Poker Run in the 1000 Islands
Story by Sarah Gregg / Photos by Paul Wright
It was a Double Header in the Islands. Now in our 36th year of producing the world’s largest and oldest standing Poker Run, it just keeps getting better and better each year. Despite the Covid-19 shutdowns over the past two years, the 1000 Islands has continued to welcome Poker Runner’s.
This year we kicked off Round 1 in Kingston, Ontario which took place from August 6th to 7th, 2021. The city requested a limit of only 50 boats at the event, to adhere to Covid-19 protocols. All the boats expected to remain spaced apart, leaving one dock empty in between to comply with social distancing rules.
Kingston is a city full of history. In 1841, it was named the first capital of the United Province of Canada by Governor General, Lloyd Syndenham. Fort Henry served as a Military outpost for the region in the war of 1812. Kingston is also the home of Queen’s University which came into existence in 1842, making it one of the first liberal arts universities in the country.
Today, it is safe to say that Kingston, Ontario hosts one of the largest and longest standing Poker Run in North America with 36 consecutive annual events without a hiccup. Many well-known legends of offshore boating have attended the 1000 Islands several times. Some notable celebrities include:
Fred Kiekhaefer of Mercury Racing, building on the legacy his father started. Bob Latham of Latham Marine and the famous throttle man Richie Powers. Bob Saccenti of Apache Powerboats, and the Legendary Reggie Fountain. Even Craig Barrie of Cigarette and later Skip Braver of Cigarette Racing enjoyed the poker run rush in the 1000 Islands.
The original owner of Baja Boats, Doug Smith and son Courtney attended the 1000 Islands several times. Today, Baja is owned and operated by Iconic Marine in Washington, North Carolina and the name Baja still dominates the waters during the poker runs alongside Fountain power boats in upstate New York and Canada. Gordon Howser, one-time president of Wellcraft Marine, Donzi Marine, Chris-Craft boats along with one of the top marketing guru’s over the years of the offshore boats.
The Fiore family including Paul and the late Michael were always there in full force when they owned Hustler Powerboats. From there Michael introduced the Outerlimits line of boats, with Joe LoGiudice purchasing the Hustler powerboat company. All three attended the events consistently.
Well-known Fred Inman IMCO Marine owner from California put his magic towards the after-market world of products including outdrives and steering components bringing a massive display of product to the 1000 Islands during the 80’s and 90’s.
The legendary Mark McMannis of McMannis Powerboats bringing many winners to the race podium with one of the world’s top engine builders Keith Eickert. Formula Powerboats President Scott Porter and Vic Spellberg never missed an event.
The 1000 Islands is located at the mouth of the mighty St. Lawrence River in Kingston, ON, with the boats nestled at Confederation Basin Marina. The history of the city is clearly present in the marina, with the Shoal Tower (a small defensive fort), which was originally constructed in 1847 and designed to provide military protection to Kingston’s harbor, sitting at the front of the marina.
Kingston has always been an extremely amenable host, for taking it to the limit and providing Poker Runners and their crews with an unsurpassed weekend. The official Hotel overlooking the Basin is the Delta Hotel – formerly the Radisson, which provides first class accommodations and a stunning view of the harbour.
It all kicked off on Friday at registration over at McNaughton Parade Square on the Kingston Army base as the power began to rumble into town. Once again, this year due to Covid-19 the Kingston streets and historic city hall were unable to close for the boat displays, which at one time gave the public a quick glance at the boating artillery and their tow vehicles.
Saturday morning began bright and early as Michael Springer of the Delta hotel was gracious enough to supply the breakfast and the area for the Driver’s meeting and just minutes away from the wet pits. When 10am rolled around, you could feel the excitement in the air as the competitors fired up their engines. A special 44’ Trojan Motor yacht press boat was supplied by Peter Murphy of Lakeside Pools in Kingston which enabled some absolutely unbelievable photography and videography. As the boats proceeded east to Prescott for their first card, the Joker went wild once again while fully decked out in costume, with a special prize of $1,000 won by Stacy Anderson. Then came a blast on some of the calmest water of the day to Brockville for lunch where Moose McGuire’s along with The Keystorm Pub hosted a delicious meal where the participants raved about the fantastic service and wonderful food.
The city of Brockville entertained the spectators by hosting us once again. A magnificent start out of Brockville after lunch was the highlight of the day, as the boat departed for Gananoque, where they would pick up their third card from the docks of the 1000 Islands Boat Museum. Followed by a smooth run back through the islands to the homeport of Kingston where the cards were unveiled outside due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The Turnbull & Ackley show was another smashing performance as they dealt with the cards, unveiling the winners and keeping everyone entertained with their funny antics and banter. The awards ceremony kicked off with presentations for Best Graphics, Most Exotic Engine Compartment and Best Dressed Crew.
Mercury Marine’s marketing department was in full force with Vice President of Marketing Richard Straka and Marketing Coordinator Andres Ruiz as they supplied the winner with the grand prize which was an inflatable boat and motor.
The First Place win went to Frank Bouchard and Meggy Courchraine from Montreal with three 10’s, a Jack and a 3. The prizes consisted of a certificate for a complete transmission rebuild from Innovation’s Marine in Sarasota Florida ($3,000 Value), a 2-Night stay at the fabulous Delta Hotel, a Snap-on Drill Set, an Electric Jack, a Protégé lantern along with a set of outdoor table and chairs, Mercury Marine apparel, a Fire Extinguisher, a certificate for the next year’s 1000 Islands Poker Run, plus Cash.
Second Place went to John Feddema with a card hand of three 9’s, a King and an Ace rewarding him with a certificate for a free entry to the 2022 Poker Run, plus dinner for two at the Blu Martini restaurant in Kingston, a Snap on Drill Set, a power washer from NTP Stag marine division along with an Electric Jack, Wow Inflatable prize, Fire Extinguisher, a throw line kit from NTP-Stag Marine, and cash.
Once again Third Place went to Robert Raposo who was the official winner of the 2020 event. This time around he came out with a card hand of two King’s, two 2’s and an Ace. The third-place prize included a 2022 Gananoque 1000 Islands Poker Run Entry, Dinner for two at Namaste Indian Cuisine in Downtown Kingston, a Snap-On Drill Kit, Protégé Lanterns, a Wow Inflatable, Throwline and a Fire Extinguisher from NTP Stag Marine, Mercury Apparel and Cash.
Finally, Fourth Place went to Joel & Guylaine Begin all the way from Labelle Province – Valleyfield Quebec as his 36’ Doug Wright special drove him to a card hand of Two Queen’s, Two 10’s and a 2.
The Poker Runner’s were most grateful to have a wrench at this year’s event, giving all of them a feel of security with Sponsor Krytiuk Motorsports on the scene. Mark would lend a hand to anyone that was in trouble. Mark was running his 44’ MTI Speed Racer with twin turbo-powered Mercury motors, coupled to a set of #8 outdrives. During the event, it was amazing to see Joel Begin put his magic to the throttles of Canadian Boy, a 36’ Doug Wright special as it sliced through the waves. Running up alongside him were the Leibel’s – Clay and Cole, with Clay winning the Most Exotic Engine award and Cole with the famous Dirty Duck, both running 388 Skaters.
Coming up behind at a rapid pace through some big chop was Winter is Coming – heading eastbound, a 40’ Nor-Tech Cat boat throttled by Mark Weisflock. Mark is part of a veteran family of Poker Runner’s from the early years of the 1000 Islands, which will be featured in a future issue.
Move Over, It’s the Black Widow! Nothing is more dangerous than the Black Widow in the 1000 Islands Region during the month of August. When the widow Bites – she Bites, so when you see her, move over! “I still remember testing this model at the Donzi factory during its first year of production and reporting through the pages of Poker Runs America and Power Boating Canada Magazines.” said Bill Taylor of PRA upon seeing the boat. Today, it’s Jeremy Hanna behind the throttles of the Black Widow from Richmond, ON dancing from wave to wave, and even passing some of the big adrenaline junkies of the water with his fierce 27’ ZR Donzi.
The Scarab’s just keep coming year after year claiming their spot in the islands. The 38’ Miami Vice Boat Scarab was the original poker run boat when this phenomenal sport was created. This year involved the memorable three musketeers – Neil Parson’s, Michael Gurnsey and Jon Lutz in their 33’ Scarab’s running nose to nose during the event while the Black Widow was trying to take a bite of them. Unfortunately, the King of the 1000 Islands, Bill Tomlinson and My Way had a shorter run during this year’s event due to a breakdown, but he promised he’d be back for the Gananoque event.
Former Winner of the 1000 Islands Poker Run back in the 90’s, legend Chris Ridabock was running his 38’ PowerQuest alongside another Legend Barry Humphrey who ran some of the fastest boats on the water in the early years. This included the introduction of the 900 SC motors in Canada, attached to his 42’ Fountain but today his offshore Outerlimits is stuck in Florida due to Covid. So, he decided to back off the speed for comfort this year with his muscle Pontoon boat built and manufactured by BRP – a Manitou with 350 twin outboards.
Once again, making an appearance was Legend John Landry and his grandson Kyle on his 36’ Cigarette. Ironically, John doesn’t smoke to go along with the Cigarette, but I can assure you he skates as fast as most Frenchmen with a twist of English alongside your boat. His grandson Kyle was one of our youngest inductees into the Poker Run’s Hall of Fame a few years back.
To finish off an eventful weekend, the Poker Runner’s gathered at the Four Points where dinner was staged to accommodate the entire fleet and door prizes were handed out including a two night stay at the Holiday Inn, a certificate for drinks at the Blu Martini and another Power Washer from NTP Stag Marine Distributors. Once again, the Kingston 1000 Islands Poker Run was another smashing success!
Kingston Accommodation Partners
G3 Offshore Race Team
Custom Marine / Livorsi
NTP Stag Canada
BluMartini Bar & Grill
Pride Marine Group
Delta Waterfront Hotel
K Rock 105.7
City of Brockville
Moose McGuire Pub & Grill
The Keystone Pub