Arthur Ransome 1956. Racundra’s First Cruise. Hammondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 158 pp.

A sublime cruising yarn and a pure joy to read and re-read, much of it written by the author at his writing desk on Racundra’s maiden voyage - this 1922 Baltic cruise. The first edition was published a year later. Memorable for Ransome’s simple elegant language, for the empathetic descriptions of the lands and people of Estonia, Ransome’s photographs, the sailing legs from port to port, the crucial secret of making good marmalade, and much more.

The crew of Racunda comprised a most interesting trio: “The Cook” throughout the book but known to be Evgenia Shelepin, who was Trotsky’s secretary and would become Ransome’s wife.

“The Ancient” (a fond allusion to the Ancient Mariner), who was really Carl Sehmel, a sailor from the clipper ship era who had been crew aboard Thermoplyae when she raced Cutty Sark.

Arthur Ransome himself, who had moved to Russia in 1913 as journalist and writer and became (or already was?) a strong sympathiser of the Bolsheviks. Ransome was under investigation from MI5 from 1917 as a possible Russian spy but it seems equally possible he was gathering information for the British. MI5 didn’t lose interest in him until 1937.

Much of this information, about which Ransome was coy, can be found at the Arthur Ransome wiki