Good Little Ship: Arthur Ransome, Nancy Blackett and the Goblin

Julie read Peter Willis’s book Good Little Ship: Arthur Ransome, Nancy Blackett and the Goblin (published by Lodestar) with great pleasure recently. She was clearly charmed by it, and I thought her comments were interesting – not least because they show how Peter’s book is as relevant to non-boating Ransome fans as it is for us boat nuts.

Here’s what she says:

‘I read We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea when I was a child with no understanding or experience of sailing whatsoever and no knowledge of that part of our coast – but when I first read it I enjoyed it as an adventure in an unfamiliar and exciting world, but with the familiar characters I knew from the earlier books.

‘So it was really nostalgia that led me to read Good Little Ship. As a result of reading Peter Willis’s book I immediately re-read We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea with a lot more understanding of the locations and what inspired Ransom’s story.

‘I’m not a great sailor or a regular reader of sailing books, but Good Little Ship kept me reading from the beginning. The story of the 28ft 6in Hillyard-built Nancy Blackett, is tightly written and nicely illustrated, and it’s like reading a family history, with all the different owners and their good and bad fortunes.

‘It’s also very clear that for Peter Willis finding, restoring and then sailing Ransome’s yacht in the same waters that Ransome had sailed had a lot in common with a love affair.’




Good Little Ship – Peter Willis’s book about Ransome’s boat is out now

Just in time for Christmas, I’d say!

Here’s what publishers Lodestar have to say:

‘Generations of children and their parents have delighted in Arthur Ransome’s series of twelve ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books, but one of them stands out from the rest as being of a different order altogether. We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea is both larger of theme and tighter of plot; it is a rite-of-passage tale quite unlike the others, and in describing the experiences of its protagonist John it illuminates much of Ransome’s own psychology.

‘Good Little Ship is a blend of literary criticism, maritime history and sheer celebration. Peter Willis combines an analysis of a classic of maritime literature (“a book of which Conrad would have been proud” – Hugh Brogan) with the story of the Nancy Blackett, Ransome’s own boat which appears as the Goblin in his story. He describes her life, near-death and restoration, and her renaissance as an ambassador for Ransome and his tales.’

On one point, I can’t agree with Lodestar. I think quite a few people who are neither children or parents have  enjoyed Ransom’s books…

For information, ordering etc, click here!

Thames Festival Classic Rally at St Katharine Docks, 2009

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Jim Vandenbos’s mobile phone photos of the 2009 inaugural Thames Festival Classic Rally. If anyone else has photos they’d like to share, please email me at

The first Thames Festival Classic Rally at St Katharine Docks, London last weekend was a success and seems likely to be be repeated next year.

I couldn’t make it for reasons not unconnected with my broken ankle, but my pal Jim Vandenbos dropped by to see Lord Boris’s Thames’ Festival after the cricket at Lords finished early.

Among other things he was keen to see the rally at St Katharine’s Dock and beetled over to take a look. When pressed for numbers he guessed that there were something over 30 classic boats in the dock, including Arthur Ransomes’ Nancy Blackett as seen in the novel We didn’t mean to go to Sea, and a very nice Uffa Fox Fairey Marine yacht. He also says there were a good number of visitors strolling around the dock.

If Jim’s right, I’d say 30 boats was a good, healthy number.

Event organiser Ian Welsh told intheboatshed that the rally had been a success. ‘It went very well indeed, the entrants loved it and so it seems did the St Katharine’s people – so fingers crossed we’ll do it next year again. We already have lots of ideas for next year.’

More photos have been posted by the organisers on their website.

The rally also made The Times – see the story here.

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