Walking the Plank - Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz

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Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz is the 40th superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and the first female officer to hold that post. She was previously director of reserve and leadership at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., and commanded two cutters — an icebreaking tug on the Great Lakes and a medium-endurance cutter that patrolled the North Atlantic and Caribbean.

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A 1982 Coast Guard Academy graduate, Stosz holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a Master of National Security Strategy from the National War College. She has received two Coast Guard Commendation Medals, two Coast Guard Achievement Medals, three Legion of Merit awards and four Meritorious Service Medals. On June 1 she will leave the academy post to become deputy commandant for mission support in Washington.

First memory of being on a boat: My grandparents lived on a bay on Cape Cod, and my grandfather let me take his rowboat out when I was a young girl. I’d row across the bay and use my feet to find quahogs in the shallow water on the other side.

First boat you owned (or commanded): The first boat I skippered was a Flying Junior at the Coast Guard Academy when I was a cadet on the intercollegiate sailing team from 1978 to 1982. I later bought an old FJ when I was stationed in Seattle and sailed it on Lake Union.

Last or current boat (owned or commanded): The Coast Guard cutter Reliance, a 210-foot ship out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from 2002 to 2004. This was shortly after 9/11, so we conducted security patrols off New York City for my first year.

Favorite boat you’ve owned (or commanded): The Coast Guard cutter Katmai Bay, a 140-foot icebreaking tug out of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. We broke ice in Lake Superior and the St. Mary’s River to escort 1,000-foot iron ore carriers.

Your dream boat (to own or command): When I was a little girl I always dreamed of owning a Sailfish, but now I’d say a Laser.

Most rewarding professional experience: I’ve got to go with the simple things … perhaps it was climbing aloft as a cadet on board the barque Eagle — all the way to the top platform of the 150-foot mast, where it seemed you could see around the world.

Your scariest adventure aboard: Rescuing a sailboat adrift in the North Atlantic in late November almost halfway between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Portsmouth, England. We hit a big storm on the way back in with the sailboat in tow.

Your most memorable experience aboard: Sailing to Antarctica on board the polar icebreaker Glacier — there are so many penguins, seals and whales. And it really rocks crossing the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties.

Longest time you’ve spent aboard: Six months on board the Coast Guard cutter Polar Star, underway to conduct Deep Freeze operations in Antarctica.

Favorite destination: Of all the amazing places I’ve been, I’d have to say New Zealand; on Deep Freeze operations to Antarctica, we’d stop in Wellington and Christchurch.

Favorite nautical book: There are so many! I’m going to say Two Years before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana.

Favorite nautical cause you support and why: Teaching a liking for the sea and its lore through sailing. At the Coast Guard Academy we have a world-class facility with boats ranging from Lasers to ocean racing yachts to the 300-foot barque Eagle.

Favorite quote about the sea: The poem Sea Fever, by John Masefield: I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.

June 21015 issue