It’s safe to say that Grant Bruggemann, the owner/founder of Grant’s Signature Racing in Bradenton, Fla., and the throttleman for the STIHL offshore racing team and Kellie Lee, his dearest love and closest companion for the past four-and-a-half years, live and breathe high-performance powerboating. They work alongside one another six days a week at the famed rigging shop, and hit the road together on race weekends.
So no one who knew them was surprised that they chose the deck of the STIHL team’s Skater 388 catamaran as their local outdoor wedding chapel, so to speak, during the annual Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix a week-and-a-half ago. And why not? All their closest friends and family members were in town, many for the race and a few, such as Kellie’s best friend from Colorado, for the wedding. That Reverend Jim Black, a beloved figure even among diehard atheists and agnostics in the high-performance powerboating community, officiated the ceremony made it perfect.
Last than a week later, Grant Bruggemann and now Kellie Lee-Bruggemann found themselves in Nevada on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, one of the most breathtaking and romantic settings in the country.
But they weren’t there to honeymoon. They came to the lake to teach Southern Californian Chris Miller to drive a Skater 388 catamaran powered by Mercury Racing 1350 engines he had recently purchased from Northern Californian Karl Koster. Though Miller has owned several go-fast V-bottoms during the years, the Skater is his first cat, and to his considerable credit he knew he needed some driving instruction. So he contacted Skater national sales manager Tony Cutsuries who, in turn, referred him to Bruggemann.
The newlyweds left Sarasota on Wednesday, arrived at the lake on Thursday and worked with Miller for most of the day replacing the cat’s portside engine manifold. By the end of the day, they were on the water. Bruggemann and Miller spent all Friday together in the boat.
“It’s not the first time Grant has helped someone learn to drive a high-performance boat, but it is the first time we’ve done something like this together,” said Lee-Bruggemann.
There is, of course, a twist to this story. Grant and Kellie are avid mountain bikers, and the Lake Tahoe area is mountain-biking heaven. What’s more, Miller owns Flume Mountain Bike Rentals—named for the epic and world-renowned Flume Trail—and the nearby Tunnel Creek Café. Mountain biking connections just don’t get any better. Miller even had bikes ready to go for the couple.
But it wasn’t to be, at least this time.
“We were pretty exhausted from the travel and the work on Thursday and just didn’t have time to ride,” said Lee-Bruggemann. “We were super disappointed that we didn’t get to do it. But now that we’ve been there and seen it, we know we’ll go back. And we definitely have the hook-up.”
On Saturday, they headed home. They made it back to Florida late that night.
Now they’re back at the shop, working on current rigging projects and starting to gear up for the next Super Boat International race July 21-23 in Mentor, Ohio, which will be followed a couple of weeks later by the SBI contest Aug. 3-6 in Michigan City, Ind.
And then they get to take a well-earned honeymoon. On Aug. 19, they’ll fly to Barcelona, Spain, and hop on a Mediterranean cruise.
“I get Grant to myself,” said Lee-Bruggemann. “No cell phones, no email, no customers.”
Dedicated as he is to his clients, his business and the STIHL team, Bruggemann said he’ll be “absolutely” ready to put his phone away and focus on nothing but his bride when the time comes.
“We’re always busy here, but most of the boats are up north for the summer,” he said. “Whatever happens when we’re gone, we’ll fix it when we get back.”
Editor’s Note: To read about Chris Miller’s driving instruction experience with Grant Bruggemann check out Matt Trulio’s column on Thursday, July 14.
Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.