JUPITER — Out on his boat Sunday, Carlos Gavidia was overwhelmed with emotion.
He was surrounded by hundreds of vessels in a massive event that he had organized on social media, but Gavidia’s thoughts weren’t centered on himself. They were on a man roughly 850 miles away: President Donald Trump.
“It was a lot of pride and happiness for the president,” the 53-year-old Jupiter man said.
Gavidia, who came to the U.S. from Peru as a boy before gaining citizenship in the 1990s, loves the president. It’s clear from the event he led, from the interviews he’s since given on Fox News and from his boat: a 42-foot Invincible vessel wrapped in U.S. regalia and appropriately named Trump.
It was the boat that inspired the rally — the so-called Trump Boat Parade or “Trumptilla” between Jupiter and Mar-a-Lago that attracted hundreds of vessels Sunday and garnered national media attention.
In an interview with The Palm Beach Post on Monday, Gavidia said the idea for the parade started when he recently took the vessel out for a spin. When he did, he said his neighbors in Admiral’s Cove noticed a Trump flag and voiced their displeasure.
Showing off political flags in that fashion violates POA rules, said Gavidia, who bought his home there in 2012. Admiral’s Cove POA General Manager Peter Moore did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Gavidia obliged to his neighbors’ requests, but stepped up his display of support in a different way. Within days, he named his vessel after the president and arranged for it to be wrapped in the Trump-inspired design that he estimates cost close to $7,000.
The wrap looked good and Gavidia thought, “Let’s do a boat parade.”
“I took (the flag) down but I wanted to show support for the president,” he said. “Because I really was grateful. I thought I was going to die.”
Gavidia was referring to a recent bout he said he had with the coronavirus, which he suspects he picked up while on a ski trip with his family in Aspen, Colorado.
Hospitalized at one point, Gavidia said he said he later self-administered hydroxychloroquine he tracked down in Georgia.
The drug — approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis — has been simultaneously touted by Trump as a potential treatment option and decried by medical leaders.
The FDA issued a guidance late last month telling Americans not to use the drug outside of a hospital setting or clinical trial.
Though the drug is being studied in clinical trials and used in certain cases under an emergency use authorization, the agency said, it is not proven to be safe or effective in combating COVID-19.
“The FDA is aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, often in combination with azithromycin and other QT prolonging medicines,” the agency said.
But Gavidia, retired after a career spanning from days as a street vendor in Washington, D.C., to starting a credit card processing business called Direct Connect, swears by the stuff.
“I’m telling you,” Gavidia said. “It saved my ass.”
In light of the pandemic, Gavidia said he urged parade participants Sunday to follow the county’s current boating regulations.
Jupiter Police Department spokeswoman Kristin Rightler said there weren’t any issues with the parade Sunday, though officers had to slow down the lead boats at one point because of the wake they created.
The parade, which Gavidia claims stretched for 8 miles at one point, only had a couple weeks of planning.
Gavidia said he merely set up a Facebook event page and it took off from there. The effort got a boost when Trump son Eric Trump shared a post about Gavidia’s boat on Instagram, Gavidia said.
It was a prelude of the attention to come. In the days since the boat parade, Gavidia has become a darling in conservative media circles.
Fox News host Sean Hannity interviewed him. He was featured on Fox and Friends First. Trump referenced the gathering in a Fox News appearance Sunday. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, a Palm Beach resident, has since mentioned it, as well.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been good,” Gavidia said. “It’s been all about President Trump.”
Post staff writer Kimberly Miller contributed to this report.
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