the boat for eight years as their children grew and moved on to college and families of their own. Wanting more space for a once-again growing family as their children had children, they purchased a bigger and more comfortable—and just a bit slower—powerboat.

While you don’t typically associate sport cruisers with poker runs, the Monterey performed well. Powered by a pair of MerCruiser 377 Mag engines with Digital Throttle and Shift and joystick control, Bruce Michaels can the 32-footer to 52 mph. What they gave up in speed, they more than made up for in comfort and space.

“I am still learning the boat, but everyone was very complementary and said we kept up with the pack very well,” he said. “The boat has the performance we want, with plenty of room for the family.”

For Terry Michaels, the comfort of a galley and a shower are an obvious advantage. “But it really is all about the space,” she said.

Being nearly “empty nesters” has given the Michaels time to get more deeply involved in the boating world. So when they learned about this year’s Atlantic City Poker Run through a friend, they joined NJPPC. And it has turned out to be one of the best decisions they’ve ever made, as they were beaming when they reached the docks in Atlantic City. Hosting their own little dock party with their new best friends, they looked like poker run veterans.

“Being on the water was great, but the people are really great,” Terry Michaels said. “They were really helpful and welcoming, and a few even said they’re thinking about a boat like ours.”

Another poker-run newbie, Bill Peters (read yesterday’s story), who has owned a 29-foot Fountain for the last seven years, finished the run and couldn’t stop wondering aloud why he’d never done it before. A veteran of motorcycle poker runs, Peters didn’t hesitate when asked the difference between the two.

“There’s no comparison.,” said Peters “It’s much more laid-back here, more friendly and less competitive.”

Peters and his friend, Louis Riemer, another first-time poker runner who owns a 32-foot Fountain that’s (maybe) for sale, were both surprised at what they described as the “lack of judgment about your ride” when it came to their boats. Now Riemer is considering taking his boat off the market, and Peters said, “I’m definitely going to need a bigger boat.”


Yesterday’s run turned a bit more wild once it reached the Atlantic Ocean, where Bob Christie and his friends in Christie’s Cigarette 42X found themselves out the water more than a few times. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.

Of course, there were plenty of Atlantic City Poker Run veterans out there yesterday, including Dr. Gabe Jasper in Pain Killer, his 43-foot catamaran with twin Mercury Racing 1350 engines. Jasper, too, had a fine day in conditions that started with glassy water on Barnegat Bay but turned rough and unpredictable, thanks to a crosswind, when the run reached the Atlantic.

“The water was so squirrelly it was hard to get a rhythm,” said Jasper, who is known simply among the NJPPC faithful as Dr. Gabe. “We had to go a lot slower than we wanted to, for one, and it was a lot of work out there, but we had a great time.”

The good times are sure to keep rolling today when NJPPC members host a group of veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project and their families for an afternoon of boat rides and an evening reception honoring them as part of the Atlantic City Festival of Speed. The three-day event includes a car and motorcycle show on Saturday and wraps up Sunday with the Atlantic City Grand Prix Offshore race.

Editor’s Note: Look more speedonthewater.com updates on Atlantic City Festival of Speed from Tony Esposito throughout the weekend. Live streaming of Sunday’s Offshore Powerboat Association offshore racing action can be found at oparraccingllc on YouTube, starting at noon Eastern Standard Time.

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