College-Bound Girl Sails 3,000 Miles Alone For One Year

By Allyn Farach

With not a soul but her dog Elli, Sally Gardiner-Smith spent the last nine months at sea. The 19-year-old pledged to sail 3,000 miles by herself to college as a gap year, making it just before freshman orientation.

Gardiner-Smith decided that in October, she would set sail from Woolwich, Maine to Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida where she would attend college in the fall.

Traveling has been a part of Gardiner-Smith’s life ever since she was a little girl – she was born during a two-year sailing trip that her family was taking.

“Some of the earliest years of my life were spent traveling on a sailboat with my parents and sister. On two trips, which each lasted about two years, we traveled to Central America, the Caribbean and across the Atlantic to Europe,” Gardiner-Smith said on her Portland Press Herald blog.

Like any grand voyage, there were obstacles along the way. A dinghy line got caught in the propellor and caused the engine to stop. This proved to be an easy fix for Gardiner-Smith, who jumped into the water and cut the line.

Another issue arose when Gardiner-Smith’s dog, Elli, was hit by a car in Maryland and had to have a leg amputated. Gardiner-Smith was at first upset by the damage that her dog had suffered. She wrote: “… I hope that I can be like her when faced with catastrophe. There’s a lot that I cannot control and misfortune strikes everyone. It can hurt us, make us sad, and set us back. But there is never, ever, a reason to give up. Life is too full of wonders – for Elli there are places to be sniffed and belly rubs.”

Gardiner-Smith docked in Saint Petersburg in late July and is currently attending college, but is showing no signs of slowing down. She plans on taking a trip to Cuba over winter break.

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