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Longtime family-owned Watermark Cruises and Tours sold to Annapolis couple

After 50 years of family control, Watermark Cruises and Tours has been sold to an Annapolis couple.

Debbie Gosselin, longtime Watermark president, sold the business to Jake and Laura Iversen, Annapolis residents who were both born and raised in the area. The deal took effect Jan. 1. Gosselin declined to say how much the sale was for.

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“Jake has got young energy that will take the company forward,” Gosselin said. “The timing was right for him and for me, and I’m really excited about it. We’re in our 50th year, and I just can’t imagine anybody better to take it into the next phase.”

Jake Iversen has been Watermark’s general manager of vessel activities for five years. Gosselin said while there wasn’t one reason in particular that led to her selling the family business, her relationship with Iversen made him an ideal person to take over.

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“I couldn’t be happier and more honored to take the helm at Watermark,” Iversen said in a news release announcing the sale. “Debbie and her father before her have built a strong, vibrant company. Watermark’s biggest asset, though, is the Watermark team.”

Laura Iversen is the former executive director for Start the Adventure in Reading, a literacy tutoring program. She resigned last year to assist in the acquisition of Watermark and the transition of ownership.

Jake Iversen earned a Merchant Mariner Credential from the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies, which permits him to be an officer of any size vessel. He worked in international shipping for several years before being lured by Gosselin to work at Watermark full-time.

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

Gosselin had controlled the company for 22 years after she purchased it in 1999 from her late father, C. Ed Hartman II, who cofounded Watermark Cruises in 1972. Hartman, an Annapolis attorney and business owner who shaped the city’s modern-day maritime industry and cofounded the Annapolis Boat Shows, died Jan. 15 at the age of 95.

The company has grown from a single boat to a fleet of a dozen, including the iconic Harbor Queen tour boat with its white-and-red markings and thunderous horn. It services Annapolis and Baltimore with a variety of cruises to local sites including Annapolis Harbor, the Naval Academy, Baltimore Harbor, Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse and the popular Day on the Bay to St. Michaels.

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Gosselin met Jake Iversen when he was a teenager and now considers him family, she said.

She said she was most proud of the culture of the company and the shared passion to expose Annapolis to its many visitors.

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“We invite hundreds of thousands of people to Annapolis and on our boats every year — it’s a significant part of the local economy — and he gets it,” Gosselin said. “Jake gets all the intricacies of the operation, and we have a great team in place to support him.”

In retirement, Gosselin plans to travel with her husband and spend more time with her five grandchildren. She will continue to run Annapolis Landing Marina with her siblings.

The company will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a gala on April 21.

The new owners are taking a “don’t fix what isn’t broken” mentality to the popular cruise line.

“As time goes, we may find ways to improve and innovate, but five months or five years from now, you’ll still see the same Watermark with the same culture at its heart,” Jake Iverson said in the release. “Watermark’s tours and cruises connect visitors and locals alike to the history, culture and fun of Annapolis, Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay.”


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