A week in the Apostle Islands

Reflections on my summer adventure internship sailing Lake Superior.


Jackie Bussjaeger

On Stockton Island, the natural beauty of the islands hits home.

Jackie Bussjaeger, Past Editor-in-Chief

Round and full as a juicy blood orange, the moon rose from behind Oak Island with a slow, silent grace. I was slung in a hammock on deck, rocking in the night breeze on a deep navy blue bay. The only sound was the steady creak of the mast as the wind pulled against it, and despite the soothing, rhythmic motion of the waves, I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep. It was an experience so breathtaking and so unlike anything I had ever known that I felt guilty drifting off in the middle of it.

Four days earlier, I had stepped onto the deck of a 40-ft. monohull sailboat with eight strangers. This was the last night of an extraordinary week in July 2015, which I spent sailing in Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands on Lake Superior thanks to an internship with Global Treks and Adventures.

I found out about their adventure internships when I attended the Private Colleges Job and Internship Fair last winter. I was immediately struck by their unique program, which takes student researches sailing to exotic destinations around the world. The Apostle Islands were a little close to home–other trips have included more distant locales such as Guatemala and the Spanish Virgin Islands. However, I had camped in the wild and pristine Apostle Islands National Lakeshore before, and had fallen in love with the beauty and ferocity of the North Shore. A chance to research and find out more about these islands was right up my alley.

The Global Treks and Adventures expeditions assign students in a diverse variety of fields to research about their location in an area of their expertise—for some it was biology, invasive species and plant life or history. For me, it was cultural and personal narratives—Tales of the Apostles. Together, the interns synthesize this research into an all-encompassing vistor’s guide to the region. Students are able to receive college credit for their work, but graduates such as myself are also welcome to participate. And for many of them, the publication will be a point of pride to add to their resumes.

Led by world travelers and experienced sailors Kyle and Jen Herdina, the sailing venture was as much a vacation as it was a research expedition. Most of the interns, myself included, had spent hours hitting the books before our venture began, but nothing quite compared to the full experience of actually gliding out across those deep, frigid waters.

“It’s as hands-on or hands-off as you want it to be,” Jen said. Interns are invited to participate in the responsibilities of managing the boat, with activities such as raising and lowering the sails, steering, assisting in docking and of course keeping the tight space clean and free of obstacles. With a crew of nine, there wasn’t much difficulty.

The boat was equipped with three bunks that fit six people, leaving the remaining three individuals to set up their sleeping bags on the collapsible galley table and benches. All gear was stowed in small, irregularly shaped compartments under every cushion and in every nook and cranny. Comparably, it wasn’t a whole lot tighter than living in a dorm. And when the mosquitoes began to swarm in devastatingly thick clouds around dusk, you didn’t really mind squeezing in with your neighbors behind the protective netting.

Along the way, we met with local experts and representatives from organizations such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service, granting us invaluable access to firsthand experience of the islands. Not to mention the hours of exploring and familiarizing ourselves with the splendors of the rugged landscape, and just stretching out on deck listening to tracks of steel drum bands, as if we sailed the Caribbean instead of the chilly Inland Sea. (“Unsalted and shark-free!” proclaimed one DNR representative). I rowed myself to shore in a dinghy, climbed to the top of not one but two lighthouses, braved the icy waters to swim through the breathtaking sea caves, and toasted marshmallows on a driftwood fire while the sun washed a lurid pink into the sky, and in turn, the lake. In the evening, we watched the choppy flight of the hooded merganser and its ducklings, and listened to the soulful cries of distant loons. When I slept on deck in the hammock, I thought of all this and realized that of all the ways to spend summer, this was by far one of the best.

Our collaborative guide is due for publication in Dec. 2015. I couldn’t possibly look forward a better holiday present than to view the fresh-pressed culmination of our combined hard work and the physical testament to our incredible week together in the wilds and waves of Lake Superior.

If you are interested in any of the Global Treks and Adventures travel internships, visit their website at www.globaltreksandadventures.com.