Center Consoles Make Boating Great Again at the Rockin’ The Harbor Poker Run

Story and Photos by DinaRella / Aerials courtesy of Ninety7 Digital and Randy Nuzzo.

What do high-performance powerboat companies and Madonna have in common? Triumphant reinvention. Whereas the Material Girl goes on a reinvention rampage every few years to stay in the spotlight, the South Florida high-performance boat builders (plus let's not forget that biggie out in Missouri) got it right the first time with their epic and ongoing center console explosion. looks at the revolution that continues to shape the current state of aquatic affairs and the basis behind... Center Consoles Making Boating Great Again!

For as long as I can recollect, powerboating had ALWAYS been great, from Aronow's ingenious Magnums and Donzis and the Brits quad-engine powered Cougar Marine catamarans, to whistling Lycoming T55 turbines spooling up under the hatches. Fast forward another decade to the latest advancements in modern day mechanical engineering where builders continued to up the ante with the unthinkable. Who would have imagined dual calibration 1350/1550 hp sterndrives, integrated C-Zone capabilities that start your engines while you're down the dock, or how about motorized JL audio speakers rising and popping out of the bow like magic?

Then one day in 2008, a hex of black magic struck and all the marveling in muscleboat innovation came to a halt. The world suffered its biggest global financial crisis since the Great Depression. Lifestyle changes were inevitable. Leisure industries of all sorts nose-dived, and the purchasing power of deep-pocketed consumers headed south too. Businesses scrambled to remain afloat, a bunch bailed and others simply failed.

The companies that did not collapse sought out to reinvent their brands, and hocus pocus -- a new market was born. Like a burst of white magic (the good kind), high-performance builders stole the show premiering their lines of luxury center consoles. The turn-key commandos made big waves and even bigger strides lighting up the slippery stage within the offshore community. Suddenly everybody wanted a center console. Everybody had to have one.

These days it's hardly a secret that luxury center consoles are the hugest, hottest and hippest  trend in the go-fast sector. What's more impressive? They are starting to outnumber the high-performance hulls on the fun runs. The inaugural Rockin' The Harbor Poker Run is a prime example. Color-matched Mercury Racing Verado-dressed transoms accounted for roughly half, if not more, of the 60-plus registered teams during the debut event produced by David Landsman, Jimmy Jernigan of the Chesapeake Bay Powerboat Association, and Victor DiMarco of  the Thunder in the City Poker Run.

Selling out in a matter of days, the Rockin' The Harbor Poker Run set up shop between the Harbor East Marina and the exclusive Four Seasons Hotel in the picturesque  Baltimore Inner Harbor. During the deep sea showdown, the powerboat parade roared past historical Fort McHenry, the "Star-Spangled" Francis Scott Key memorial buoy and barrages of barges and battleships, before captains pulled back on the throttles on approach into Annapolis for card number two.

The Jetty Dock Bar and Tiki Lees, were the two chosen Chesapeake Bay hot-spots hosting the flotilla of fastboats. At the first stop, the crowd of happy campers indulged in a gastronomic lunch-time buffet while surrounded by a haven of hardware from Statement, Cigarette, Nor-Tech, Mystic and a marque of others. It was then off to Tiki Lees for dessert.

Not your ordinary dessert, the hard-working crew sweetened the deal with a special Saturday menu featuring over 30 hotties in heels waltzing down the runway. Later that night, Roy's of Baltimore welcomed over 300 guests to the evening dinner and awards ceremony that drew to a close with the winning team walking away with a $3,500 prize purse.

Praised by all, the Rockin' the Harbor Poker Run went off without a hitch and the sophomore edition has already been slated for the same weekend next June, and boat capacity is expected to nearly double for the 2020 extravaganza.

And while the devoted center console manufacturers that stand behind their watercrafts and come out  with crews in complete support at these events can't take all the credit for the recent successes; they are however an absolutely quintessential component. Fake news it is not... Center Consoles Are Making Boating Great Again.

The Rockin' The Harbor Poker Run serves as pure evidence of this fact. A few months prior when details about the event first emerged, prominent luxury center console producers Deep Impact Custom Boats, Mystic Powerboats, Midnight Express, Concept Boats and HCB Yachts jumped on board as sponsors of the Maryland offshore outing.

As a leading sponsor, the Deep Impact dock was aglow with a superb showing. Company owner, Mark Fischer and his dedicated product manager Ron McLean, both made the trip up from Miami and were excited to show off the latest version of the wildly popular 369 Sport. After admiring the triple Verado 350-hp powered beast beating up Baltimore waters all day Saturday, I was excited to be invited on board to take a peak on Sunday.

Taking cues from its bigger sibling, the 399, one's eyes are instantly lured to the patented aerodynamic hardtop with panoramic roof. First introduced on the 2017 models, owners can select a smaller version which is optimal for anglers, or the standard hardtop, admired for the fact it provides extra coverage. Regardless of the size, each incorporates the flush mounted dark tint acrylic panels which work to create a feeling of open air while at the same time, protecting the operator and guests from the elements.

While standing in the spacious cockpit, another noticeable new feature are the larger 17-inch monitors on the dash. Behind the bolsters, buyers can elect to have a slide out cooler or reverse seat with the cooler placed below. And when in need of sheltering from the outdoors, the lower cabin of the boat offers over 6-feet of headroom, a full-sized forward berth, a sink and a head.

When pushed hard bolting over the crests at full-bore, the 369 Sport hits the 76 mph mark and for more tamed-down moderate cruising, expect speeds between 50 - 55 mph and 1.2 miles to the gallon. Priced at $385,000, the 36-footer fits ten mates without issue.

Apart from the complete gamut of gorgeous nautical joyrides in town for the run, Mark and his wife Eileen brought one more bigger beauty to Baltimore -- the couple's new Ocean Alexander Where's Eileen. Delivered not so long ago from the Taiwanese shipyard to their U.S. parents, the 112-foot megayacht was selected to be the first card stop as the convoy headed out on Saturday.

If you're a fan of the prestigious Ocean Alexander trademark, please be sure to read our website feature on the Divergence 45. It's the first outboard-powered, super center console from the international yacht builders... and further confirmation of high-end center consoles ascendancy and dominance.

With all the center console camaraderie on and off the water, who thinks needs to design a CCMBGA line of shirts just like the website's main man River Dave designed for his sibling-site Let him know your thoughts...  and what colors you like to wear!

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