Arthur Ransome Trust

Putting Ransome on the Map

Racundra’s First Cruise

Background to Racundra’s First Cruise

By 1920 Ransome had settled with Evgenia Shelepina  in Reval, in Estonia. Evgenia was Trotsky’s former secretary and Ransome’s future second wife. Ransome had begun working for the Manchester Guardian in late 1919. But he was concentrating on writing longer articles for the paper, rather than reporting day-to-day. This gave him time both to pursue his passion for fishing, and also to renew his interest in sailing. He had first experienced the latter with the Collingwood family on Coniston Water nearly twenty years before.

Early experiences with two small boats, Slug and Kittiwake, wetted Ransome’s appetite sufficiently for him to dream of something bigger. In April, 1921, he met Otto Eggers, a renowned boat designer. By August he had commissioned Eggers to design a yacht, and a Riga boat yard to build it.

Racundra was launched, unfinished, in July 1922, and departed on her maiden cruise on 20 August. Ransome kept a detailed logbook of the cruise. With encouragement from both his old mentor, W G Collingwood, and his publisher, Stanley Unwin, Ransome turned his log book into a manuscript for Racundra’s First Cruise over the winter of 1922 – 23.

In many respects Racundra’s First Cruise was Ransome’s first really successful book and a crucial step in his development as a writer.

Synopsis

Racundra’s First Cruise is Ransome’s account of the building and maiden voyage of his first yacht, Racundra, from Riga, in Latvia, to Helsingfors (Helsinki) in Finland and back, in August and September, 1922.  Racundra sailed with three crew, the “Master and Owner” (Ransome), the “Cook” (Evgenia) and the “Ancient Mariner” (Karl Schmel, who Ransome later imortalised as his fictional character, Peter Duck).

First publication

Published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd in July, 1923.

The Fernhurst edition includes extensive additional material, compiled by the editor, Brian Hammett including: an introduction; chapters about the first two boats Ransome owned (Slug, in 1920, and Kittiwake, in 1921); a chapter about the writing of Racundra’s First Cruise, and a previously unpublished essay, On the Pirate Ship.

Availability

  • In Print
  • Fernhurst

Ransome's drawing of two children in a boat, our sailing literature logo, used for Racundra's First Cruise

The desire to build a house is the tired wish of a man content henceforth with a single anchorage. The desire to build a boat is the desire of youth, unwilling as yet to accept the idea of a final resting place.

 

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