Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

River Brings City's Beauty into Focus

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

River Brings City's Beauty into Focus

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

Despite the efforts of some of our politicians and developers, Jacksonville is, all in all, an attractive city.

But from the middle of the St. Johns River, Jacksonville becomes much more than an attractive city. It's breathtaking.

That's the idea behind the Jacksonville Commodores League.

Formed in 1974, the Commodores League consists of 55 people, boat owners and friends of boat owners, who own 38 private yachts of varying sizes. When agencies or groups such as City Hall or the Chamber of Commerce wants help showing off the city, they call on the Commodores League. As long as the request is reasonable -- "we aren't a ferry service," said Ed Grey, a retired business executive who is the league's flag commodore -- the organization provides its boats at no charge.

"Some corporate guy looks one time at that skyline and he's sold on the city," said Joe Coleman, a retired admiral and league member.

The league performs about a dozen such missions a year. The most high-profile mission involved ferrying President Ford, Egyptian Prime Minister Anwar Sadat and members of the White House press corps from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station across the St. Johns to Epping Forest, then the private estate of Raymond Mason.

But on most cruises, the captain and crew on a Commodores League yacht don't have any idea who their passengers are, said Henry Beckwith, a founding member of the league who is senior vice president with W.W. Gay and former president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. "We get a lot of trips where it's first names only," he said.

Wednesday, the league held one of its cruises. On this trip, everybody knew who the passengers were. They included 17 sailors who are nominated for the Navy Region Southeast's Sailor of the Year award, the nominated sailor's master chiefs and assorted family members. …

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