Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.
Amy McGill has only sailed the Pompano Beach waterways for a month but already she’s gotten used to the screams from people standing on their docks: “Ice cream! Ice cream!”
“They come running when they hear our ice cream jingles,” McGill says.
On weekends sugar-starved boaters on the water have found sweet satisfaction at the Ice Cream Float, McGill’s hot-pink, musical ice-cream boat that roams the canals and lakes of Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Deerfield Beach and Boca Raton.
McGill and her husband, Greg, started hitting the Intracoastal in late-March after converting their 20-foot-long pontoon into a whimsical food boat stocked with chest freezers and mini-fridges packed with frozen treats. Aboard the Float a speaker plays jaunty ice cream truck jingles – which has helped summon ice cream lovers to their docks.
To find the Ice Cream Float, look for the distinctively pink vessel with a striped Bimini top and beach umbrellas anchored on Saturdays and Sundays at Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach, Exchange Club Park in Lighthouse Point or Hillsboro Inlet Park in Deerfield Beach.
While sailing the Intracoastal on their 30-footer last summer the McGills, at first, came up with the idea to sell iced coffee to boaters. That project didn’t last long.
“We were out on the hot days and we were like, ‘I wish Starbucks had a food boat that could meet us on the water,’ “ McGill recalls. “We realized Starbucks would be hard to franchise, so we decided to sell ice cream instead.”
McGill’s ice-cream shack, for now, dishes 24 varieties of prepackaged treats ($2.50-$4.50) common on ice-cream trucks: Minion- and Spongebob Squarepants-shaped gumball pops, Oreo Klondike ice-cream cookies and Drumsticks, strawberry shortcake bars, frozen Snickers and Kit-Kats.
Not craving ice cream? The Ice Cream Float is also a buoyant bodega (of sorts), vending bottled iced coffee ($3), Gatorade ($2), water ($1) and potato chips (25 cents) for those needing pick-me-ups.
“As long as we bring enough gas with us, even with three freezers and a fridge, the generator lasts all day,” she says. She also rolls out water mats and pool floats so customers can eat ice cream on the water.
The Eat Beat – Restaurants, Bars and Recipes Newsletter
Dining out, cooking in and all the South Florida restaurant news and information you need.
McGill says she’s already planning to expand the Ice Cream Float’s territory. In May, the McGills will bring their boat to the Fort Lauderdale Air Show May 8-9.
So why would customers choose McGill’s frozen confections over, say, the homemade scoops churned out by rival ice-cream shops near the Intracoastal and beach? The answer: convenience. Her food permit, licensed by the Florida Department of Agriculture, is the same one issued to convenience stores and other places selling prepackaged food.
“It’s a novelty idea most people haven’t really seen,” says McGill, who homeschools her two children Liam, 15, and Katie, 13, when she isn’t slinging popsicles. “Maybe parents don’t want to pack the kids up and head to an ice-cream shop. Maybe they want to be in their back yards and an ice-cream boat comes straight to them.”
The Ice Cream Float even cruises the narrower Pompano Beach canals north of McNab Road, stopping at docks whenever families flag them down. McGill says the Ice Cream Float can shrink to four feet tall if it collapses its Bimini top and umbrellas, letting it glide safely underneath shorter bridges.
“If we’re on the canals and we hear the kids yelling ‘ice cream,’ we’re gonna pull over and sell ice cream,” she says. “We pulled down one canal the other day to visit a friend’s house and say hi and suddenly we got swarmed by the neighbors. They’re like, ‘Hey, come over here, we want ice cream,’ and that’s how we sold four bomb pops and a chocolate éclair.”
The Ice Cream Float will appear 12:30-2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Exchange Club Park, 2888 NE 24th St., in Lighthouse Point, and 3-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. It will also appear 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 8 and May 9 in Sunrise Bay (next to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park) during the Fort Lauderdale Air Show.