The TrumpStock flotilla pulled into Montauk’s Fort Pond Bay Friday afternoon, bringing boats of all sizes flying a sea of colors, from the American flag to pennants with multiple variants on “Trump 2020.”
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is a senior advisor to Trump’s Republican 2020 re-election campaign, were on one of the lead boats, according to several posts on social media. The couple, who have a house in Bridgehampton, helped organized the boat parade in support of President Trump’s visit to the South Fork this weekend to raise money for his reelection campaign.
Some estimated several hundred boats participated, while officials said no more than 50 to 60 took part. While it was expected to draw thousands of boats, the weather may have put a damper on the number. The organizers, Boaters for Trump, decided to go forward with the boat parade despite rainy weather and the chance of thunderstorms. By early afternoon, the rain had dissipated, though it was a cloudy and cool summer day.
The boat parade started off small in Noyac Bay, where about 20 boats gathered at 11 a.m. A half-hour or so later, when one of the lead boats, Team Deplorable, arrived, the group left for Orient, passing through the Shelter Island Sound.
There were few spectators on the shore in Greenport. Elizabeth, a teacher from up island who declined to give her last name, was there to show her support for the president. She questioned Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s mental competence. “This election is scary and sickening because I know senility and if he gets in, they will say he is incompetent, and the vice president will be president. You have Horizontal Harris who is awful,” she said, apparently referring to Kamala Harris, the Senator from California who is reportedly on Biden’s short list of potential running mates.
The parade picked up more in its fleet by Orient Point and then continued south, stopping first at the Montauk Point Lighthouse and then Fort Pond Bay, where the lead boats anchored off the end of Navy Road Beach. At the peak, there appeared to be about 35 to 40 boats gathered tightly together, though officials said it could have been as many as 60.
A group of about 60 Trump supporters, as well as about two dozen counter-demonstrators, were there to greet the flotilla from shore.
Those who came out to protest the support for Trump chanted “Black Live Matter” and “Biden 2020.” A group, which calls them Love at the East End Montauk, collected contributions Friday morning to finance an aerial banner that read, “Biden 2020,” which was flown over Montauk Friday afternoon. They also shouted, “Lock him up,” a similar slogan Trump had elicited from his followers during the 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s supporters on the beach held up numerous flags. One Montauk couple, Bozena and Ken Walles, were standing outside their newly-restored red 1978 Jeep, which gleamed in the sun. The vanity plate on the vehicle read “MAGA4US.”
The wagon at the rear of the Jeep had two large Trump flags mounted on it. “We don’t have a boat,” Ken Walles said. “We came here to show our support for the president, to show our support for the boaters.” Looking out over the water, he predicted, “You’re going to see Chuckie pull in with a lot of flair.”
Within a few minutes, seemingly on cue, there was a blast of a vessel’s horn. Captain Chuckie Morici pulled into the group with his dragger, Act I, heavily festooned with a mix of Trump and American flags.
Several groups of boats lashed themselves together. Music was playing. “The head boats were anchored and rafted together,” said Tyler Quaresimo, a charter fisherman who joined the Trump party in Montauk in his 42-foot boat, The Simple Life.
He spent his afternoon off from work in the bay to support Trump, “He’s the only one I’ve seen helping the little guy. That’s me right now.”
Out on the water there was a good vibe, with lots of “friendly hellos” as mariners passed one another, Quaresimo said. “An overall good time,” interrupted only by the occasional voice on Channel 16 on the VHF radio telling the Trump supporters they were idiots, he recalled. Coast Guard officials, which were standing watch, reminded everyone the channel was for emergency communications only, he said.
Meantime, one man on a kayak, Thomas Byrne, a retired lieutenant with the New York Fire Department, paddled in and out between the vessels, displaying a sign that read on one side, “Biden 2020,” and on the other, “Make America Sane Again.”
The gulf between red and blue America was on full display on the beach Friday afternoon. The counter-demonstrators grouped together east of the Trump supporters. While there were no physical confrontations between the two groups, there were frequent verbal brickbats tossed back and forth, some occasionally profane.
One of those Trump supporters, Frank Fisher, had driven with friends and family from their homes in Westhampton “to support the president.”
He had a prolonged, fairly passionate discussion with a Biden supporter. When it was over, he explained, “I’m trying to understand why they are so angry. You can tell the people here, what side they are on because the opposite side, they have such a frown. Why are they so angry? We are not racist. I’m just trying to find out.”
A small power boat skimmed the shore, its sole occupant repeatedly shouting at the counter-demonstrators, “Go home! Go Home!”
In fact, most of the counter-demonstrators were from Montauk. One of those, a woman who asked that her name not be used, was standing ankle-deep in the bay, waving a small American flag. She said she had Trump supporters in her family. “I try to understand them. There is something wrong, something off. The bitterness they have about things, I don’t know why. Can you figure out why they are so bitter?”
The Montauk woman and Fisher were each asking pretty much the same question about the other, standing perhaps 30 yards from each other on Navy Road Beach, so close, and yet, so far away.
With reporting by Rory Vecsey and Taylor K. Vecsey