Monday, December 01, 2008

Dolphins Under My Bed

Dolphins Under My Bed
by Sandra Clayton
(Wheatmark / 1-587-36816-1 / 978-1-587-36816-5 / January 2008 / 292 pages / $21.95 / Amazon $16.46) 

Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM

According to the author’s website, this is the first of a trilogy of accounts, covering the adventures of a fifty-something couple, both fairly-well paid professionals but unenthusiastic about that last long stretch of slogging through the workday before retirement. In addition to that, the weather in England’s midlands where they lived and worked seemed to be getting viler by the winter, and husband David’s allergies were getting worse… the chance to chuck it all and run away to sea had more appeal every day.

And so they did. Many people dream of this sort of adventure, living on a small boat and heading out to the South Pacific, around the world… and in The Clayton’s case, lighting out for the comparatively warmer, sunnier and more welcoming Mediterranean; specifically, Spain’s Balearic Islands – which we know better as Majorca and Minorca. (Ibiza is part of that chain, too.) There are also all kinds of good reasons not to do something so drastic; they could have whiled away the years in a tiny cottage in Provence, or along the Costa Brava, looking at sunsets and enjoying the local wine. But that did not appeal to David, who loved sailing, the out-of-doors, and braving the rude elements at sea and ashore. Sandra was much less keen on that, cheerfully admitting that she hated to be tossed around the tiny cabin, whenever a bigger, faster boat passing by kicked up a big wake… and didn’t much really care for sailing. But she and David agreed that they had to go and have their adventure whilst they still could – and by luck, happened to settle on the purchase of a sturdy, 40-foot catamaran, just large enough to live on, but small enough for the two of them to manage. On a dreary and unpromising day, they set sail from a mud-bank in Chichester Harbor, in search of warmer climes and a happily stripped-down life. This account takes them as far as the journey across the Channel, across the Bay of Biscay, around Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean. This could be a rather tedious, dry account of miles traveled, under sail or motor, or storms and what they had for dinner and the wildly varying accounts of reception at various small yacht basins all the way along, but it is enlivened with a wonderful eye for surroundings and scenery and a nice sense of comedy. The description of Sandra wrestling with the Velcro of her foul-weather gear is self-deprecating and comic. She also has genuine, unflagging interest in all the places and people they encounter on their wandering journey. Yes indeed, Spanish supermarkets and post offices are exactly as described, the spectacularly scenic (or squalid) old and the weirdly dysfunctional new exist in uneasy juxtaposition, all along the coasts of Spain and Portugal.

The only thing lacking is pictures. I would have loved to have seen some of the pictures that are on the website in the book, as well as some pictures of the Voyager itself. A few interesting recipes would have been a charming addition, as well. How does one cook any sort of meal in a tiny place like the galley of a 40-foot catamaran? Perhaps the next two books will give away that secret.

See Also: Celia's BNN Review
Sandra Clayton's Website
Sandra's Wheatmark Page

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