WE DIDN'T MEAN TO
GO TO SEA
By Arthur Ransome (1937)
It is all in the title: some kids are invited on board a
yacht for a harbour cruise when the motor runs out of petrol
and the skipper pops ashore for more: ''Nothing can possibly
happen''. But the skipper never returns. The tide comes in
and sucks the uncommanded vessel out to sea. Like the
remainder of the ''Swallows and Amazons'' series, of which
this book is about halfway, We Didn't Mean to Go to
Sea is a frightfully jolly yarn about upper-class
boarding school pupils. The masterstroke of the writer for
this volume was to bring them out of their lakeland camping
comfort zone. The scenes during a storm by night at sea are
elemental and the characters are made to think and work
harder than ever before in their shelf-full of books.
I have lost count of how many times I have read this
children's sailing yarn. I think its appeal is in its
satisfying simplicity: beginning, middle and happy ending.
Children's literature is all about being brave and struggling
through the hard times to come out the other end in good
shape. It's a compelling message that never wears out.