How one student is spending her gap year: sailing from Maine to Eckerd College

October 16, 2014

Sally Gardiner-Smith is spending her gap year sailing solo from Maine to Eckerd College and blogging about her adventures along the way.

She hopes to arrive at Eckerd in time to start her freshman year with Autumn Term next August.

“I hope that this trip is an opportunity to solidify myself as a person through hardships and, hopefully, successes,” she wrote in a blog she is writing for thePress Herald in Portland, Maine. “I decided to make this trip solo, not from lack of offers to accompany me as crew, but because of a desire to prove to myself that I can do what I want with my life.”

She already encountered a couple of challenges since her journey aboard the 29-ft. Athena began Sept. 29.

First a rope from her dingy got snarled in the propeller, forcing her to dive into the chilly water to cut it loose.Then her only companion, little Elli the cockapoo, was hit by a truck during a walk at a port south of Boston. Elli’s right leg was crushed and was amputated the next day.

“I do not want to write about guilt, or sadness, or terror; all things I have been feeling for the past days,” she wrote in her blog. “Instead, I want to share the lesson I am trying to learn from my little dog. That lesson is to be resilient, unyielding in a desire to live, and, most importantly, to pick up from wherever life has placed me without resentment or anger.”

From the description of herself on her blog, the Woolwich, Maine, teenager seems destined to fit right in at Eckerd:

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. When first grade rolled around for me, we returned to Woolwich, Maine, and my sister and I were enrolled in public school. But apparently traveling had become part of my personality – when I was 16 I went to Thailand, where I lived with local families and spent a year studying on the country’s eastern coast.

When I graduated from Lincoln Academy in the spring of 2014, I began the process of looking for a boat. And with help from my parents and grandparents, I am now underway on Athena, a 1971 Erikson 29. My little back dog Elli and I have set out for a trip down the East Coast to Florida before we cross over to the Bahamas this winter. Next year it will be back to Florida in time to start school at Eckerd College in the fall.