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Yacht Club sendoff: All aboard for smorgasbord

The stairs to the ballroom were lined with white flowers, and bouquets of blue delphiniums, white orchids and red carnations were suspended above the dining tables.

We did not need more food but, as King Lear remarked, "Reason not the need," so placed before us by white-gloved servers was a four-course meal of lobster, consumme, salad and the entree _ lamb chops and filet mignon. It was very good. And there was more.

The dessert room was sort of like a confectioner's version of Ali Baba's cave, or the set of a talk show segment about People Who Love Chocolate Too Much. Never mind the dozens of torts, tarts and cookies in assorted flavors. Two tables were given over to chocolate.

On one was a large Statue of Liberty rendered in chocolate. It presided over miniature boats in milk chocolate and little Moby Dicks in white chocolate, which was mixing metaphors but who cared. Nearby was a grand piano crafted in the candy, filled with truffles. Rimming it were individual baby grand pianos filled with pastry cream and mousse. I was impressed, and I'm not much of a chocolate person.

Nothing, not the Change of Watch or the Exchange of Burgees or chocolate overload, comes between Skipp Fraser and University of Florida football. He vowed last year not to schedule the Commodore's Ball on the same weekend as UF Homecoming, which has happened in the past. But it did coincide with the Florida-South Carolina game, so he had a big-screen TV set up to broadcast the game. He was not alone in his ardor. Among the group watching it was club treasurer Don Krippendorf, who pulled up his pants legs to reveal his favorite striped socks in UF colors.

The Blessing of the Fleet was the Sunday after the Commodore's Ball, as it always is, and the ceremony can be described as a maritime baptism. To see it is a stirring sight. The Rev. Chris Thompson of St. Thomas Episcopal Church stood on the bow of Bill and Sherry Welch's trawler as boats big and small floated by to receive a blessing.

I was on Dick and Kathy Merriman's 42-foot Grand Banks _ a wonderfully comfortable cabin cruiser _ with Joe and Joanne Fleece, Blanchard and Becky Jolly, and Fred and Barbara McCoy. The Merrimans' grandson Eric Webber was celebrating his 11th birthday by launching his new Opti _ we used to call them prams _ and he also participated in the blessing.

It was a beautiful day to be on the water, and as he bobbed by in his new boat, Mrs. McCoy said, "Why would anyone want to live anywhere else?"

I cannot imagine.

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