Inside Day Two Of The 2024 Tampa Bay Poker Run—And Unexpected ‘Air Show’

Inside Day Two Of The 2024 Tampa Bay Poker Run—And Unexpected ‘Air Show’

Based on Friday’s mellow water and weather and similar conditions predicted for Saturday, the 14th annual Tampa Bay Poker Run was shaping up to be a mellow affair. That proved to be just half right. Blue skies and low-80-degree temperatures did rule the run, but the wind kicked up and produced two- to four-footers, especially in the vicinity of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge part of the Florida Powerboat Club course.

For those participants who craved a little air-time, there was plenty to be had in last Saturday’s Florida Powerboat Club Tampa Bay Poker Run. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

That was just fine by Ryan Garnett and his wife, Rachel, of Seabrook, Texas, who ran the event in an MTI 390X catamaran they purchased in August. Not only was the Tampa run the second event of the year for the couple, they had the best poker-run hand among the club members in in the 73-boat fleet.

“We had a great time,” said Ryan Garnett.  “It was a little sporty, but we were happy to be back in a run.”

For first-prize-winning poker-runners Ryan and Rachel Garnett, the sporty water was just fine.

Stu Jones, the president of the Florida Powerboat Club, knew that Saturday’s rougher water would delight some participants as well as deter others from making it to all the card stops. And that was just fine with him as Jones consistently encourages club members to stay within their comfort zones at all of his events.

“The fun parts for the more adventurous participants were the sporty conditions on Tampa Bay,” he said. “The bay was assaulted by strong northerly winds, which created very choppy, following seas on the first three southbound legs heading toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. From there it was just a five-mile ride on Gulf Coast waters to visit the Egmont Key checkpoint.

Owned by Scott and Cathy Campbell, this Nor-Tech 460 Flyer powered by quad Mercury Racing 500R outboard engines was plenty boat for the water conditions.

“But many poker-run teams decided the choppy conditions were just not enjoyable and turned back before the bridge,” he continued. “Then they worked their way back to alternate checkpoints on calmer Tampa Bay waters.”

Though a welcome change from Friday’s water conditions for participants who enjoy the rough stuff, the shift in conditions surprised a more than a few folks on hand for the event. Among them was Chris LaMorte, who appreciates a bit of bump in his sturdy 36-foot Skater catamaran.










While some club members opted to avoid it, plenty of others enjoyed the bumpy seas.

“About half way out of Tampa Bay it started picking up,” said LaMorte, who once again had guests Erik Breckenfelder, Run Muller of Electronics Unlimited and his son, Ethan, aboard the cat. “It wasn’t that bad because it was a following sea all the way to the first card-stop. But we weren’t really expecting it.

“Still, it was a great day—the sun was out and we made it to all the cards stops and then headed back to Sarasota to put it on the trailer, “he continued. “And the wind laid down some in the afternoon.”

Said Florida Powerboat Club member Chris LaMorte (right), “It was a great day. The sun was out and we made it to all the cards stops.”

For Jones, the highlight of the weekend arrived during the Saturday dinner celebration. Near the end of awards portion of the evening, he presented Kyle Fowler and his parents Lisa and Mike with the club’s Member Appreciation Award.

“The Fowlers have made Florida Powerboat Club poker runs a family affair since they joined the club seven years ago,” Jones explained. “The award is for members who place a high priority on connecting with family through poker runs.”












Conditions were not rowdy throughout the course during the entire day.

Touched by the honor, Lisa Fowler sent a text message to Jones on Sunday afternoon.

“Family time gets harder to come by as our kids grow up and find their spot in the world,” she wrote. “I’m glad Kyle lets us join in on the fun. I never thought that at 61 years old I’d be hammering down with my family in a 42-foot catamaran, but here we are.”

Downtown Tampa has become one of the most ideal poker-run venues in the Florida Powerboat Club’s event repertoire.

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