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Girl sails 3,000 miles with her dog to attend college in Florida

Sally Gardiner-Smith wanted a summer getaway. So instead of traveling abroad, she packed up her boat with items she needed for her upcoming college endeavor and hit the open sea with the help of her 7-year-old cockapoo, Elli.

Gardiner-Smith, 19, traveled from Woolwich, Maine, along the eastern seaboard to Eckerd College in St. Petersburg — where she would be attending school for the fall. She began the trip on Oct. 1 and docked in Florida in late July, ABC Action News reported.

"I would sail around 50 miles a day, and then anchor at night. Then I would wake up about 6 in the morning and went until about 45 minutes before sundown," she said.

The trip included around 3,000 miles on a 29-foot Erickson, named The Athena. Inside, Gardiner-Smith had a couch, table, stove, and bed. The boat was purchased by her parents last summer for $7,000 for a trip that all of them were nervous to see her take.

“I am so excited to start my own life and do my own thing,” Gardiner-Smith said in her Portland Press-Herald blog. “But I am really, really sad moving out of home. Mom won’t be there.”

Sally comes from a boating family. When she was born, according to the Press-Herald, "the family was six months into a two-year sailing trip that would take them to the Bahamas and then on to the Yucatan in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala." She also took a trip between ages 4 and 6 where they went across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and Sally spent four months going to public school in Barcelona.

Her latest trip offered a few mechanical issues, the Press-Herald reported. Before reaching her destination in Massachusetts, Gardiner-Smith backed over the dinghy line and caused the engine to stop when the line became tangled in the propeller. Before panicking, she remembered to anchor the ship, followed by a leap into the water with a knife to cut the line free.

But the most perilous portion came when she almost lost her companion, Elli.

"She started the trip with four legs, but about a week into it, she got hit by a car in Massachusetts," she told ABC Action News. Elli had to have her back leg amputated and she spent a month recuperating in Maine before rejoining Sally.

Gardiner-Smith is set to begin school with plans to travel to Cuba on The Athena while on winter break later this year.

Read more at ABC Action News and in her personal blog in the Portland Press-Herald.

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