Charles A. Robertson (1947-2020)

Charlie Robertson (left) with President Clinton (center) and Admiral Bob Natter USN Atlantic Fleet Commander (right) aboard USS John F. Kennedy, OpSail 2000 Parade of Sail.

On February 9th, 2020 Operation Sail lost a true guiding light with the death of OpSail Chairman Emeritus Charles “Charlie” Robertson following a long battle with cancer.  Known for working tirelessly at everything he did, Charlie had the unique skillset and tenacity necessary to recruit the support required to carry out an OpSail event, and he did it with boundless enthusiasm. Charlie, OpSail’s longest serving Chairman, oversaw the last two major OpSail events: OpSail ‘92 (commemorating the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage), and OpSail 2000 (America’s millennium celebration).

He brought all of his myriad talents to OpSail and our events, as Chairman and Chairman Emeritus. During OpSail 2000, Charlie managed not only to gain the full support of the White House and President Clinton, but was able to push through Public Law 104-282 which was enacted by Congress establishing OpSail as America’s Tall Ship organization. This bolstered our mission to advance brotherhood among nations, commemorate the history of the United States, and to support young cadets, sail training, and seamanship.

Charlie also worked to strengthen the OpSail Board by recruiting key leaders and statesmen such as Senators Christopher Dodd and John Warner, USN Four Star Admiral William “Bud” Flanagan, and Former Attorney General of Puerto Rico, Jose Fuentes, our current Chairman.  Charlie’s leadership and herculean efforts enabled OpSail 2000 to succeed as the largest international maritime gathering in history.

Although Charlie was an avid sailor and competitor, winning the Newport Bermuda Race, the Queens Cup, and others, he was also a well-respected aviator who flew modified ex-military aircraft. Despite all of his incredible extra-curricular accomplishments, Charlie was at his core a shipbuilder and businessman, founding and owning several companies including American Cruise Lines where he served as Chairman, Chesapeake Ship Building, Pearl Seas Cruises, and many more. Charlie was most at home working with his hands and with teams of people. His leadership and gusto will be sorely missed.

Our deepest condolences go out to Charlie’s surviving family: his wife of 35 years, Carol Ann Robertson, his three sons Charles, Clark, and Carter and their wives, granddaughter Claiborne, and two sisters Jean Anne Robertson and Lois Gorman.

Operation Sail will be making a contribution to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in honor of Charles A. Robertson.

Fair winds and following seas, Charlie, your legacy will remain in the hearts of sailors and those who have borne witness to the great Tall Ship gatherings around the world.