Early this week I was able to experience something I’ve always wanted to do, join the 100 mph plus club in a boat. The Roar Offshore National Championship powerboat races are coming to Fort Myers Beach October 10th – 12th and I was invited by Nick Amelio to take a ride in his Nor-Tech 4000 Supercat Roadster. Nick’s boat is 40 feet in length and is equipped with two Mercury 1100 horsepower engines. Fast? You bet.
All my boating life I have been mostly restricted to a maximum speed on the water of about 60 mph which, by the way, seems much faster than 60 mph in a car. Scientifically I’m not sure what causes that, but even 40 mph over water seems pretty quick.
Well, let me tell you about 130 mph. The world moves by a lot faster and of course the wind speed over the top of the boat is amazing. I kept thinking that if we just travel south at this rate, we’ll be in Key West in no time with a pina colada in hand.
I grew up in Clearwater, Florida in the 60’s. One of the most fun things we did as a family was go to the offshore hydroplane races there and in Tampa. My Dad was a big fan and of course that rubbed off on me. My favorite racing team at the time were the drivers of the Miss Budweiser. During the 60’s and even in later years, they owned the water. From 1963 until the sponsorship ended in 2004, Miss Budweiser drivers collected 133 wins, the most in the unlimited hydroplane class.
Before my boat ride with Nick, I was introduced to the president of Roar Offshore, Tim Hill and his wife Cyndee, who also happens to be on the board of directors. Tim said that there would be 11 classes of racing boats here in Fort Myers for the championship and that there could be as many as three classes on the course at one time. They are very excited to bring offshore powerboat racing back to Fort Myers Beach and I have to say, I’m excited about it too.
After last year’s epic water quality disaster and the negative economic repercussions it had on Fort Myers Beach businesses well into the fall months, this seems like a rather large shot in arm. Not only that, as a former longtime fishing guide I remember how dead September and October were along the beach. Yes, it will be crowded and traffic on-and-off the island will be a mess, but no more so than Spring Break in March or the ever popular Shrimp Festival.
Now about my boat ride.
Bad Company, the name of Nick’s Nor-Tech, starts up with a deep rumble that gets the attention of everyone in the marina. He slowly pulls away from the dock at the Sanibel Harbour Yacht Club and makes his way toward the Sanibel Bridge. I marvel at the large array of gauges on the dash, and even with my boating experience some of them are new to me. After passing under the bridge Nick adjusts the trim and begins to throttle up. The engines sound more like a small jet aircraft than a boat. We are quickly cruising along at 60 mph, but the sensation is not what I expected. The ride is so smooth and quiet we can still carry on a conversation. The faster we go, the more we leave the sound behind.
After reaching what will be the race course area off of Fort Myers Beach in October, Nick kicks it into second wind. Oh my. The in-dash GPS now says we are right at 130 mph. The ride is exhilarating as we barely touch the water with only props and few feet of the 40 foot boat. Nick slows to make the turn back for home and I realize we are about five miles down beach. It happened lightning fast!
The run back to the Sanibel bridge was just as exciting and only took a matter of minutes, but it’s going to take years to wipe the grin off my face. Thank you Nick, Tim and Cyndee for the ride of a lifetime and for bringing powerboat racing back to Fort Myers Beach.
Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman, retired spin & fly fishing guide and host of REEL Talk Radio on ESPN 99.3 FM from 7-10 a.m. every Saturday morning. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association. Capt. Rob also shares his fishing knowledge in a series of fishing classes at Bass Pro Shops.