My husband did something rather wonderful last week – he chartered a boat for a day’s sailing. Now, I’ve always wanted to go sailing and any boat in the world would have made me happy, but he hadn’t booked just any old boat – he’d booked the Nancy Blackett!
The Nancy Blackett is a beautiful 1930’s cutter which belonged to the author Arthur Ransome. He called it his ‘best little ship’ and named it after his much-loved character from the Swallows and Amazon books.
And the Nancy Blackett was the boat that featured as ‘Goblin’ in my favourite Ransome novel, We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea, so it was a really special experience to be part of the crew along with our skipper and mate.
One of the most wonderful things about sailing is that you get to see things you wouldn’t normally see – like little glimpses of churches and beautiful homes by the water’s edge, as well as seals, cormorants and the occasional Thames barge. You are truly in a different element when you’re out on the water.
When it came time for me to take the tiller and steer the boat, I was filled with both excitement and nerves. I’m not sure I did a very good job, but I had enormous fun.
Sailing down the River Orwell to where it meets the River Stour, we moored and had lunch in the cockpit, the September sun streaming down on us as the water lapped the sides of the boat. Then Roy took the tiller for the journey back, skillfully tacking upriver, passing Pin Mill and spotting Alma Cottage where the Walker children in Ransome’s book were staying before their big adventure out at sea.
As we arrived back at Wolverstone Marina where Nancy is moored, I couldn’t help thinking of the line from We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea: ‘Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been.’ Yes, we certainly managed to do that, I think!