Bahamas Poker Run

Bahamas Poker Run

An image of boats in the sand at The Annual Bahamas Poker Run
Boats line the sand in the Annual Bahamas Poker Run.

The Annual Bahamas Poker run is changing the face of recreational boating in the Bahamas.

Recreational boating in The Bahamas is not exclusive to international boaters, but it is certainly sustained by tourists. In 2016, over 80,000 people visited The Bahamas on yachts or private boats to bask in the beauty and uniqueness of the archipelago. That’s almost a third of The Bahamas’ entire adult population.

Bahamians rarely see themselves in the ubiquitous marketing images of yachts, sailboats, and speedboats loving up the islands, and few young Bahamians dream of owning their own boat. The cost seems far too out of reach, and the world of boating seems like a place they don’t belong.

While Bahamians are involved in commercial fishing, vessel management, and boat chartering, there is a comparatively small population of recreational boaters.

Changing the Game

Recreational boating events like the annual Bahamas Poker Run challenge this representation. In just two years, the event has arguably become the biggest domestic boating event in The Bahamas according to participants and marina operators who host stops along the way.

Viral images of the poker run show a local boating community that actually exists; it’s much larger and more diverse than one might assume, and it’s active. The event demonstrates that Bahamian boaters are eager to explore their islands and play in their own aquatic backyard, and it supports the idea that a strong domestic boating industry is a good thing for the travel trade on the whole.

“When we came up with the idea, we were feeling like there was nothing to do recreationally with boats other than beaching on Rose Island: ninety percent of my boating experience is jumping on a boat and going to Rose Island,” says Shane Freeman, one of the founders of the Bahamas Poker Run. “It is certainly not something I take for granted. I mean Rose Island has amazing beaches, it is a lot of fun and only twenty minutes away from Nassau, but we have an entire archipelago available to us.”