I hate crowds. No, let me rephrase: I hate lines, and crowds create lines. So my idea of hell is the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Post Office and Home Depot on any given Saturday around 1 p.m. I don't mind paying $12 for a decent beer at a baseball game. (OK, I do mind) I just hate standing in line for it.
It's not about having patience, a quality of which I can be in short supply. It's about being herded and-even worse-feeling like I'm part of the herd. Like you, I want to go where I want, when I want. Like you, I crave independence. That's why we got into powerboating, right?
So then why are poker runs, dealer rendezvous and manufacturer regattas so much fun? Why do I still grin and shake my head when I think about the Miami Boat Show Poker Run to Islamorada I was on last weekend or the "Endless Summer" Formula Boats Rendezvous I covered for Powerboat magazine in late-summer 2008?
The events couldn't have been more different. Hosted by the Florida Powerboat Club, the Miami Boat Show Poker Run, was for the go-fast crowd-you know, guys with names like Bobby and Chucky and Joey and Frankie and (now) Matty running from card stop to card in exotic powerboats, some of which can top 180 mph. My ride, courtesy of Bobby Christie, owner of Typhoon Service Center, was in Speed Racer, a 44 MTI catamaran that has to be seen to be believed. (To see and believe it, click on the top photo on the right side of this page.)
To some degree, the Miami Boat Show poker run was a "boats and babes" weekend, and I have no problem with that in measured doses. While the run wouldn't earn an "R" rating it definitely warranted a PG-13 based simply on the average depth of cleavage and the total acreage of exposed flesh each night in the Tiki Bar.
As G-rated as they come, the "Endless Summer" Rendezvous last August was hosted by Dry Harbour Marine, a Formula boats dealer in Charlevoix, Mich. The event had everything from an excellent bluegrass band performing spiritual standards such as "Will the Circle be Unbroken?" on Friday night to a picnic lunch on Saturday. Lunch was followed by 20-plus boats in a side-by-side "raft-off," complete with a dozen or so kids jumping off their stern swim platforms, in Lake Charlevoix's Oyster Cove.
Both events were delightful, and here's why: Groups of boat owners with a shared passion got together to celebrate that passion. It's that simple. Running the boats was almost incidental to socializing. Call it group dynamics or the power of shared experience. By any name, it's potent stuff.
I'm not suggesting you never head out in your boat again without being part of a fleet. But for a fine day-or even a weekend-of boating, a group event is at least worth a try.
Lord knows if I can handle it, so can you.
Just try to avoid the lines.