Jacksonville On Tap

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A high-speed or idle, the Jacksonville River Rally remains as casual event at the start of the boating season. Photo by Yvonne Aleman.

A high-speed or idle, the Jacksonville River Rally remains a casual event at the start of the boating season. (Photo by Yvonne Aleman.)

Let’s face it: High-energy, adrenaline-pumping poker runs won’t be in short supply this summer. In fact, if you wanted to join one every weekend—and had none of those pesky details such as a day job or kids and such to attend to during the week—you could hit the road right now with your boat in tow and find a great poker run every weekend from now until the end of August. In fact, you’d even have to make (gulp) choices as between now and Labor Day Weekend there are at least two worthwhile events on most weekends in various parts of the country.

But what if you want something really laid back this season? What if you’re after something a little more low-key than the average pulse-pounding blast between card stops?

By most accounts—and I can’t speak from personal experience because I haven’t done it—next weekend’s Jackson River Rally Fun Run is as mellow and laid back as they come. And this year’s event on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Fla., will be particularly chill as the event, which in years past has included a poker run with most of the proceeds going to Camp Amigo (an annual summer camp for children healing from the physical and emotional scars of severe burn injuries), really is a fun run. No cards will be played, no poker hands displayed at the end of the day.

Of course, all the good stuff will still be in place—Bill Pyburn, Sr., the chief organizer for the event in years past (despite his best intentions to lay low this year he stepped up again to help) and his good friend Greg Harris wouldn’t have it any other way. The Friday Raft-Up and Boater Skip Day, as well as a downriver run to a lunch stop on Saturday, will still happen. And through a special lodging deal, the participants will still help raise money for the Jacksonville run’s longtime worthy charity for children.

Plus, if you just want to get a little air under your hull—so to speak—the St. Johns River is wide open. Of course, that means wide-open throttle for a lot of the folks who attend every year. But that doesn’t mean you have to rush through your day. As Harris pointed out, Saturday’s pace is entirely up to each participating boat captain and his crew.

“We are running 80 miles each way down to Renegades in Crescent City,” he said. “That’s 22 miles each way farther than run ever went before.”

“The river gets really scenic and it’s close to the springs that feed it,” he added.

Of course, Yvonne Aleman, Harris’ photography-skilled as well as photogenic girlfriend, will be shooting the boat-to-boat action. According to Harris, FreezeFrame photographer Jeff Gerardi will be up in the air to capture the boats running courtesy of well-known performance-boat community member John Woodruff and his Windship Jet Ranger helicopter. Not bad exposure for a casual fun run.

“It’s the kind of laid-back weekend that boating is supposed to be,” said Harris. “Come do one part it, or all of it. Run with us or just come meet us. By land, air or water, come to have fun.”

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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.

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