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Famous yacht that inspired classic 'Swallows and Amazons' children's book series celebrates its 90th birthday




A stunning yacht which inspired children's author Arthur Ransome to write the classic book series 'Swallows and Amazons' has celebrated its 90th birthday.

The Nancy Blackett remains easily recognisable to this day to fans of the much-loved children's book series, which has captivated generations since they were first published through the 1930s and 40s.

The yacht - a 28-foot long, seven-tonne, Bermuda rigged Hillyard sailing cutter - was bought by author Arthur Ransome himself in 1934.

The Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.
The Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.

He is said to have described her as "the best little ship I ever had" - and she became the subject of the seventh and eighth books in the 'Swallows and Amazons' book series, published in 1937 and 1939.

And this year, the Nancy Blackett is celebrating her milestone 90th birthday - and remains in "remarkable" condition, still regularly embarking on day trips along the River Orwell, setting off from Woolverstone Marina.

For almost 25 years, the yacht has been under the care of the Nancy Blackett Trust, set up in 1997 to preserve the condition of the vessel.

Sue Coales, from the Trust, said: "She is the most delightful little yacht to sail - she really is a joy.

"She's in remarkable condition given her age. We have recently come across all of her original documents, which is quite special.

The Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.
The Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.

"She's had some maintenance work done on her over the years, but all her parts are originals, and she still looks just as Arthur Ransome describes her in the books.

"He did a lot of his proofreading on the Nancy Blackett, so people who come aboard can look around and see all the parts of the yacht that he described, exactly as he would have seen them.

"Children spend an awful lot of time off in fantasy worlds, so it's really lovely to see people coming aboard and watch the real world meeting the imagined world."

Sue added: "She's a bit of a celebrity for literature fans. We do get the occassional person walk past when she's moored and say, 'Oh my gosh, is that the Nancy Blackett?'.

"It's a bit like having the Madonna of the boat world.

A small ceremony is held to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.
A small ceremony is held to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.

"Arthur Ransome is such an entertaining writer for children and for adults, and the Swallows and Amazons book series has really stood the test of time, and is still read today.

"Everything on board is still exactly as it would have been when he owned it, and all the adventures he writes about in his books are all plausible, too - with a bit of creative licence."

The Nancy Blackett yacht before it was renovated. Credit SWNS.
The Nancy Blackett yacht before it was renovated. Credit SWNS.

Now, the Trust is looking forward to hopefully throwing the yacht a big belated birthday party next year for her 90th - after Covid prohibited any celebrations this year.

Sue said: "It would have been lovely to have a really big party for her, but things are still so unsure with Covid.

"She only has a really small space and can only comfortably fit about six people on board.

A small ceremony is held to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.
A small ceremony is held to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.

"But we did throw a small, socially distanced gathering in May, where a few of us gathered on board and toasted her with some wine and a cake."

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A small ceremony is held to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.
A small ceremony is held to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Nancy Blackett yacht. Credit SWNS.