Gap Year Program Update #5

Hello World,

This is Jonathan Karlson coming to you from the Cape Eleuthera Institute on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. It’s the end of week six for the GAP semester and CEI has officially become our second home! The past week has been eventful to say the least. Amidst the exasperating work on our independent student projects (ISPs), long afternoons spent working on rescue SCUBA knowledge reviews, and fearless research for our Human Ecology paper, the Gap Year students took a well-deserved hiatus from the rigorous schedule that is CEI and went for a five-day kayak and camping trip down the eastern side of the Cape.

Before departing, we packed heavily on Sunday afternoon, splitting into teams of three to gather both food (such as cheese, tortillas, pancake mix, GORP, peanut butter, jelly, bread, and granola) and gear (such as tents, sleeping bags, pads, crazy creeks, dromedaries for water, tarps, paddles, PFDs, spray skirts, and whistles). Once the gear was nicely stowed in the boathouse for our departure the following morning, we retired to our dorms to pack personal gear and prepare mentally for a rough, yet relaxing next couple of days (or so we thought…).

The next morning we ate a hearty breakfast from the dining hall and arrived at the boathouse eager to begin our trip. After a well-performed water exit demonstration by Scotty and Laura, they divided us into our own individual kayaks, and we loaded up and took off. However, rough waters made it so that we only paddled about one hundred yard past the boathouse when we looked back to see Laura out of her kayak swimming back to the boathouse. Scotty then made his way up to Shelby, Sarah, Lulu, and me, informing us that Laura’s kayak had malfunctioned and she was returning to the boathouse for repairs. We were to stop on Boy’s Dorm Beach and break open the lunch bag for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Meanwhile, Cole, Shaquel, and Scotty returned to the boathouse with Laura. In doing so, they may or may not have caught their kayaks on the reef balls and hung helplessly in the water for ten minutes or so, much to the delight of the kitchen ladies in the dining hall whose laughter rang throughout campus. I’d like to report that everyone made it out unscathed.

Despite the rough start though, the Gap Team regrouped and set off on our five- day kayak expedition. Highlights from the trip include pizza over an open fire for dinner on the first night (despite a moderately burnt underside) and a 24-hour solo where each of us were divided among a long stretch of beach carrying nothing but a tarp, PFD, ground pad, warm clothing, and a small bag of food. Our solo ended with a ceremonial breakfast where we lined up facing one another and fed each other a huge mouthful of chocolate chip pancakes. We also were able to free-dive two blue holes (deep holes in the ocean floor that lead underground to a saltwater hole on land) and learn what it feels like to be helplessly attacked by a swarm of mosquitos. Our final day, we kayaked a good three miles downwind and pulled into the boathouse with giant smiles and cheers of joy and relief.

We returned from kayak with a newfound sense of accomplishment and maturity, as well as a stronger bond with our fellow Gap teammates. During our five days in the wilderness, I might have heard someone say once or twice, “I can’t wait till we get home.” As I said before, CEI has literally become our second home. And as we begin the final two weeks of our time here in The Bahamas, we are back to the grind, writing our Human Ecology papers and working on our ISPs. It’s crunch time people, and we’re focused and ready to impress the rest of CEI with our brilliance.