Friday, July 10, 2009

Review: Something of the Turtle by Sandra Clayton

Sandra and David Clayton, worn out from long commutes and freezing winters in Northern England, decide to retire early and live on a catamaran called Voyager. The author's first book, Dolphins Under My Bed, describes their adventures from the time they first set out from Wales, with minimal sailing experience, to when they arrive safely in the Mediterranean several months later. (Read my review of Dolphins Under My Bed here.)

Something of the Turtle picks up as the couple are happy berthed at Mahon, in the Mediterranean, for the winter. They have a buyer for their house, so they race back to England to begin the painful process of clearing out a lifetime of accumulated stuff:

"I pick up the items one-by-one. This is from my earliest childhood; this was given to me by an incredibly kind neighbor. This was my Dad's, my Mom's, my grandparents'; these were gifts from family, friends, a teacher, and David's lovely, giggly little Grandma. David brought this home when we were first married; this was my coming-of-age present from my parents; here are the 78rpm records my Dad used to play and my drawing exercises from night school. And over there is the brass bowl that resulted from the metalwork option at day-continuation college during my first year at work. Looking at it I can still smell the metal filings, hot from the grinder. Everything I touch conjures up a loved person, a happy moment, a small achievement."

Once she comes to the realization that the loss of the objects themselves will not result in the loss of the memories associated with them, the task becomes easier. After an extended delay, a sale on their home is finally completed and they are able to return to Voyager to continue their exploration of the Mediterranean. They are anxious and worried about the condition of the boat after so long away, but thanks to a kindly marina manager they return to a sparkling clean Voyager and soon set out.

This summer they explore the Balearic Islands and Sardinia. Once again the author describes picture perfect villages and bustling towns, her vivid portraits of them make the reader feel that they are seeing them, too. However, she makes clear that a life at sail is not the easy idyll that most people imagine it is. When they are at sea they sleep in three and a half hour shifts so that one person can keep watch. Anchoring in a marina often provides disturbances of a different sort: loud or disruptive individuals on shore in the middle of the night, noisy garbage collectors in the middle of the night, boats arriving and trying to squeeze in where there is no guessed it, in the middle of the night. So sleep deprivation, along with bad weather, fellow sailors with no experience and irritated fishermen are a few of the downsides of life afloat.

But the upsides abound. They are fit and healthy, relaxed and happy. They are in a beautiful place where each day brings something wonderful:

"During the afternoon, over the course of several hours, a large number of turtles of varying sizes paddle laboriously towards us wearing that look of intense concentration peculiar to reptiles on the move. They are so close to us as they pass that they are almost touching our sides. It is unknown, in our experience, for a turtle to get so close. They usually dive and disappear long before the boat gets anywhere near them....There is something of the turtle about us, come to think of it. Our pace is leisurely. We are vulnerable to gales and strong currents and we carry our home with us wherever we go. Our journeys are usually solitary although we do occasionally meet up with our own kind at marinas and town quays and have a gossip. But with such a vast territory in which to roam, we rarely meet up with the same people twice. This time last year, wary of our capabilities and all too aware of our inexperience, we were more akin to the dolphin-rapid in or movements, darting and diving, a little edgy. Watching the pod for confirmation. But twelve months on we have settled into our new world and in pace, rhythm and restful solitude this is our summer of the turtle."

In the fall they plan their biggest sail yet, three thousand miles across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. A journey that is daunting and exciting all at once. They tackle it as they have everything else so far: together. They each excel at things the other doesn't, they are a great team.

This book is a delight. Whether you have always dreamed of sailing away or you never intend to leave your chair, go along with Sandra and David as they experience the excitement (and yes, there is a little terror, too) of life at sea. The author has a lovely, easy way of writing that just invites you in and keeps you turning pages. Her sparks of humor are wonderful. I am so looking forward to the third book! Something of the Turtle is a perfect choice for both the armchair traveller and the true globe-trotter.

For more information about the author and her books, please visit her website and be sure to check in to her new blog, where you can go along on their travels!!

Something of the Turtle is published by Wheatmark. ISBN 978-1-60494-066-4.


bermudaonion said...

I enjoy reading of adventures like this, even though I don't think I'd ever have the nerve to embark on one.

Myckyee said...

This lifestyle definitely wouldn't be for me (I like sleeping too much!) but I can see what the allure is. Great review!

Zibilee said...

This book sounds wonderful! It probably would make a great beach read, so I will be keeping it in mind.

Thank you!!

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About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.