BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Seen from Cocoa Village, the approaching President Donald Trump boat parade looked like a countless mass of vessels and white water across the Indian River, stretching from one end of the distant Beachline Expressway bridge to the other, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
"It's an armada right there. Reminds me of D-Day, when thousands of boats were going across the English Channel toward France," said spectator Bob Socks, who served on the Titusville City Council during the 1990s.
Socks and perhaps 200 spectators watched the massive Trump boat parade pass from the Lee Wenner Park shoreline. Waving U.S. and Trump flags, shooting photos and video, they occasionally chanted, “Four more years!” and “USA!”
Starting at 11 a.m. from the power lines north of State Road 528, the colorful Trump flotilla motored southward down the Indian River to Dragon Point. That's where most boaters planned to turn around the southernmost tip of Merritt Island and head back north up the Banana River to the Barge Canal. Recommended speed: 8 knots.
Jupiter resident Carlos Gavidia, a key organizer of Saturday’s boat parade, hoped that more than 1,000 watercraft would participate. Two helicopters hovering above will provide an accurate count later, he said.
Gavidia organized the original "Trumptilla" boat parade in early May, drawing 1,538 watercraft along the Intracoastal Waterway from Jupiter to Mar-a-Lago.
"The media's against him. Everybody's against him. He can't do rallies. So for the last couple months, I've really replaced those rallies by bringing 15,000 to 20,000 people," Gavidia said of the president.
"If you've got 2,000 boats with 10 people apiece on the boat, that's 20,000 people. Plus, you've got all the shoreline people waving flags," he said.
“So I can gather 30,000 people — and it doesn’t cost the administration anything. And you’re still getting the great message across,” he said.
Gavidia became inspired after a Trump flag flying from his 42-foot Invincible center-console boat drew criticism from his Jupiter property owners association, which prohibits political flags.
In response, he contacted U.S. Coast Guard officials and renamed his boat Trump — and then he paid $7,000 to wrap the hull with graphics featuring a bald eagle, the Stars and Stripes and "Trump" in large white lettering.
President Trump has tweeted videos featuring Gavidia’s boat. “Thank you very much to our beautiful ‘boaters.’ I will never let you down!” Trump tweeted on May 3.
The idea has caught on: Last weekend, boat parades took place nationwide celebrating Trump's 74th birthday and Flag Day.
"I went up to Charleston, South Carolina, and led about 1,100, 1,200 boats there. Met a lot of nice people. Now, I've got a couple going in New York. We did San Diego. So it's really caught on like wildfire," Gavidia said.
"It's like a movement," he said.
Merritt Island resident Hank Harley piloted his 21-foot NauticStar center-console vessel from KARS Park into the parade, and he picked up additional passengers at the Lee Wenner Park boat ramps. His boat displayed two blue Trump flags and a U.S. flag.
"It's a washing machine out there. It was fun," Harley said, referring to the flotilla's churning wake.
"I've never been in anything like it before, as far as having that many boats together," he said.
One of his four passengers was Cocoa resident Tyler Isaacs.
“It’s cool to see all the families out here, too. It’s more than just political, I think, to be able to experience this together,” Isaacs said.
On the shoreline, Palm Bay retired firefighter Ben Kiszkiel and his wife, Adele, arrived at POW/MIA Park near Palm Shores at 11:15 a.m. to watch the parade, sitting in the sun with blue folding chairs and a cooler. The vanguard started motoring past after 12:30 p.m.
"I'm 100% supporting Trump for reelection. I like his policies. Right now, the country seems to be going nuts. I'm hoping in four more years, people will realize we're all one America," Kiszkiel said.
Brevard County Property Appraiser Dana Blickley and her husband, Brian, rode matching Sea-Doo personal watercraft during the opening portion of the parade. Each Sea-Doo bore a blue Trump flag and a U.S. flag.
The Blickleys put in about 8:15 a.m. at Sand Point Park in Titusville, then docked at Grills Riverside Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar near the Pineda Causeway.
"It's overwhelming — just the number of people out here and the number of flags supporting the president," Dana Blickley said, standing on the Grills dock.
"Just the overwhelming patriotic spirit is intoxicating. It's fantastic," she said.
“Folks are being very cordial. It’s quite an event to have this many vessels on the water, and folks are being very polite. It’s multi-generational. You’re seeing folks in their young teens all the way out to their elder years out here today,” she said.
Florida Today contributed to this article.