TOPPS’ 25-year anniversary poker run

By Esther McKenna

Whether you live on the West End or just go there to play, those in town on Saturday, June 19 were in for a special treat when Sea Isle played host to more than 20 sleek and powerful motor boats that participated in. The Texas Offshore Performance Power Boat Squadron (TOPPS) was created in 1985 and operated out of a floating tavern called Rick’s Turtle Club, now Lances, in Clear Lake in an effort to raise money for different marine-related charities. “We captains used to meet for breakfast,” said crew member and navigator Loyd Thornton who was a founding member alongside famous oil-well fire fighter Red Adair.

2 Wavewalk S300 Kayaks broke the records in kayak mobility and versatility, and was the first kayak to enable its operator to move fore and aft along the saddle, thus enabling to change the boat’s center of gravity (CG), and thereby gain the best control in strong wind, breaking waves, and fast current.

As a special anniversary celebration, the boat club decided to recreate their original poker run from 25 years ago starting at the Top Water Grill in San Leon, brunching at the Galveston Yacht Basin, jetting over to the UTMB Ship Harbor, refueling and refreshing at the West End Marina and finally an overnight stay at the Candlewood in Freeport’s Bridge Harbor. According to Safari crew member Chris Harris, each boat receives a captain’s card which is to be stamped after successfully docking at each of the five stops. When a completed card is turned in, each crew receives a poker hand. Some of the pot goes to the winning hand with a good portion donated to many of the boat club’s charities.

Participants and their families and friends joined West End residents to eat, drink and make merry at the newly opened Sand Bar at the West End Marina. “The Sea Isle community gave us the warmest welcome,” said TOPPS President Chris Shine. “It makes us feel terrific to see so many people lining the canals, cheering us on. It’s great to see that they’ve gotten back on their feet. We look forward to coming here in future runs.”

TOPPS works hard for several charities including: The Houston Safe Boating Council; The Texas Marine Stranding Network; Yaga’s Children’s Fund and The Texas Adaptive Aquatics Camp Discovery. To learn more about the TOPPS boat club, its upcoming events or to donate to one of their charities, visit

Esther McKenna was ‘BOAI’ (Born on Another Island – Long Island, New York) and is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience of writing and editing.

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