A teenage sailor from Woolwich who left Portland two weeks ago on a solo, yearlong sailing adventure vows to continue her journey despite an accident in a coastal Massachusetts town that left her dog badly injured.

Sally Gardiner-Smith, 18, who is sailing down the Eastern Seaboard to Florida and the Bahamas, said the accident occurred while her 29-foot sailboat was anchored off the coast of Scituate, located 25 miles southeast of Boston.

Gardiner-Smith has been traveling with a 6-year-old black cockapoo named Elli. The unusual pair were the subject of an Oct. 6 profile in the Portland Press Herald.

On Thursday, Gardiner-Smith brought Elli ashore for a walk, a ritual she does every evening before returning to the boat for the night.

She decided not to put a leash on the dog because the road along the harbor was quiet, she said. But the little dog saw some people in a driveway across the road and raced to investigate. The cockapoo ran into the path of passing pickup truck and was run over.

The young man driving the pickup truck brought Gardiner-Smith and Elli to an animal clinic in South Weymouth. A veterinarian at the clinic found that its right hind leg was crushed. The staff amputated the leg the following day.


On Monday, the three-legged dog was recuperating aboard the boat, which has been moored in Scituate Harbor since the accident.

Gardiner-Smith said it will be too difficult to sail on with an injured dog, especially in rough seas.

Even when the dog was the healthy, she said, Gardiner-Smith never felt comfortable sailing fast. “I’m always worried about the dog falling overboard and being scared and cold,” she said.

Her father, Willy Ritch, planned to pick up the dog late Monday and bring it to back to Maine, where it will be taken care of by Gardiner-Smith’s mother, Maggie Gardiner, in Woolwich.

Gardiner-Smith said she’ll be able to sail more aggressively without the dog and make up for lost time. She plans to depart Scituate on Tuesday morning. In three weeks, she should be sailing past Cape May in New Jersey, she said. By then, she said, Elli will be healthy enough to return to the boat and continue sailing with her.

On Nov. 2, when she celebrates her 19th birthday, her parents plan to meet her somewhere in New Jersey and return Elli to her.


Then the pair will continue on the voyage. If all goes well, they will arrive at the docks of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg next September, in time for freshman orientation. Gardiner-Smith had been accepted at the college for 2015 academic year.

“I’m trying to keep everyone’s limbs, mine and the dog’s, for the rest of the trip,” she said.

Over the next three weeks, she said, she will be “dreadfully lonely” without her companion. She is embarking on this sailing adventure to challenge herself and to grow, and she is determined to learn from the experience.

“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.”

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:


Twitter: TomBellPortland

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