The next morning, before the sun rises over the mangroves to the east, we're underway. We turn the corner out of the marina, and head back into the Bay. Just before throttling up, we pass a mangrove island with a small stretch of muddy beach. There, sunning himself, is what we've been looking for all along: a genuine American crocodile. He looks like a concrete lawn statue, frozen, with his mouth open just enough to be menacing.
There'll be no in-water tagging for us. We sit on the Protector's gunwale watching until the beast gets bored and slithers away. He's one in a thousand. We've beaten the odds.
How to wrestle a gator: There's one thing to remember about alligators when you wrestle them: Time is on their side. "Time to wait for you to make a mistake," says Tim Williams, the Dean of Wrestling at Gatorland, in Orlando, Florida, where he's been going mano-a-repto with the cagey beasts for the last 30 years. You're far more likely to come across an alligator than a croc in your boating adventures-gators are abundant throughout the southeastern United States-and one day, you may be tempted to tangle with one. Bad idea. But if you have your heart set on it and don't want to lose an appendage, follow the techniques Williams taught me during my battle royale with "Martin," an 8'-long, 140-pound gator.
 Step in the water, and grab the alligator by his tail. He won't see you behind him, but make sure his nearby friends aren't waiting to drag you underwater for a game of Tear Apart the Idiot.
 Hold his tail with both hands, and pull him backward onto shore. Lift his tail high, so he can't dig his legs in to resist.
 Now comes the fun part. Quickly let go of his tail and jump on his back, keeping all of your body parts out of his line of sight. A gator can turn and bite halfway up its own tail in half a second.
 Put your hands on the back of the gator's neck, and squeeze your knees against his back legs to pin them against his side. I neglected this crucial step, and Martin dragged me back into the water faster than I could say, "Uncle."
 Cover his eyes with duct or electrical tape. This will calm him, and if he can't see you, he'll have a harder time biting you.
 Grab his head around the upper and lower jaws, keeping your thumbs perpendicular to his mouth so they don't accidentally slip into his waiting teeth. Slowly lift his head, pointing his snout to the sky, to keep him from trying to move forward. You know how everyone says you can hold a gator's mouth shut with your thumb and pinky? Not true. You need both hands. Trust me.
 Prepare for dismount. Take the tape off his eyes, place your hands on his neck, rock forward, and spring back. Go straight back as fast as you can-gators can spin on a dime-and count your fingers.