Given some of the adventures Jim Wolf, the chief executive officer of Alma, Mich., headquartered Avalon and Tahoe pontoon boats, has enjoyed it’s no surprise that a 27-foot Grand Tahoe tri-toon became the first pontoon boat to complete the 150-mile Boyne Thunder Poker Run. As previously reported on speedonthewater.com, Avalon pontoon models with Wolf at the helm have made ambitious runs including one from Clearwater, Fla., to Cuba, Fort Lauderdale to Key West, Fla., and more. Had COVID-19 not delayed his plans, Wolf would have a pontoon run from the Pacific Northwest to Alaska to talk about.
For the record, that one is still in the works.
With Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines providing the power, a Grand Tahoe from Indian River Sports Center became the first pontoon boat to complete the entire Boyne Thunder Poker Run. Photos by Pete Boden.
Though he had hoped to be able to tackle last weekend’s 19th annual Boyne Thunder event in Northern Michigan in a grey-and-red Grand Tahoe tri-toon powered by twin Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines, it wasn’t to be. An issue with one of the 27-footer’s tubes cut the effort short.
But that’s why you bring two boats when you’re trying to do something no one has done before. Piloted by Travis Conners who owns Indian River Sports Center, an Avalon/Tahoe dealer Indian River, Mich., a blue-and-white Grand Tahoe with the same propulsion package completed the entire Boyne Thunder Poker Run.
“We had a great day on Lake Michigan,” said Conners, who was joined by his wife, Renee, Indian River Sports Center representative Jeff Byrne, Tahoe brand vice-president of sales Drew Feltman and his wife, Nicole and Avalon engineer Will Bates. “After the Harbor Springs card stop in the afternoon, it got a little windy and we were only able to run 40 to 45 mph. But in the morning we averaged 55 mph and even hit 65 mph in a few spots.
“We test our boats and push them to their limits so our customers don’t have to,” he added.
The Avalon/Tahoe team had hoped to have two Grand Tahoe models finish the run, but it wasn’t to be.
Of the 70 Avalon and Tahoe pontoon boats Indian River Sports sells and delivers each year, about a dozen are equipped with Mercury Racing outboards. In all Mercury Racing twin-outboard applications, the dealership orders the boats with tubes that are two feet longer than the standard versions for enhanced buoyancy, Conners explained.
The poker-run was a first for everyone on board. So no one was familiar with the basics of the popular events.
“”We weren’t sure what to expect because we had never done a poker run before,” said Byrne, who staffed the Avalon/Tahoe display with Conners during the street party in downtown Boyne City the night before the main event. “We weren’t even sure how the card stops worked. But we figured it out and had a great time. For me, this was a bucket-list thing.”
Among the highlights for Byrne and Conners was the parade lap on Lake Charlevoix at the beginning of the event, followed by idling through the channel leading from Round Lake to Lake Michigan at the beginning of the daylong event.
Said Conners, “There had to be 10,000 spectators on the sides of the channel. It was a ball from start to finish.”
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