Gap Year Ocean Exploration: Wonders of the Deep Blue






Start your gap year off on an adventure with a purpose…

Immerse yourself in an experiential learning odyssey on shore in Cape Cod and at sea aboard a sailing research vessel. Develop lifelong leadership and teamwork skills while completing an epic ocean passage from the temperate shores of New England to the tropical islands of the Caribbean.

Join a network of 8,500+ SEA alumni who consistently stand out from the crowd on college, internship, and job applications.

FALL 2022: August 21, 2022 – November 12, 2022

View program information for Spring 2023

Dolphins at bow

Gap Year Options:

SEA gap year programs can be taken on either a credit-bearing or non-credit basis. Participants choosing the college credit option will earn credit from Boston University. Participants selecting the non-credit option fully participate in all aspects of the program, but do not receive grades or academic credit. Please contact SEA admissions to discuss which option is best for you.

OE 2022

Fall 2022 Voyage:

Cruise Track: Woods Hole, MA to St. Croix, USVI

Planned Port Stops (subject to covid conditions): St. Maarten and St. John.

August 22, 2022 – October 1: Shore component in Woods Hole

October 3, 2022 – November 12, 2022: At sea

Program Highlights

This gap year program offers gap students a deeper understanding of the complex marine environment through field-based research, a sailing adventure aboard a tall ship, and innumerable opportunities for skill-building, leadership development, and personal growth both on shore and at sea.

  • Build self-confidence and self-reliance that will prepare you for success in college and beyond
  • Develop lifelong skills in leadership, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking as a crewmember aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer
  • Conduct environmental research on marine debris, the Sargassum ecosystem, and coral reefs, gathering real-time data that contributes to a global understanding of our oceans
  • Experience new cultures while learning about marine conservation efforts in the Caribbean
  • View full program description

Who Should Apply?

This pre-college program attracts gap year students, ages 17 to 22, who have graduated from high school but not yet matriculated at a college or university, or who have been placed on a college waitlist. Perfect for students who are not seeking academic credit for their participation.

SEA Admissions and Financial Aid staff members offer individual advising and assistance to help students complete the application process. We encourage you to contact one of us to learn if SEA Semester is right for you.

SSV Corwith Cramer
Working on the boat

“In the little amount that we have been in the program, we have been sponges absorbing incredible amounts of knowledge. The challenges we face, the hard work, the different work hours, the classes, the research projects and the boat life during our SEA Semester are all incredible life and educational lessons, which I believe will bring us far as ocean advocates and scientists.”

Mareike Duffing Romero, Humboldt State University

Program Description

Experience the Deep Blue – Voyage on a cruise track on which the closest human beings may very well be on the International Space Station!

Understanding the oceans is an essential component of appreciating how the world works and how we relate to it as human beings. The sea is so complex that it is impossible to comprehend from the perspective of a single lens. With that in mind, this interdisciplinary program combines insights from oceanography, the humanities, and the social sciences with practical skills in seamanship, allowing students to deepen their awareness of and appreciation for both the near coastal environment and the open ocean through hands-on research and personal experience. In this gap year program, participants will address and answer some of the most pressing global questions related to the last true wilderness on the planet – the open ocean “Deep Blue” environment.

An initial six-week shore component in Woods Hole will prepare gap students for their research voyage. With full access to SEA faculty, guest lecturers, and the world-renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Marine Biological Laboratory Library, students will design original research projects to be completed during the open ocean crossing. Maritime Studies coursework will complement this research by offering a wider historical, economic and social perspective on the impact of humans on the world’s oceans, and on the experience of going to sea.

Finally, Nautical Science will introduce practical seamanship skills and the theoretical background necessary to for students safely operate a tall ship at sea, hundreds of miles from land. As full, working members of the scientific team and sailing crew aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer, participants will then spend the next six weeks at sea managing shipboard operations, navigating by the stars, analyzing oceanographic samples, while making a blue-ocean passage from the North Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. Perhaps most importantly, participants will learn to challenge themselves and will develop new skills in leadership, teamwork, and research.

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

To prepare for this open ocean crossing, hundreds of miles from land, you will learn the fundamentals of navigation, safety, weather, sailing theory, and engineering. There are no passengers on this deep blue passage, so Nautical Science will prepare you to be an active crewmember.
The ships and people who sailed these deep blue ocean environments have acted as agents of contact change and served as inspiration for countless instances of art and literature. This course discusses the political and economic forces that have shaped historical and contemporary marine affairs. From cultural contact to war to conservation, the relationship between humans and the sea has been at times tempestuous. An appreciation for the humanities will frame your own ocean crossing and enable you to experience the voyage in a more profound way.
Learn about the most current oceanographic equipment, techniques, and methodology to become an active member of the shipboard science community. Explore traditional oceanographic equipment and scientific methods and some of the newest wonders on the frontier of genetic sampling techniques.
Design a collaborative project or experiment driven by your intellectual curiosity. Working as a team, create a hypothesis, collect data, analyze results, and present your findings about the oceanographic topic of your choice.
The deep blue ocean environment is home to countless scientific marvels – to appreciate them you need a background in fundamental oceanography. This course explores the physics of ocean currents and weather systems, the chemistry of seawater and marine life, the geology of the ocean floor, and the biological wonders of near coastal and deep ocean ecosystems.
Students on ship

“In the little amount that we have been in the program, we have been sponges absorbing incredible amounts of knowledge. The challenges we face, the hard work, the different work hours, the classes, the research projects and the boat life during our SEA Semester are all incredible life and educational lessons, which I believe will bring us far as ocean advocates and scientists.”

Mareike Duffing Romero, Humboldt State University

Life on Shore

At the beginning of every SEA program, up to 25 students from various institutions across the U.S. — and often the world — come together on SEA’s residential campus in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on scenic Cape Cod, just down the road from the village of Woods Hole, a world-renowned hub of oceanographic research and discovery.

During this initial shore component, you’ll undertake coursework with SEA faculty that will prepare you personally, academically, and practically for the second part of your experience at sea. You’ll develop an original research project, explore the connections between humans and the ocean, and learn the principles necessary to crew a tall ship. You’ll also have access to some of the world’s foremost scientists and policymakers addressing the leading environmental questions of today.

Living in fully furnished private cottages on our campus, you’ll share all of the responsibilities of community living including grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. From day one, your class will begin building skills in teamwork, communication, and collaboration, all of which will prepare you for the demands of living and working together at sea. Everyone will play a role in meal planning, provisioning (each house gets a pre-paid grocery card on a weekly basis), and meal prep, which is a great opportunity to hone your organizational and budgeting skills – not to mention putting your culinary skills to the test!

Morning and afternoon classes take place a short walk away from the cottages in the main academic building, the Madden Center. This facility also hosts the library, computer lab, science lab, faculty offices, and is home to the SEA administrative offices. A midday break allows time for lunch, a pickup game of frisbee, soccer, or volleyball, or a run along the local beach. Then it’s back to the classroom. The course schedule is intensive, with academic activities scheduled from roughly 9am to 4pm, Monday through Friday. Evenings and weekends are usually free, though sometimes community activities are organized by your faculty or the Head Resident on campus.

The shore component is one of the hallmarks of SEA programs. It prepares you to be effective in your roles as researcher, crewmember, and shipmate at sea, and equips you with the tools to embark upon a successful ocean voyage.

C-300 Class at Woods Hole
Volleyball on campus
Student at helm

Life at Sea

While the shore component is one of the hallmarks of SEA programs – providing important preparation for a successful open ocean voyage – not surprisingly, students look forward to the day they ship out to the deep blue.

As your time in Woods Hole comes to an end, you’ll feel a mix of excitement and perhaps some trepidation as well. You and your shipmates may ask, “Can we really do this?” Because of the intentional design of all SEA programs, you can be confident that the answer is, “Yes!”
The sea component of SEA programs immediately immerses you in applying practically what you have just learned on shore. As you set sail, you take on three roles: student, crewmember, and researcher. Life at sea is full as you take ocean measurements and samples; participate in classes; stand a watch as part of an around-the-clock schedule, on deck and in lab; and assist with navigation, engineering, meal preparation, and cleaning. On this open ocean voyage, you will get to experience the thrill of being hundreds of miles from shore, with nothing but an unbroken horizon and the wonders of the deep blue all around you.

Privacy and sleep are both limited aboard ship, yet there is always time for personal reflection. Teamwork takes precedence as you assume increasing levels of responsibility for the well-being of your shipmates and the ship itself. “Ship, shipmate, self” will be your new mantra, representing a shift in priorities for all on board. A phased leadership approach over the course of your time at sea will allow you to gradually assume the majority of shipboard responsibilities under the watchful eye of the professional crew. Near the end of every program, each student will lead a complete watch cycle as part of a rewarding final capstone experience.

Whether you choose the credit or non-credit option, when you step off one of our ships, you’ll take away self-confidence, lifelong friends, a toolbox of skills and knowledge, and a sense of direction that will serve you in college and beyond.


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