When I was covering the sailing news for the St. Petersburg Times, I relied on several touchstone sources -- they were people who might not know all the news and gossip, and who might not race all the regattas, but they knew sailing on Tampa Bay and they could -- to some extent -- help keep me from sounding like an ass when I wrote about the sport.
The late Michael Robertson was one. A charming, freckled man of wide wisdom and humor, I can hear his heartfelt call of "Darlin!" still. He'd grown up sailing on Tampa Bay, had spent a lifetime in the marine industry, and was generous with history, background, introductions, explanations and a whole boatload of entertaining stories.
I found myself repeating one of his favorite little jokes recently, echoing his hearty, sunshiny tone while asking the question: "What does the Southern alligator say?"
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