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Racundra's First Cruise

Racundra's First Cruise is the first book about sailing written by Arthur Ransome, author of the Swallows and Amazons series It describes a trip he made across the Baltic Sea from Riga in Latvia to Helsinki in Finland and back in a 9 metre sailing boat that he had built


During the First World War, Ransome had spent much of his time as a news correspondent in Russia, where he covered the revolution and its aftermath He was living in Moscow when he approached the designer Otto Eggers in Reval Tallinn in Estonia to build him a sturdy cruising boat He planned to sail Racundra back to England, but delays in finishing her meant that there was only time for a proving trip in 1922 before the winter and the return to England had to be put off The six-week trip took till nearly the end of September and much of the account was written on board He was to marry Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina, the ex-private secretary of Leon Trotsky two years later when his divorce papers came through, before Racundra's third cruise

"Racundra turned out to be all that I had hoped We took her to sea in the Baltic autumn; we had her at sea when big steamers reported damage from the heavy weather, and never once did she show the smallest sign of disquiet Weather that was good enough for us was good enough for her, and when the Equinox flung her home with a last flick of his mighty tail, she sailed through the rollers on the bar and the troubled Dvina, serene, neat, as if she was returning from a day's trip in June"

The voyage

Ransome set out with two crew whom he doesn't name directly One is simply called "The Cook", in actuality his lover and later wife Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina, but he says that she takes "most of the credit for the ease and pleasantness of the voyage She can take her trick at the tiller if need be, but that, for her, is holiday All the hard work was hers"

The other is called the "Ancient Mariner", an old sailor who Ransome had met in Riga living in a small hut on a raft and who had sailed in the tea clippers including Thermopylae, and been harbourmaster of the "Lilliput port" When he begged Ransome to take him, "I, of course, agreed with joy, as there is no such rigger in the Baltic as the Ancient Mariner" His real name was Captain Carl Sehmel and his character is also featured in several of the Swallows and Amazons books as Peter Duck and Simon, a wherry sailor in Coot Club


  1. ^ Chambers 2010, p 314
  2. ^ Ransome 2002
  3. ^ Ransome 1928, p 33
  4. ^ Brogan 1985, p 258
  5. ^ Brogan 1985, p 257
  • Ransome, Arthur 1923, Racundra's First Cruise, London: G Allen & Unwin, New York: B W Huebsch inc 
  • Ransome, Arthur 1928, Racundra's First Cruise Mariner's Library 1958 ed, London: Rupert Hart-Davis 
  • Ransome, Arthur 2002, Brian Hammett, ed, Racundra's Third Cruise, Fernhurst Books Ltd, UK 
  • Chambers, Roland 2010, The Last Englishman, Faber & Faber 
  • Brogan, Hugh 1985, The Life of Arthur Ransome, London: Hamish Hamilton 

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Racundra's First Cruise

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