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A different kind of thrill ride

Matt DeYoung • Jul 22, 2017 at 7:00 AM

Sixty miles per hour in a car is no big deal. But 60 mph in a boat? That’s an entirely different story.

However, 60 is no big deal for members of the West Michigan Offshore powerboat club. Many of the boats in the club can exceed 100 mph in the proper conditions.

But 60 was plenty fast for my 13-year-old son, Owen, and I as we hitched a ride aboard Derek Powers’ 37-foot Active Thunder, named Fast Forward, for a quick thrill ride Friday afternoon.

Powers is one of the officers of the powerboat club, which is hosting its biggest event of the season this weekend in Grand Haven. He explained that the club was formed as a way to create camaraderie among powerboaters in West Michigan.

“We decided to start a club, get a bunch of people together who like to talk about boats, and take some trips together,” he said.

The club is in its third year. It started out with about 80 members. That number has swelled to more than 300, and half of those will be in Grand Haven this weekend for the club’s signature event, Rock the Coast.

The boats certainly get a lot of looks as they rumble down the channel to and from Lake Michigan. Those riding in the many pontoons and pleasure craft can’t help but turn their heads and offer a glance as powerboats — some measuring up to 50 feet long and boasting spectacular paint jobs — slice through the water.

Once we exited the pier heads, Powers dropped the throttles, and the huge engines on his bullet-shaped boat roared to life. In no time, the speedometer on the GPS device mounted to the dashboard had left the 40s behind. As this was just a leisurely cruise, Powers kept it in the mid-50s as he deftly navigated the small waves on Lake Michigan.

Even when a 40-foot cabin cruiser went by, throwing up huge waves in its wake, Powers’ boat carved through them with hardly a shudder.

Before long, another West Michigan Offshore member boat came up from behind, this one a Nor-Tech catamaran throwing a rooster tail 30 yards behind it. The boat easily passed us on its way to Muskegon.

“That boat will do 140,” Powers had told us earlier, when the boat was docking at Grand Haven’s Municipal Marina.

The marina is the home base for this weekend’s event. Weather permitting, the 60 boats at the marina, plus another 80, will exit Grand Haven’s piers between 9 and 10 a.m. Saturday. The slowest ones will head directly to Holland; the faster boats will first run up to Muskegon before turning south.

Keep in mind, fast is a relative term. In a boat, anything over 50 mph is fast.

Some people don’t like powerboats — their exhausts create a ton of noise, and there’s a stigma of arrogance that goes along with the drivers. Powers said his club is trying to change that.

“We’re trying to create a more positive image,” he said. 

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