Long Way Home
It’s not uncommon for life to bring a person full circle, but rarely does it happen with as much poetry and precision as it has with Mike Gosman, captain of Washington College’s research vessels Callinectes and Lookdown. Not only has he made a figurative circle by returning to this place, but a literal one as well, having circumnavigated the globe in the process.
“I spent quality time on this river as a kid, crabbing, fishing, swimming,” Gosman says. “To come home 40 years later and still be able to play on the river, as I like to think about it, and get paid, is a dream come true.”
Gosman, whose family goes back more than 200 years in Kent County as watermen and farmers, grew up in Chestertown but joined the Army in 1969, and headed for a tour of duty in Vietnam in the airborne infantry. After leaving the Army in 1972, he earned a degree from George Washington University as a physician’s assistant and eventually completed a career assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard.
It was in that role, as chief medical officer aboard a polar icebreaker, that Gosman circled the globe, traveling through the Southern Ocean opening navigation channels for supply ships and assisting scientists in Antarctica. “The year I was there we took on international treaty inspectors so that we did a complete circumnavigation and went to ten polar science stations,” he says.
For more than 20 years he served as a medical officer in the Coast Guard, traveling from Tasmania to the Gulf of Alaska and earning his master’s degree as a P.A. along the way. Eventually he became retirement eligible and decided it was time to “hang up my uniform and my white coat at the same time. I had 30 years in the profession which had served me well and enabled me to provide for my family, and now it was time to move onto something else.”
Retirement for this captain, though, doesn’t seem to fit the word’s typical definition. He returned to Chestertown and started a charter business aboard his 42-foot skipjack, the Lady Helen. It wasn’t long before the offer came to captain the Callinectes part-time. “That all kind of fit like a glove for my background, my career, and my interests,” he says.
Since then, Gosman has become primary captain for both of the College’s research vessels, and he never tires of the work. He enjoys getting to know the students: “It’s interesting to be around bright young individuals who have some sense of where they want to go and what they want to do,” he says. And listening to the professors as they conduct field research and teach the students feeds his longtime interest in the science of the river and the larger world. Their passion for their work, he says, suits his own.
“I guess my only regret would be that the opportunity hadn’t come sooner,” he says. “I mean, I’m supposed to be in retirement!”