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When Bad is (Really) Good

From left: Joe Sabo, Randy Cigar, Alex Nuez, Tony Desaro and author Matt Trulio in Sabo’s 38-foot Cigarette Top Gun powered by twin supercharged 1,050-hp Cobra engines.

During the Offshore Powerboat Association 2010 World Championships in Orange Beach, Ala., a little more than a week ago I had a great day on the water—one of the best I ever had. The strange thing is, it didn’t start well. In fact, it had all the makings of a total disaster.

Saturday during the OPA Worlds was a “down day,” meaning there was no racing. So I headed out with my brand-new friends from New Jersey, Joe Sabo and Tony Desaro, for a poker run on Sabo’s 38-foot Cigarette Top Gun powered by twin supercharged 1,050-hp Cobra engines. Joining us for the ride were Randy Garcia and Alex Nuez of Cobra. As we headed offshore and Sabo opened it up, it looked as if we were in for a day of pure go-fast boat fun.

We never made it to the first stop, thanks to a pair of mechanical issues. The first, a leaky header that doused the distributor on the port engine, was easily repaired with duct tape. A few miles later, the starboard engine’s blower belt shredded itself.

“Anyone want to buy a boat?” Sabo said as he collected pieces of the belt from the bilge. Everyone laughed—and the tone for the afternoon was set.

“That’s boating, right?” he said and looked my way.

I nodded. “I’d love to tell you this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this happen, but I’d be lying,” I said.

Then I looked at Garcia, who appeared more than a little uncomfortable—understandably so—with having a Powerboat magazine writer on board a boat with his engines having issues.

“I have seen everyone’s stuff break, Randy,” I said. “And I mean everyone’s. Don’t sweat it.”

Before the mechanical's Sabo's 38-foot Cigarette Top Gun was running strong offshore.

Of course, the engine still ran just fine without a blower but it was down on power and even more so on torque. That meant to get the boat on plane Sabo needed to hammer the port throttle and feather the starboard, and Desaro, Nuez and I had to crawl all the way forward in the cabin.

After a couple of times through that somewhat comical routine, Sabo wisely decided that a multi-stop poker run probably wasn’t a great call and that we should head back.

But first there was the small matter of waiting for the water intakes to clear themselves, thanks to a brush with a sandbar while we had stopped to get our bearings.

No question, we had become a comedy of errors. But the keyword is comedy because everyone on board was laughing.

“You guys feel like getting lunch?” I asked.

Sabo was way ahead of me, and soon we were back on the Intracoastal Waterway running 70 mph and headed toward Lulu’s, a waterside restaurant owned by singer Jimmy Buffet’s sister, in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Bailing on the poker run changed everything for the better. We no longer had to be anywhere. Our timetable became our own, and everything from houses on tall pilings to an immense coal barge became worth appreciating as “something you just don’t see at home.” By the time we tied up at Lulu’s for lunch we were in no hurry to do anything.

A long lunch on a waterfront patio with cold drinks, good conversation and lots of laughs—the time couldn’t pass slowly enough. Though no one said anything about it, I think everyone regretted having to head back.

“You know, sometimes bad is good,” said Sabo as we motored back to Orange Beach.

On that we all agreed.

Editor’s Note: All photos courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey,