This Undergrad Just Sailed 3,000 Miles to School for Her Freshman Orientation, With Dog

by Owen James Burke

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“I really didn’t think the trip was that hard,” she told ABC’s WFTS, a Tampa, Florida news outlet. Photo: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald (video below).

Late last September, 18-year-old Sally Gardiner-Smith set sail aboard Athena, a modest 29-foot Ericson (a sailboat designed for relatively light air), leaving Portland, Maine for St. Petersburg, Florida, where she would be attending Eckerd College–the following year.

This was Gardiner-Smith’s idea of a “gap year”–a term often feared and loathed by parents, associated instead with backpacking through the usual and well-trodden haunts of European hostels, discotheques, and the end of higher education pursuits.

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Sally Gardiner-Smith, tending sail. Photo: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald.

But Gardiner-Smith was grew up sailing; she was born while her family was 6 months into a 2-year cruise through the western Caribbean, and later crossed the Atlantic with them at age 4.

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Preparing grilled cheese in the cabin. Yes, she’ll be well-prepared for dormitory living, too. Photo: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald.

Averaging about 50 miles a day, she had spare time to work odd jobs and fish along the way, island hopping through the Bahamas while waiting out freshman orientation. Now, she says she’s adjusting to campus life just fine. She certainly has no trouble with cramped spaces.

For her upcoming winter break, she plans to spend 6 weeks sailing to Cuba. I wonder if she’d consider taking on a first mate–or a marriage proposal… –OJB

Read Sally’s blog posts from her journey at the Portland Press Herald.

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