Arthur Ransome Trust

Putting Ransome on the Map

We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea

Background to We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea

The Ransome’s moved from the Lake District to Suffolk in the late summer of 1935. On 8 September that year he bought his second yacht, a nearly-new 7 ton Hillyard cutter called Electron, then lying in Poole. Ransome renamed her Nancy Blackett, on the grounds that without his best-known fictional character he could never have afforded the yacht. He brought her around to her new home port, Pin Mill.

Both these developments soon paid creative dividends. In January, 1936, he saw, “grabbed, clutched and pinioned a really really gorgeous idea for a new book… Swallows only… No Nancy or Peggy or Captain Flint… but a GORGEOUS idea with a first class climax inevitable and handed out on a plate… So I breath again.

To research his new story, Ransome sailed Nancy across the North Sea in June, 1936. But otherwise he had to put We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea aside for most of 1936, whilst completing Pigeon Post. Then, during the winter of 1937, he was further distracted by the help he was giving Katharine Hull and Pamela Whitlock over The Far-distant Oxus.As a result his seventh Swallows and Amazons book wasn’t published until the end of 1937.


John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker move with their mother and younger sister Brigit to Pin Mill, to await their father’s return to Britain from service overseas. There they befriend Jim Brading, owner of the yacht Goblin, who invites them on a quiet cruise on the River Orwell. All goes well, until a series of events leaves the four Walkers alone and drifting out to sea in a fog.

First publication

Published by Jonathan Cape in November, 1936


  • In Print
  • Jonathan Cape (hb) ISBN 978-0224021234
  • Vintage (pb) ISBN 978-0099589396
  • Red Fox (pb) ISBN 978-0099427223
  • E-book: Random House Digital Editions
  • Audiobook:
  • Abridged Audiobook: Gabriel Woolf

Ransome's drawing of two flags, used in We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, our swallows and amazons series logo

I really was afraid I’d done… for these stories by uprooting, but I haven’t. This new idea is the best since Swallows and Amazons.


Also in Swallows & Amazons Series

Continue exploring Ransome’s bibliography:

Ransome's drawing of two children discovering a cave, our discover ransome logoRansome's drawing of a wooden hut in snow, our bibliography logoRansome's drawing of a dog on weighing scales, our books by ransome logoRansome's drawing of two flags, our swallows and amazons series logoRansome's drawing of a parrot, our story telling logoRansome's drawing of a hand holding a candle, our literary criticism logoRansome's drawing of two children in a boat, our sailing literature logoRansome's drawing of a cormorant eating a fish, our fishing literature logoRansome's drawing of a crucible held in iron bars, our political literature logoRansome's drawing of a pestle and mortar, our essay collections logoRansome's drawing of an armadillo, our world about him logoRansome's drawing of three pigeons, our autobiography logo