Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Time to Head North

Next week will be my fourth trip up to see Boyne Thunder, one of America’s premiere poker runs. The first couple of years I traveled up to Michigan, I had hoped to at least bring my Formula 242 up as a marshal boat, but ongoing trailer issues nixed that. Later, having sold my boat, my wife and I still enjoyed heading up to see the boats and check out all the activities, like the street show in Boyne City and the art fair in Charlevoix, which always seems to be held on the same weekend. There’s no doubt that the region includes some of the most scenic areas the Midwest has to offer.

The Street Party in Boyne City on Friday night is one you don't want to miss.
This year, my wife has declined to go, and being freed up, I decided to inquire about the possibility of volunteering at the event, which raises money for children with cancer and individuals with disabilities. Having secured a couple of opportunities to pitch in, I started to make plans.

I had thought about going about a month or more before, but we were invited to travel with some friends to Florida in the Fall, so I held off. When it later became clear that my wife’s job would not allow us to travel south in November, I looked again at coming up to BT, but by that time, no reasonable accommodations were available, and she was balking at making another trip north.

That meant going by myself, and since my needs are pretty modest (I just need a place to rest my head at night and take a shower) I figured I could find a convenient camping spot in the area. Finding campgrounds was not an issue; the only problem is that most non-electric tent sites can’t be reserved in advance, so it’s first-come-first served just about everywhere. I’m pretty confident that I won’t have any problems, and though I am not a big recreational camper, I think this will be a nice little adventure.

The continued popularity of this event is a real testament to the people who work so hard to put it on every year. When I first ventured up here in 2008, I think there were about 40 boats running; this year I believe the number of registrants is up to 120—and there are lots of people who are still on the waiting list. Since that more performance boaters are discovering this great Poker Run, it’s become a “must do”—not only for boaters, but for manufacturers who like to premiere their new boats. One I am especially looking forward to see is Catnip, a new classic wooden runabout from Van Dam Custom Boats, which is actually located in Boyne City. See you at the street show next Friday Night!

Catnip under construction at Van Dam Custom Boats

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Message from The Dock

How long has it been? Too long, I suppose. As I sit writing this, I am making plans to head up to Michigan and volunteer at Boyne Thunder, one of America’s premier poker runs, and which was the subject of my last post on this website, back in 2011. A lot has happened since then, so let me briefly review…

I bought my boat when I turned 50, as a gift to myself. Always loved boats – operated them, but never owned one. I enjoyed my Formula for the first few years, but never got to use it as much as I wanted, and hardly ever in bigger water where I could really enjoy it. In 2010, I was “downsized” from the best job I ever had, out of work for 9 months (due to the recession) and eventually found a job making about 1/3 of my previous income.

Financially we were fine, but with gas at about $4 a gallon and our disposable income lower, boating became a guilty pleasure that increasingly came in second to staying at home on weekends and hanging out at the pool with friends. My vision of how I was going to enjoy my boat sharpened as I realized a few things:

1)  The time I would have to enjoy boating would be more limited than I thought. With both a pool and a boat, we would generally be splitting our weekends between the two, not counting weekends here and there that would be lost to lousy weather.

2)  I bought a (to me) large boat with a comfortable cabin thinking we could overnight on it. Only after I bought it did my wife indicate she could not sleep on a boat. That eliminated any possible savings on overnight accommodations for our boat trips. Hell—I could have just bought a Donzi sweet 16.

3)  It eventually became apparent that the wife was not a fan of high speed on the water. She liked a boat that looked fast, but was not so interested in going fast, or—god forbid—getting any air under the hull. Seems strange for a woman who enjoys riding roller coasters.

4)   The closest lakes to me are nice, but a 26’ boat was really too much boat for them. Limited speed areas; mostly no-wake zones. Lake Erie was 30+ miles away – but opportunities to get up there were pretty limited.

As a result of all this, the boat spent more time on the trailer in my driveway than it did on the water. It was paid for, but winter storage, maintenance, insurance and other costs made me reconsider my situation.

I also must interject here that I eventually came to the realization that the “boating lifestyle” I had envisioned was one that demanded either a significant investment in money (deep pockets) or time (free weekends) that I could not fully devote to the cause.

Most of the folks I saw taking their big boats (and their friends) to poker runs have lots of disposable income. You don’t have to look at a newer 40’ offshore boat with doubles or triples to know that they own their own company or have a very high-level job. It’s like almost owning your own private airplane; these folks can spend several thousand dollars on a weekend poker run and not bat an eye, and then do it again the following week. I think it’s great that they can do this, and it’s fun to follow—but that would never be me.

Of course, we all know there are lots of other folks out there who also enjoy going to poker runs who don’t have big bucks to blow. They may have smaller or older boats. They may participate by volunteering as a marshall boat, or having pals help subsidize their entry fee. They may attend less expensive events, too. But what they also have is more time—time away from family, time (and skill) to repair and maintain their own boat, maybe just more time in general, since boating is their primary activity, period. Unless I happen to have a job related to the boating industry, that’s not me, either.

So it should be no surprise that I sold the Formula a couple of years ago. I plan on having another boat before too long—but it will probably be smaller, and hopefully, permanently docked on the water near wherever I decide to retire.

Saying so long to my beloved BlackJack. Hope she found a happy home.
While I may have been slightly disenchanted with my initial foray into performance boating, I certainly never lost interest. I still love fast boats, and being both near the water and on the water. That will never change. What has changed is the way I choose to enjoy the hobby/sport/lifestyle. That may mean volunteering at events, attending more races and finding more ways I can contribute while acknowledging my current “landlubber” status.

In the meantime, even though I stopped posting on this site regularly, I transformed the main website into a weekly news update, with stories gathered from my Twitter Powerboat News list. That has allowed be to retain some presence on the web, in addition to my Twitter site - which now serves as the primary web platform for [B3]. My posts there are seasonal, but with almost 3,000 followers, it remains as one of the most prominent performance boating accounts on Twitter. I am happy about that.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Boyne Thunder: The Great Northern Poker Run

Everybody knows about big powerboat poker runs like Desert Storm and Key West, but switch out the sand and palm trees for the clean, cool waters of Northwest Michigan and the rich smell of pine trees, and you've got the great Northern poker run...Boyne Thunder. We headed up there after work on Friday night and jumped off I-75 at Gaylord for a solid night's sleep before heading over to Boyne City bright and early Saturday to watch the 40+ boats head out across Lake Charlevoix.

The municipal marina at Boyne City is a great venue for this event; there's plenty of room for even the largest boats, and the point on the western end is a great spot for spectators to gather. This year's event has been described by many as the best ever - and the collection of boats found at the docks backed that up, with a great selection of Skaters, Nor-Techs, Outerlimits, Apaches, Fountains, Formulas and Cigarettes on hand. It was an incredible scene -- especially when they all started the engines and headed out onto the lake.

As a tradition, the boats (in two groups) circle around the lake on a high-speed parade lap before heading west toward Charlevoix -- and the hundreds of spectators gathered on the point roared their approval as each boat gunned its engines on the pass-by.

The boats then head down the lake, through Round Lake at Charelvoix, then out the channel to Lake Michigan and the other card stops. The weather was just about perfect; warm and sunny, with little wind--which made the big lake manageable for some high speed runs and lots of fun. We drove up to Charlevoix for a few beers, caught a few more nice boats heading up the channel, then gradually worked our way back toward Boyne City right after noon. We even had a chance to grab a bite at the Horton Bay General Store, which any Ernest Hemingway fan would recognize from his Nick Adams stories.

The final card stop was at the marina at Somerset Pointe, featuring a very nice reception which offered visitors a chance to catch the boat crews coming in for some snacks and ice cold refreshments. We weren't sure how they were going to fit everyone in, but they managed to get the crews off the boats and into the bar with a high level of organization. Clearly, this run benefits greatly from a wonderful team of volunteers, who managed it all superbly. Hats off to them.

We wanted to stay longer for the Thunder Feast that evening, but the wife and I had another stop to make on that day's itinerary, and over a 100 miles to travel before nightfall. Suffice to say that as before, we had a short but albeit wonderful time at Boyne Thunder, and look forward to coming back again. If you're an offshore powerboater who loves great poker runs and is looking for something a little different, this is one run you will want to add to your calendar next year.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

[B3] Will Be at Boyne Thunder This Weekend

Northwest Michigan is one of our favorite places in the world and also home to one of the best poker runs anywhere...Boyne Thunder. Kicking off in Boyne City, MI - at the eastern end of beautiful Lake Charlevoix, this is one of the best organized runs anywhere, attracting dozens of the Midwest's very best boats, and many from well beyond.

Created to benefit Camp Quality for Children, the run heads out of Lake Charlevoix and into Lake Michigan, where stops are set up at several great venues. Conditions can be unpredictable once you are out on the big lake, so participants have to be ready for anything.

There's a big street party in Boyne City Friday night, with lots of boats and hot cars on display, as well as a fun "pub crawl." The run starts Saturday morning, and concludes in the late afternoon. Saturday night, everyone sits down to enjoy an awesome "Thunder Feast" by the side of the lake. The location is superb, the weather looks to be great this weekend, and we're sure to see lots of top-shelf boats on hand, which is why organizers are expecting this to be the best BT ever. We'll be there to bring you some pictures and more!

Monday, July 4, 2011

That's Gonna Leave a Mark: 1981 Harbour Towne Race

Came across this recently posted YouTube video, courtesy of the Duke Video Archives, which shows the spectacular crash of Michael Meynard and teamate Bob Idoni's Cougar cat, Fayva Shoes. The 36' super-light cat, powered by a pair of big Mercruisers and the then-new Arneson surface drives, was clearly capable of speeds up to 125mph or more.  The boat was probably too light, which is why--returning from the first checkpoint--the port sponson dug into a wave and disintegrated.

Luckily, both Meynard and Idoni survived the wreck. Meynard--who was already receiving treatment for Hodgkins Disease--escaped unscathed, and Idoni had some leg injuries that would keep him in the hospital for  week. The race came at a pivotal time for offshore racing; it was clear that speed and power were outpacing safety considerations, and changes would soon come to the sport....along with the big American superboats, which would soon be making their appearance.

You can check out more of Duke's offshore-related DVD offerings HERE. They are in the European PAL format, so they would not be viewable on North American NTSC format players, but could probably be converted with the right software.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

P1 Superstock Series Featured at 2011 Madison Regatta

P1 SuperStock has launched their new head-to-head Match Race this weekend at the 2011 Madison Regatta. While primarily known as a venue for H1 hydroplane racing, Madison-area fans have eagerly embraced the new P1 Superstock racing formula, adding a new dimension to powerboat racing here.

Madison, Indiana, is located on the Ohio River; the earliest documented power boat regatta here took place in 1911. The steamship PRINCESS from Coney Island tied up in the middle of the river as power launches ran an oval track roughly around the boat. This was also one of the earliest examples of competition as it is currently characterized around a closed course.

Team Oregon Custom Marine of the number 15 Panther made history by becoming the first Match Racing Champion of all time. Oregon Custom Marine ran the course extremely well, hitting every turn tightly with ease and quickly crossing the finish line.

With a first place finish in Saturday’s Match Race, Team Oregon Custom Marine earns the pole position of their choice for Sunday’s endurance race. Team JD Byrider of the number 14 boat finished second, receiving the second option for preferred pole position. Typhoon Racing and Pirate Racing were back and forth throughout the entire race and had fans on the edge of their seat until the final lap. Typhoon Racing finished just a few feet in front of Pirate Racing earning them a victory in the first of their three heats.

Be sure to check out for results from the inaugural P1 USA Series event.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Speculation Abounds Whether Phenomenon will Show at LOTO Shootout

Little has been seen or heard about Al Copeland Jr. and his Phenomenon cat since the boat debuted at the Key West Worlds in 2009 and making a splash at the Miami Boat Show back in 2010. The 56-foot catamaran with four T-55 Lycoming turbines got a lot of attention when it was first seen, but technical problems encountered since that time seem to have put the kabosh on any speed record attempts or further trials over the last year. Recently, speculation has grown on whether the boat might turn up at this year's Lake of The Ozarks Shootout, on August 22-28.

Driver Al Copeland Jr., was hoping to follow in the footsteps of his famous boat racing father, who founded the Popeyes restaurant chain. Phenomenon is the culmination of his father’s wish to break the propeller-driven speed record of 220.43 mph...but there's some stiff competition out there from other powerful turbine cats, like Miss Geico--which has hit 210mph.

With the 4 turbines, the boat was supposed to bust out with about 12,000hp--and on paper, it should be able to make a solid record attempt. The question is, will we see it any time soon? The project's Facebook page has plenty of fan questions...but no answers.

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