Jersey Outlaws Take to Barnegat Bay
The racing club organized a family-friendly boating event July 3 along Barnegat Bay in Barnegat Township.
As the clouds formed above and spectators unfurled the umbrellas, it appeared as though the event would be a washout.
But as the participants hit the water, the skies miraculously cleared up, and the crowd prepared for a day of food, fun and racing as the Jersey Outlaws boating club unveiled its second racing event of the summer season July 3, this one on the Barnegat Bay.
“The Jersey Outlaws is about you guys,” the man with the microphone told participants during a pre-race gathering in a makeshift clubhouse. “We’re here for the racers.”
Garvey and speedboat races on Fourth of July weekend are a longstanding Barnegat tradition, but a new club was behind the event this year. The Barnegat Outlaws was created last year by some of the original members of the East Coast Boat Racing Club of New Jersey, which has run the races in the past. The ECRBC planned its own garvey event in Parkertown for Sunday, but had to cancel because of rain; they'll race next on July 17 in Waretown.
Racing garveys – flat-bottomed boats first designed for fishing in the shallow waters of Barnegat Bay – is a big thrill, said Kathleen Halbing, who helped organize the event along with her husband Glen.
"Take a VW bug and go 100 miles per hour down the Parkway," she said. "It's the same kind of craziness."
Sunday's event showcased garveys, Jersey speed skiffs and ski boats operated by some experienced and enthusiastic boat racers in the region.
There were team names like “Lunasea” and “Mr. Breeze,” “Snoopy” and “Vengeance.”
Kids sat perched atop their parents’ shoulders, craning their necks to see the action.
Some attendees were there for the hot dogs and water ice. Others shucked out a few bucks for T-shirts, the proceeds from which would go toward autism awareness.
For Brittany Petrone of West Creek, N.J., the event was a chance to showcase her business, “Face Painting by Brittany.”
“When it’s not raining out it’s pretty nice,” Petrone said of the event, which she had attended in the past as a spectator.
This was her first time attending as an event participant. She set up shop underneath a tarp, offering to paint the faces of youngsters who passed through.
Joe and Tracy Wahler traveled here from Vorhees, N.J. Joe’s parents, from Bucks County, Pa., have a summer home along the bay, and told the couple about the event.
The Wahlers showed up with their 3-year-old daughter, Ava, who appeared to be having a good time – until the boats' revving engines made her cover her ears. She still managed a smile.
“We’ve never seen it before,” Tracy Wahler said of the race event. “This is new for us but not my in-laws."
Further down the dock was Julie Halbing, sister-in-law to Jersey Outlaws member Glen Halbing.
“It’s a lot of family help,” Julie Halbing said of the various relatives in attendance, some of who dealt with the hot dogs, others with the racers themselves.
“They had a pretty good turnout,” she said, looking around at the crowd that had gathered by race time.
Some in attendance wore shirts in honor of Nicholas Holmes, a 25-year-old Lacey Township resident, and Coast Guard member, who lost his life late last month on very bay the boaters were racing on Sunday. His body was found June 28 after a boating accident.
A brief tribute ceremony was held in Holmes’ name during the event.
In addition to the other goings-on at the event, a handful of volunteers were accepting donations for U.S. servicemen and women overseas, taking everything from non-perishable foods to aspirin and bandages.
As the sun finally began to come out, the racers lined up in the bay and prepared to compete for a chance to win trophies, prizes, and, of course, prestige.
Then the voice from the loudspeaker broke the relative silence.
“We’re going to have some fun here,” it said. “We’re going to make some noise on the Barnegat Bay.”
To learn more about the Jersey Outlaws, visit the group's website.