‘Nobody had meant to go to sea, but here they were, and an unknown land ahead of them’
We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is the seventh novel in the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. There are 12 books in the series in total.
We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea focuses on just the Walker children: John, Susan, Titty, and Roger. They are staying at Pin Mill, in south Suffolk, with their mother and youngest sister, Bridget, as they await for the return of their father from overseas. The children befriend Jim Brading, who invites them for a trip aboard his boat, Goblin. Their mother only allows them aboard on the condition that they promise to stay within the estuary and do not go to sea. Evidently, this promise is broken.
I started reading We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea whilst on holiday at Poole Quay, so the descriptions of boats, harbours and foghorns felt quite apt. However, I couldn’t, and didn’t, understand all the technical sailing terms Ransome includes. Even with the little diagrams provided, I just wasn’t interested in the technicalities of sailing a boat.
The title obviously reveals the premise of the book, and one chapter is even called Nothing Can Possibly Happen, which is ironic.
We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is probably one of the scariest books of the Swallows and Amazons series I’ve read. 4 children become stranded at sea, get caught in the middle of a storm, and Ransome describes it in vivid detail. I’d be terrified!
This chaos leads to some new character development, as John has to take on new responsibilities in order to keep everybody safe, and Susan’s confidence as the mother figure shatters due to the fear and guilt of breaking a promise and being lost at sea.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Despite it’s scarier scenes, We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is still fun and has plenty of humour, particularly from Roger. There are also some rather ridiculous plot moments, as the children end up somewhere so bizarre that their mother doesn’t believe them!
Whilst a rather dramatic story, We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is another enjoyable children’s book in Arthur Ransome’s series and all is cheerfully resolved by the ending anyway.