A Day in the Life of Captain Todd Pascoe
From the office to the gangplank to the wheelhouse of his custom-made, 63-foot, two-deck Pie-Eyed Parrot, captain and boat owner Todd Pascoe delivers what his customers want most: a combination of relaxation and partying on the water. Commonly referred to as a ‘Booze Cruise’ or ‘Sunset Cruise,’ the bar service on the Pie-Eyed Parrot, which is of major importance to nearly every guest, pales in comparison to the real stars of the show: the beautiful saltmarsh of Murrells Inlet and the dazzling sunset spectacle seen almost every night over the water.
Docked in front of The Claw House along the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk, the party barge beckons to visitors for happy hour cruises, sunset cruises, special events, and private bookings, daily, through early November. About 90 minutes in length, with boarding and a “dockside party” lasting another 90 minutes on the front end, plus cleanup after re-docking, one might assume Pascoe has an easy three-hour work day; not true. I spent time with the captain, crew, and a sold-out boat full of patrons to learn more about a day in the life of this ship’s captain-turned-cruise director, and his philosophy on the “perfect party boat experience.”
“My day typically starts between 7:30 and 8 a.m.,” says 50-year-old Pascoe from his home office in Surfside Beach. The tall, pony-tailed captain with a ready smile said he “dreamed of building and operating” this kind of boat for some 25 years.
“Jeanne and I married in the Bahamas 24 years ago,” he says “We went on a booze cruise, and loved it so much it put the idea in my head. I really envisioned a floating bar, a banquet hall on the water.”
Reality set in for Pascoe and his wife in 2018, when the designs for his boat received final approval by the U.S. Coast Guard and he was given the go-ahead to start building.
With the business operational since October 2019, Pascoe can look back with satisfaction at the fulfillment of a dream. But the hard work hasn’t stopped or slowed, though it has become a little more predictable.
“In season [mid-March through early Nov.], I start each day reviewing emails,“ says Pascoe, “and I do my online work with the website and checking reservations, then payroll for about 12 employees. Every day feels like Monday for me,” he laughs. “I don’t usually know right away most mornings what day of the week it is because I work seven days a week. ”
The Pie-Eyed Parrot’s liquor license presented serious hoops to jump through; floating bars are a different animal. Pascoe says obtaining his master captain’s license and certification for the boat was no easy task either, and the process of seeing his dream fulfilled came with more than a few speed bumps.
“It was a ton of work to get approved,” he says. “The U.S. Coast Guard had to sign off on almost every detail and I was in constant back-and-forth communication with their office in D.C. over the course of a year.”
After another check of the weather – if dangerous conditions are expected the cruise is canceled – the Pascoes shop for needed supplies and head over to the boat to get ready for the day’s trip and prepare for the first arrivals. Pascoe will meet staff and start the arduous process of restocking and readying the boat for boarding, a systematic process that takes a few minutes per group to ensure everyone gets the best available seating of their choice with minimum fuss.
“If we allowed a rush of people in all at once, it would be chaos,” laughs Pascoe. “This system takes a bit longer, but having hosts seat guests, like they would at a restaurant, keeps everything orderly and most everybody happy. We do what we can to accommodate, but as there are really no bad seats, most everybody is generally happy.”
Pie-Eyed’s summer schedule boarding, seven days a week, begins at 6 p.m., 90 minutes prior to departure at 7:30 p.m. On the fall schedule, Oct. 1-Nov. 5, the boat starts boarding at 4:30 p.m. for a 6 p.m. departure, as the sun sets earlier later in the year. While reservations are required to cruise, specific seats are not available to be reserved, so the earliest arrivals do get first pick on seating in anticipation of viewing the inlet and watching the brilliant sunsets.
Seating on the boat (capacity is 120) is a combination of top deck ($30 per person), where open-air, unobstructed views command a slightly higher ticket price, and the roomier lower deck ($20 per person), with a variety of seats, all with great views, nearby bathrooms, and a roof overhead. Viewing is exceptional from almost anywhere on the boat and comes in the form of high-top cocktail tables, bar stools along the side rails, and comfy lounge seats in the center. Both top and bottom decks have their advantages.
Guests and rubberneckers watching the two or three cruise boats that operate out of the same area have been lining the MarshWalk, imbibing in cocktails and craft beers from The Inlet Beer Garden, The Claw House and the Dead Dog Saloon. Each watering hole is just a few feet from the Pie-Eyed Parrot’s birth. The entirety of the MarshWalk hosts some eight additional restaurants/bars that meet the growing appetite for this hot spot destination.
With the Pie-Eyed Parrot’s staff strategically placed, the guests begin the boarding process. A mix of pop songs, country classics, Caribbean/tropical music and other affable tunes plays quietly through the boat’s sound system, setting the mood. Each customer is welcomed, checked off the list and escorted to a seat or table, with hosts making every effort to accommodate specific seating requests.
Pascoe and/or his wife greet nearly every guest and work to maintain a smooth boarding process. As the boat begins to fill and the servers start making their rounds, the party mood grows. This type of adult-oriented party is different from many booze cruises that might appeal to rowdier “beer-bong” types, says Pascoe.
“We want this to be fun for bachelorettes,” he says, “as well as retired couples looking for a romantic event to celebrate a special day, and everything in between.”
Today’s weather is perfect, cooler and partly cloudy. In fact, a cloudless sky is only a bit better than one completely overcast. Partly cloudy is what one hopes for on a sunset cruise, and what Mother Nature often delivers, the sun and clouds joining to create an artist’s palette of colors and shapes.
“Even when the weather doesn’t cooperate fully, the cruise is still a wonderful, fun trip through the Inlet,” says Pascoe. I asked him if he ever tired of the sunsets.
“Absolutely not,” he says. “They’re each different and each beautiful, and no two sunsets are ever the same. It’s the greatest show on earth.”
Add a little booze to the mix and it’s easy to see why each season the Pie-Eyed Parrot sets new attendance records.
Why Murrells Inlet?
Besides the general appeal of the MarshWalk, Murrells Inlet is uniquely suited to get boats safely and far enough offshore to see westerly sunsets over the water with distantly lit establishments marrying the best elements of coastal living for many.
Finding locations along the East Coast for prime sunset viewing can be tricky for obvious reasons; our local vantage point has the sun setting over land, when optimal viewing is over water, and this is precisely what the Pie-Eyed Parrot offers.
Roger and Donna Moreland, originally from Syracuse, New York, relocated to the Myrtle Beach area four years ago; their son Matthew is a Myrtle Beach Police Officer.
“We’ve gone at least five or six times,” says Roger Moreland. “We absolutely love it. We take our visiting family as often as they come down.”
With the last guest accounted for (they can’t wait for seriously late arrivals), the music goes up, the horn signals once and the crowd, many already on-board for 90 minutes, cheers as the big boat backs away from the MarshWalk dock. At the helm, second in command, Captain Bobbie Kilbourne maneuvers the boat out of its slip.
“I troubleshoot once the boat is underway,” says Pascoe. “I check to make sure the guests are happy, all the systems are functioning properly, and work on any kind of monkey wrench that might show up.”
The waters of the Inlet are almost always calm, even if the ocean just a few miles away is rough. The pace out past the end of the MarshWalk, rounding the bend into the main channel, is slow and pleasant.
Seabirds and other wildlife are abundant in the tall grasses of the many small islands, most of them unnamed, and the salt marshlands. Pascoe and fellow captain Kilbourne watch the navigation system for shifting sand bars and proximity to the channel’s center. The boat is essentially a giant pontoon boat, a Trimaran, so it can handle shallow water. But care must be taken, as the waters of Murrells Inlet can be tricky.
Smaller fishing and pleasure boats come and go on either side of us as we approach the Garden City Beach spit, the southernmost portion of the town, where glorious waterfront mansions cause a yearning for the high life among many of the patrons.
The server has made a few visitations to our table, where my travel companions and I have enjoyed rounds of cocktails, chips, salsa, pimento cheese and an easy cruise.
At the mouth of Murrells Inlet, just inside the protective shelter of the rock jetties, we catch a quick glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean, white caps and waves crashing into the jetties, while we are in perfectly calm water. The captain spins us around in a 180-degree turn and we understand what all the fuss is about. The sun is getting closer to setting and the colors of the sky take on awe-inspiring hues. We are still 30 minutes from sunset and 45 minutes from docking. 7:00 p.m.
The party continues and, as expected, the patrons become more animated. Tables full of strangers are now talking like old friends.
The twinkling lights along the MarshWalk, the final throws of a glorious sunset and interesting architecture represented in the MarshWalk’s many restaurants, are melded with the natural beauty of the saltmarsh. This marriage of humanity, ingenuity and nature makes it easy to understand the appeal of this place and why Pascoe worked so hard to make his vision a reality.
After a cheer from the crowd and a blow from the horn, the Pie-Eyed Parrot has docked, with another successful sunset cruise under the belts of the captain and crew.
This “bar on the water,” one of the Parrot’s many slogans, along with “every hour is happy hour,” has created a boatful of people ready to continue what they started, and area bars see a calculable uptick in business each time the Parrot returns.
Pascoe and crew will set to cleaning, restocking, and finalize securing the boat for the overnight around 8 p.m., Pascoe even later, around 10 p.m.
“We start our season in March on St. Patrick’s Day,” says Pascoe, “and are close to being done on Halloween, both huge days on the MarshWalk. Our Halloween Cruise, is a little longer—two hours—and our crew and most customers are in costume. It’s a blast.”
Sunset cruises are the premier trip for the Parrot, but earlier happy hour cruises also take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, making two cruises per day as reservations and demand dictate.
“We really work hard to give everybody a fun time,” says Pascoe. He smiles broadly and shakes the hands of a few regulars as they exit the boat.
Visit pieeyedparrot.com for more information. Reservations are required, but walk-up tickets may be available if space allows. Boarding begins each day Oct. 1- Nov. 5 at 4:30 p.m. with a 6 p.m. departure and 7:30 p.m. return to dock.