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Fire in the hole! A thundering boom intended to signal the end of the Spirit Ball’s silent auction on Saturday night sent guests ducking for cover as smoke and a shower of sparks erupted from Spirit of South Carolina’s mooring in front of the Union Pier Terminal. Once guests realized the glass-shatteringly loud explosion was meant for theatrical entertainment (and not, say, a bombardment by the redcoats some 229 years after the Revolution), nervous laughter twittered through the crowd. Woo hoo!

Orchestrated by the South Carolina Maritime Heritage Foundation, it was fitting fanfare to mark a night dedicated to raising funds and awareness for experiential educational opportunities aboard our locally crafted tall ship. Although site of Spirit illuminated by moonlight was perhaps the most fitting visual, other nautical elements abounded. An aerialist costumed as a mermaid spun on a ring hung high above guests’ heads; under-the-sea ephemera, including coral and faux pearls, decorated the bars; fabric-draped orbs that resembled glowing jellyfish floated above the seated dinner; and shells were affixed to napkin rings.

Auction items were decidedly water-based: a classic 14-foot wooden boat, a one-week say in Elbow Cay, a weekend stay in Green Turtle Cay, a week in Key West, model boats, paintings of boats, sailing lessons, and sunset cruises. But perhaps the most anticipated auction item of the night came at the very end when a seven-week old Boykin Spaniel puppy found itself at the center of a lively bidding war.

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