This is Ransomes finest book ; not for me perhaps his most enjoyable, that is Winter Holiday, but still the finest book he wrote. Ransome is well known as a sailor. He owned several boats and in real life cruised the baltic and the south and east coasts of England widely.
The plot draws on his extensive knowledge of the joys and hazards associated with the activity. The dragging anchor, the fog, the storm with dangerous land to leeward and any number of other events in the book are all brilliantly described and evoke a real sense of excitement anxiety and finally triumph as one by one each event is dealt with.
Ransomes characterisation of all the children is the best he achieved in any of his books but John, the skipper, is a true hero. Outwardly calm , inwardly in turmoil ,he is a young man who has learned the lessons of his elders. Conquering his fears he applies those lessons and having done so finds that things aren't so bad after all, and that even the most trying circumstances can be quite enjoyable. John brings the boat and the children through to safety. His reward when he finally meets up with his father is described in the most intimate bit of writing in any of the books.
"" A lot of things were lucky," said Daddy, and suddenly while they were walking along, brought his hand down on John's shoulder and gave it a bit of a squeeze, "you'll be a seaman, yet my son."
And John, for one dreadful moment, felt that something was wrong with his eyes. A sort of wetness......"