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Omaha Magazine

Rolling Along the Big Muddy

Sep 18, 2017 10:53AM ● By Robert Fraass

Steve Hosch’s love for sailing was forged in Washington, where he taught sailing classes and wiled away memorable days with his wife, children, and friends, gliding his sailboat across gorgeous Puget Sound.

What’s a captain to do when he moves back home to landlocked Nebraska?

The answer lay, in part, on landing a position as a riverboat captain on Omaha’s own stretch of the Missouri River.

Hosch was on the Big Muddy again this year, his ninth as a captain for the River City Star, which docks at Miller’s Landing Rivers Edge Park. The season ends Oct. 17.

After the Fremont native and his wife returned to Nebraska 13 years ago, he found himself “bellyaching” to her about his ocean-less predicament. He satisfied his sailing passion with summer trips to Seattle, where he taught sailing on Puget’s Gig Harbor. His daughter tipped him off about the part-time job aboard the River City Star.

“When I got done with the interview, I asked, ‘How many people are you talking to, by chance, about this job?” Hosch recalls.

“You’re the only one,” said the former owner, noting that Nebraska is not exactly a hotbed of licensed boat-captain talent.

Now with years of experience, Hosch has built a reputation as a captain who skillfully guides the 65-foot River City Star over a stretch that can extend upstream north past the old Chicago and Illinois Central railroad bridge and south past TD Ameritrade Park.

“He’s an amazing riverboat captain,” says Tami Bader, director of the River City Star. “He’s calm but in charge with passengers. He lets the kids drive and honk the horn. On public cruises, he talks about all the sites along the river and the explorations of Lewis and Clark.”

River City Star events include public sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises, and party cruises for adults. Bader says there are also plenty of private and corporate charters for anniversaries, weddings, and birthdays, as well as on-shore events at Miller’s Landing.

Hosch’s job might sound leisurely, but he’s quick to point out his work is a day on an unpredictable river, not a day at the park.

“It’s a dangerous river,” Hosch says. “I give it all of the respect that it deserves. It changes in height and depth quickly. The river is narrow and fast-flowing. There are things under the water that people don’t know about.”

But Hosch characterizes the dangers as challenges, and says the memories he creates for clients is a true pleasure.

And there are other ways Hosch pursues his boating passion.

Locally, he races his sailboat on Lake Manawa and teaches sailing on Lake Cunningham. More exotically, Hosch and some buddies race boats in the Caribbean and Florida. Trips to Seattle and San Diego also provide the freedom and challenge he seeks on the water.

“I don’t know what it is, but friends of mine who have sailed for many years have said there is something that gets in your system,” he says.

“And getting paid to do something you love? You can’t beat it.”

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This article published in the Fall 2017 edition of B2B.