Racundra’s Third Cruise by Arthur Ransome

Published by Fernhurst Books; 8th May 2018; RRP: £14.99

Arthur Ransome is well known as author of the classic children’s sailing tale, Swallows & Amazons, and many other books in the same series. But there is much more to the man (and, indeed, his wife).

Before he wrote Swallows & Amazons, Ransome was a journalist for the Daily News, based in Russia and also wrote for The Manchester Guardian. He is reputed to have played chess against Lenin and he married Trotsky’s secretary. He cruised extensively in the Baltic in the 1920s on board his beloved Racundra. His account of his first cruise on that boat was his first commercially successful book, Racundra’s First Cruise (also available from Fernhurst Books).

The second cruise (which is also recounted in this book) was spoilt by bad weather and curtailed by a request from The Manchester Guardian for Ransome to go to Russia with regard to articles for an Economic Supplement that was being edited by John Maynard Keynes. However, the third cruise was special – it was his honeymoon having married Evgenia Shelepina (Trotsky’s secretary). She was an amazing character who took her pet snake with her on the cruise, and it wrapped itself around the teapot to keep warm! However, the six-foot-three Evgenia was not comfortable with all animals and abandoned the cruise for a while because of the presence of a mouse on board!

Ransome referred to her in both books as “the Cook”, which may seem old fashioned and derogatory, but this was far from the case. This description was necessitated because Ransome was already married (unhappily) and for him to be seen to be cruising with another unmarried woman was not appropriate in the 1920s – hence his use of this description.

But once he had obtained a divorce, they married on 8th May 1924 at the British Consul in Reval (now Tallinn) and set off on their honeymoon cruise.

Ransome clearly intended to publish the account of this cruise, but never finished it. Ransome enthusiast, Brian Hammett, got hold of the unpublished manuscript and found Ransome’s hand-written notes, diaries, logbooks and photographs in the Ransome Archive at Leeds University. Brian compiled this book, adding his own notes from his cruises in the same area. The result is a glorious volume which has delighted Ransome enthusiasts, sailors and landlubbers equally.

This new paperback edition and eBook will be published on 8th May – the very day that Ransome and Shelepina got married in 1924 before their honeymoon cruise which is recounted in this book. It will be available to buy from all good bookshops, websites and direct from www.fernhurstbooks.com.

About the authors
Arthur Ransome, world famous for the hit series Swallows & Amazons, had, as a young man in 1917, gone to Russia as a foreign correspondent and journalist. He fell in love with Evgenia, Trotsky’s secretary, whom he later married. Together they owned two small yachts before commissioning the building of Racundra in 1922 at Riga in Latvia.

Brian Hammett was given a copy of Swallows & Amazons for his tenth birthday, and was immediately captivated by both the story and the author. The first boat he had was a closed canoe and he called it Swallow. He went on to join The Arthur Ransome Society and became an Arthur Ransome expert, discovering the unpublished Racundra’s Third Cruise in Leeds University library. He has cruised the Baltic himself, following Ransome’s cruises in the area.

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