For the last decade or more, the organization known as Ft. Myers Offshore has created a number of events that have brought together Southwest Florida boating enthusiasts such as themselves. They share a love of the high-powered craft that you might see during some of the sanctioned Offshore Boat Races found throughout Florida and elsewhere. In the early days, the group consisted of about a dozen members between Marco Island and Ft. Myers who shared that common passion.
In 2007, a tragic event occurred that took the lives of four family members off the coast of Marco Island. Although the family had no connection with the Offshore group, the accident was cause for them to come together for a higher purpose.
The young lady who was the surviving member of that family was the first recipient of the generosity of the organization. They held a number of events which raised $34,000 for a trust fund to help with her desire to attend college, a goal which was completed a few years ago.
Today, the Ft. Myers Offshore Club boasts over 170 members and is incorporated as a Not–for–Profit 501(c)(3) which raises money each year to help with scholarships for local Southwest Florida students seeking help with higher education expenses. In addition, they also promote safe boating skills for those who enjoy running out on the Gulf of Mexico.
Last year, they provided four FGCU scholarships for college–bound students, and another two scholarships for students to attend the Florida State Fire Academy for certification as firefighter/EMT’s, who will eventually go on to serve as First Responders.
Over the New Year’s weekend, 82 boats began the journey from Ft. Myers Beach down to Marco Island for their annual Poker Run. They pulled in to the Esplanade in Marco Island where they gathered to share stories, eat lunch at CJ’s on the Bay and speak to many of the local residents and visitors who gather each year to greet them. The receipts from that event will go to help with those scholarships.
John Kray, dealer for Nor-Tech Boats from Sportboats Marine on Ft. Myers Beach, made the special run that day on a 39’ Nor-Tech powered by Quad 450 hp Mercury engines. This year Nor-Tech is celebrating its 30th Anniversary building sport boats, and Kray, a native of East Hampton, MA, was proud to have many of his products make the run to Marco that day.
Jeff and Gail from LaPorte, IN, gave their 39’ Nor-Tech with triple 400 hp outboards a run down from their home in Cape Coral, as they cruised the trip at between 75-80 mph out on the gulf. “It took us about 45 minutes to make the run down,” said a happy and warm Indiana boy.
Tim Hill, President of the Ft. Myers Offshore, was beaming as he jumped off his 32’ Sunsation Center Console. His boat was powered with twin 350 hp Mercury Verado engines. “We just love making this run down here. The folks are so accommodating,” said Hill, a Chicago native who made the move to full time 15 years ago. “We broke the old record of 63 boats today when we registered 82 for this run,” said Hill.
As the boats began to enter Smokehouse Bay, Curt Coon, proprietor of CJ’s on the Bay, kept a sharp eye out to make sure all of the boaters would be able to find safe dockage for their crafts prior to making their way up to have lunch. “This year we had to adapt from a buffet style offering and instead, offered menu ordering. I think it appears to be working out well,” said Coon.
The next event which will come into the Naples area will be on Saturday, January 23, as they pull into Naples Bay at the Hyatt House for another run into Collier County. More information can be found at www.ftmyersoffshore.com.