Standing in front of the captains meeting, President Roger Zuidema of the West Michigan Offshore powerboat group was weighing a unique and critical decision as 40 captains waited on the poker run news. The light rain overnight had subsided and boats were in the water. The unusual cool and wet spring/early summer weather conditions have made drivers run eager, waiting on the instructions for the 62-mile poker run from Muskegon to White Lake and Grand Haven.
On Friday, June 14, and throughout the night waves had peaked at 6 to 8 feet, but now diminishing with small craft advisory ending at 11 am Saturday morning.
“The board met and we thought, this weekend is for the boaters, why not hear what they think and let them decide.” said Zuidema.
“We updated drivers on the forecast and conditions and then had a show of hands who would consider running the whole route or who would rather use the 6 miles of Muskegon Lake for the run. Our number one consideration is boater safety, and they know the capabilities of their boats.”
With a show of hands, half choose to run the whole route and the other half voted to stay on Muskegon Lake among chuckles of laughter for the tie. “Let’s run the run as planned,” decided Zuidema. “But feel comfortable to make your own decisions on when and where to stay on Muskegon Lake or to turn back and check in at the 3 Muskegon Lake checkpoints.”
The MPW captains meeting was held at a special place, aboard the USS LST 393, one of 2 transport ships remaining that saw duty in Normandy for D-day. From June 1943 in the Solomons to August 1945, the LST was a key element in WWII. They participated in Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Southern France, the liberation of the Philippines, and the capture of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. A sense of honor and respect was felt as high-performance powerboat crews admired the memorabilia displayed on the ship.
With the decision made, the captains gathered the fleet on Muskegon Lake outside the Shoreline Inn, Muskegon’s on the water 12 story hotel. The warm up run across Muskegon Lake was impressive with rooster tails flying high. The boats then flew by the sightseeing ship the Aquastar playing host to the media crew and raising funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“It was great to see all the people lined up, watching the boats as we paraded the 1⁄2 mile channel out to Lake Michigan,” said Roger. The parade of power is a Muskegon Powerboat Weekend highlight. “I enjoy passing the USS Silversides, the World War II Submarine.” The Silversides is credited with sinking 23 ships, the third-most of any allied World War II submarine, Silversides has the most prolific combat record of any still-extant American submarine.”
Once past the channel entrance, drivers headed to White Lake, a 15 mile trip north, for the first checkpoint at White Lake Yacht Club 31 boats made it to the checkpoint. “The swells didn’t have that normal Michigan chop,” said Jamie Kosch owner of a bright red 39 Cigarette Top Gun. “We held a good rhythm and a speed of 70 mph.”
The 2- to 5-foot swells, made for a fun trip south toward Grand Haven and the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium for the 2nd checkpoint. Half the crews made it to Grand Haven. The other half choose to seek some great food at Dockers Fish House back in Muskegon and then completing the poker run with checkpoints at the LST393, the USS Silversides Submarine and Great Lakes Marina.
“We had so much fun on the big lake, commented Justin Bultsma new owner of an Outerlimits Stiletto, one of the boats taking advantage of the whole run. “The boat handled extremely well in the waves and was a great test of the boats abilities.”
On Friday night over 7,000 people packed Hackley Park for the Taste of Muskegon, which featured the Powerboat Street Party with great food, music and beverages. “I love being a part of the street party, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, said Jeff Sypke owner of a Cigarette Dominator. “We love the boating lifestyle in West Michigan and take every chance we can to create great memories.”
The night finished with a great chicken dinner at Safe Harbor Great Lakes Marina as staff cleared an awesome boat hanger for the party. Music played in the relaxed atmosphere and awards were handed out. Don Clough took home the best Poker Run hand plaque along with WMO resort towels.–Story by Roger Zuidema, WMO President