Editor’s note: Sally Gardiner-Smith of Woolwich left Maine in September aboard her 29-foot boat Athena. Her goal was to sail, primarily solo, to the Bahamas and then to the Gulf of Mexico, before starting her freshman year next fall at Eckerd College in Florida.

It was 2 a.m. and Dad and I crawled into our bunks for five hours of rest before our departure.

Athena was ready for the 150-mile passage from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas. The dingy was lashed to the deck, the water and fuel tanks filled. I had bought extras of everything I could think of (the Bahamas are more expensive than the U.S. and sometimes its hard to find what you need) and filled the boat to the brim with food. With the sun barely up in the sky I raised the sails and said goodbye to the Intercoastal Waterway indefinitely.

Within a few hours there was no land in sight and only the occasional boat. The wind was brisk and from the southwest. The Gulf Stream runs from the south to the north and can be very uncomfortable with an opposing wind. The wind was due to switch to a north wind by 7 p.m. We had to be on the Bahamas Bank by then or endure a very rough ride. By 6 p.m. we had made it.

For 87 miles before the bank, Athena sailed beautifully in the warm current. We could see the Gulf Stream rushing through the ocean because it’s much darker than the rest of the water. On overcast days, like Thursday, it looks almost purple and was so deep that my depth sounder couldn’t reach the bottom. I tried my hand at fishing and filleting with a Mahi Mahi I caught. Dad transformed it into delicious fish tacos.

After those 87 miles we passed onto the Bahamas Bank, which created a barrier for the waves and the ride was considerable smoother. Dad and I stayed up together all day, and split the night into shifts. By early afternoon on Friday (30 hours later) we were anchored in Green Turtle Cay and cleared in by customs.

Although I’ve ridden the same sparkling current before, this crossing was different. I was captaining my own vessel. On the customs form I signed where it asked for “Captain” and Dad signed for “Crew.” It’s a funny feeling, but I’m not complaining.

Now that I have reached my destination I have months to play around in the clear waters. I plan to sail leisurely, exploring islands, making new friends and meeting up with old ones. My trip is nowhere near finished but I do believe that the most trying parts are behind me.