“But what is happiness? . . . If I have learned anything at all by this
stage in life, it is that happiness comes from within not from without.”
Sandra Clayton, Dolphins Under My Bed

Readers of Sandra Clayton’s two autobiographies, Dolphins Under My Bed and Something of the Turtle, will experience her passage firsthand and in living color.

Clayton’s writing style is honest and from the heart. When her worst nightmare is realized — her husband decides they should retire early and sail away for health reasons, she is terrified. Although she enjoys everything associated with sailing, she does not like sailing itself. But one day she sees a Sea Cat and notices how it handles as other sailboats thrash around.

She tells her husband that she will sail — if they get a catamaran.

And so the story begins. Dolphins Under My Bed is ultimately the story of finding oneself and the journey getting there.

In Spain, the Claytons find Voyager, a 40-foot Solaris Sunstream, and they spend two weeks sailing her home to England with the help of a skipper. Once home, the planning begins, which in itself turns out to be part of the journey. Then they set sail, their original goal, to spend a year in the warm waters of the Mediterranean and then to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean.

As they voyage from England to the Channel Islands, to France, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, the Mediterranean, and finally, to the Balearic Islands, the author describes each port, the weather conditions, the sky, and the sea as if they are indeed characters in the story (which they become). This technique truly captures the readers’ attention, as does her depiction of the people they meet along the way, and how they survive the storms, turbulence and boat repairs.

“I think that in the right circumstances it must be possible to get drunk on stars. Certainly, after a dark and stressful night, I am pleasantly tipsy on these.”
– Sandra Clayton, Something of the Turtle

The saga continues in Something of the Turtle. Clayton and her husband David decide to sell their home and keep only the worldly posessions they absolutely need. This ends up being more difficult than once thought — what to keep and what to get rid of? And even worse than that are all the obstacles and delays they encounter when selling their home.

At last they are free, and the stress is gone.

Their journey begins again where they left off, in the Balearic Islands. From there they continue to Sardinia, back to the Balearic Islands, to Spain, Gibraltar, the Atlantic, and finally, the Madeira Islands.

The author’s superb storytelling style and perceptive descriptions of everything — from lost appetites and sleep deprivation to tiny droplets of moisture-illuminating spiderwebs and sea turtles swimming by — again hook readers as these determined sailors follow a path to becoming true bluewater cruisers.

Both books are well worth reading, for sailors and armchair adventurers as well.

Dolphins Under My Bed and Something of the Turtle By Sandra Clayton, (Wheatmark, 2008; 277 pages; 2015 and 2009; 216 pages;)