Merchant Mariner acquires Annapolis Tour Boat Company

Omnipresent around the Port of Annapolis, the Annapolis Watermark cruise and travel company celebrates its 50th anniversaryth Anniversary this year under new owners and with a new president.

Watermark President Debbie Gosselin retired on January 1 and the company is now run by a young couple from Annapolis, Jake Iverson and his wife Laura. Iverson has been with Watermark for five years and manages the ship operations.

“While this may come as a surprise to some, we’ve been planning the handover for some time,” Gosselin said. “I couldn’t be more confident in trusting Jake to lead this organization. He is passionate about Watermark and everything it stands for.”

Gosselin says Iverson is “well positioned to lead the company to success over the next 50 years.”

Gosselin acquired Watermark in 1999 from her father, C. Edward Hartman II. A lawyer by profession, Hartman II loved boating and had a desire to invest in the local community. He co-founded the Annapolis Boat Shows and founded Chesapeake Marine Tours in 1972 with Annapolis sailor and yacht builder Bert Jabin. They began with a single sightseeing cruise to St. Michaels. This Day on the Bay cruise is still available today.

The company’s offering quickly expanded and the fleet grew from one boat to 12. In 1973 they added the now legendary 65-foot Harbor Queen tour boat, which offers cruises along the Annapolis Harbor. In the 1980s they added a water taxi service in Annapolis. In 2004, Chesapeake Marine Tours acquired Three Centuries Tours, which had been offering walking tours since 1975, and formed Watermark. The company expanded its cruises to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 2009. Hartman II died earlier this month at his Florida home.

“I couldn’t be happier and honored to take the helm at Watermark,” said Iverson. “Debbie and her father before her have built a strong, dynamic business. However, Watermark’s greatest asset is the Watermark team.”

Iverson, the son and grandson of Coast Guardsmen, takes the helm at Watermark after five years as general manager of ship operations. He graduated from the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies where he earned a Merchant Mariner Credential that made him an officer on ships of all sizes. For several years he worked at sea in international shipping on various types of ships.

“He was at sea more than 200 days a year,” says Laura Iverson. “During his time at home he started driving Harbor Queen and fell in love with Watermark and the culture of the company. When Debbie asked him to work full-time at Watermark, he left the marine industry and started as a GM so he could work closer to home.”

The Iversons were both born and raised in the Annapolis area, where they now live with their 10-year-old daughter Sky and a yellow Lab named Rudder.

“You couldn’t find a more appropriate next president to carry on the maritime and metropolitan traditions established by the Hartman family,” Laura said. “It’s his passion, his dream, his industry. He is hardworking and dedicated and will do everything to nurture everything that makes Watermark so special.”

Laura Iverson has worked in business development and nonprofit leadership, most recently as Executive Director for Start the Adventure in Reading. She resigned last year to help with Watermark’s acquisition and ownership transition.

What’s next for Gosselin after 25 years at the helm of Watermark? “There’s a lot on my bucket list, and my husband and I look forward to checking that list while we’re still in good health. Five grandchildren and a few trips come to mind first,” she said.

As for Watermark, Jake Iverson says expect more from it. “You know the saying, don’t fix what ain’t broke. That will be my approach to running Watermark,” he said. “Over time we may find ways to improve and innovate, but in five months or five years you will still see the same Watermark with the same culture at heart. Watermark’s tours and cruises connect visitors and locals alike to the history, culture and fun of Annapolis, Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay.”

-Kathy Knotts

About Christine Geisler

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