More than one person I trust has told me that Lake Michigan can be calm and still and serene. And more than one person I trust also has told me that it can be one of most beautiful summer boating areas in the country. Without question, Lake Michigan, at least on the Northern Michigan side, has never failed to dazzle me with its beauty. But it also has never failed to beat the living crap out of me in a go-fast boat. So this calm and still and serene stuff? Not so much, at least in my limited experience.
So for me, that the Boyne Thunder Poker Run, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, doesn’t run its entire course—just most of it—on Lake Michigan is in and of itself something to recommend it. As it has in years past, the July 12-13 event begins and ends in Boyne City, which is on the shores of Lake Charlevoix. And Lake Charlevoix is to Lake Michigan what Smith Mountain in Virginia is to, well, the Atlantic Ocean. On a bad day.
In its ten-year history, Boyne Thunder has seen its share of small and large fleets. But in the past few years, it has captured national buzz among the performance-boat crowd and has become one of the summer’s hottest events. Last year’s attendees even included Stu Jones, the founder and owner of the Florida Powerboat Club.
As of right now, 75 boats have registered for the 80 available docks/slips for the run.
“In the last few years, Boyne Thunder has really gone crazy,” says Tracy Nemecek, who drives his Nor-Tech 477 V-bottom as a paceboat for the event and is one of its key organizers. “I would say a lot of it is the gorgeous water, the gorgeous scenery and the land around Lake Charlevoix.”
Though Boyne Thunder has become a big-name happening in the go-fast powerboat world, Nemecek describes it as a “small town thing.” In addition to a Boyne City staff member who is responsible for organization and oversight for the run on the part of the city, at least a dozen local high-performance boat owners also are closely involved in the event’s overall planning. And there are dozens more local volunteers who work the docks, the card stops and the lunch stop at the public docks on Round Lake in the town of Charelevoix, which leads to Pine River and finally Lake Michigan. (The “boat houses” on Round Lake have to be seen to be believed.)
Driving everyone involved to succeed is Camp Quality, the non-profit organization Boyne Thunder has supported, according to its website, to the tune of $220,000 during the past ten years. Camp Quality “provides special experiences and support for children with cancer.”
As for the actual 150-mile run itself, the course begins on Lake Charlevoix out of Boyne City, heads through Round Lake and Pine River and then south on Lake Michigan for card stops at Northport and Elk Rapids. From there it’s back to the Charlevoix Marina on Round Lake for lunch, then back out to Lake Michigan and north for two card stops in Little Traverse Bay. Then it’s back to Lake Charlevoix for the final card stop at Horton Bay.
Debuting at this year’s event will be Low Altitude, the former JBS Racing turbine-powered 50-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran owned by Tom Borisch. As he did last year, ace high-performance boat photographer Jay Nichols will be on hand to capture the event. Joining Nichols in the Florida contingent will be his Fort Myers Offshore co-founder Bob Barnhardt, who also participated in the run last year. Jones of the FPC also might be back again.
Between now and the time the fleet leaves Boyne City, there are sure to be a few more surprises. Heck, Lake Michigan could even be calm, still and serene that day—but I wouldn’t bet on it. The ongoing growth and success of the event, however, seems to be a sure thing.
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.