Thirty-six top-year schoolchildren from Kessingland Primary School near Lowestoft enjoyed a books-and-boats day out with Arthur Ransome’s yacht Nancy Blackett and local author Julia Jones’s Peter Duck, also originally owned by Ransome.
Their day out, on June 25th, began at the Alton Water sailing centre on the Shotley Peninsula, where Donny in Julia Jones’s "The Salt-Stained Book" got his first taste of sailing. Then they visited Pin Mill, where the opening chapters of Ransome’s "We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea" are set, and where the Swallows, John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker set sail for their adventure aboard the Goblin.
Then, after a walk along the shore to the pontoons of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, they discovered the Goblin herself – alias Arthur Ransome’s own 28ft yacht the Nancy Blackett, on which he based the fictional boat. Moored next to her was the green-painted Peter Duck, and another boat, the clinker-built Finesse 24 Kiboko, owned by the Nancy Blackett Trust’s Sailing Secretary John Benford.
The children, who have been reading "The Salt-Stained Book" and "We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea" in class, spent the afternoon exploring the three boats, chatting to their owners, and enjoying shoreside activities, including learning how to read, and draw, nautical charts with the NBT’s Judy Taylor and making dream-catchers with teacher Terry Payne. Thanks to a recently-forged link with Cambridge Arts Theatre, the theatre’s schools liaison officer Ali Roberts volunteered to come and run drama workshops with groups of children. Based on scenes from "We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea", these proved an additional highlight for many of the children.
Here’s a selection of the children’s comments:
“It was an amazing day”
“Thank you for this fantastic trip”
“Thank you for a fabulous day out”
“It was the best day ever”
“I never knew that chart work was so fun”
“Thanks Judy for the chart work, it was fascinating and now I know a lot about the sea and about charts”
“We felt so privileged to go in Arthur Ransome’s boat”
“I couldn’t believe I was actually standing on Nancy Blackett”
“Thank you Peter and Roger for letting us go on the Nancy Blackett and showing us how to put up the sail. It was fantastic”
“You have made me really want to sail”
“Thank you Julia for letting us see your boat the Peter Duck and letting us do what we liked. The biscuits and strawberries were lovely”
“Ali, you coming to see us again was great. Now I have better confidence in drama, so thank you for that”.
“Thank you John for letting us go on the amazing Kiboko. She was a beautiful yacht. You really inspired me to start sailing.”
For the Nancy Blackett Trust, the Chairman Peter Willis thanked the Royal Harwich for their hospitality and interest, and said: “We’re delighted with the way the day went – the children’s enthusiasm was really rewarding, and we’re pleased that the school was so keen to engage their interest in these locally-based stories. We’d be more than happy to arrange similar activities for other local schools.”