The seventh book in Arthur Ransome's very popular Swallows and Amazons series, first published in 1937. The story only involves the Swallows - John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker - and tells of their accidental adventure crossing the channel when their boat drags its anchor.
The story begins at Pin Mill where the Swallows are staying with their mother and younger sister, watching the boats on the River Orwell and wishing they could go to sea. They meet a young sailor, Jim Brading, who invites them to come and visit him on his boat Goblin. The swallows are invited to stay overnight and Jim pops ashore in his tender to get provisions. The fog comes down, and the tide begins to rise, and there is no sign of Jim. The anchor begins to drag, and in the confusion gets lost over the side. Not knowing the river and not wanting to be wrecked on the shoals, the Swallows have no choice but to head out to sea.
It is one of my favourite books in the series. When I first read it I was very young, and had no idea what any of the sailing terms meant, but was caught up in the adventure as the little boat is nearly run down by a steamer and the kitten is daringly rescued off a drifting packing crate. Now when I read it I can sympathise with poor mate Susan, crippled by seasickness, and identify with John, face set to the wind, bringing Goblin accross the channel to Vlissingen (Flushing in Holland).
The cruise itself can be replicated if you start at Pin Mill - the Butt and Oyster pub near Woolverston Marina in Suffolk* - and sail down the River Orwell, past the Beach End Buoy, and set yourself towards Flushing. It's a great short cruise, only taking a few days, and Flushing itself is an extremely pretty place to visit. As Tiefling has reliably informed me, Arthur Ransome did the trip himself in order to research the book. It can also be combined with a trip to Secret Water, the Walton Backwaters, which are found at the mouth of the River Orwell, and which are the setting for Ransome's eighth book of the same name.
* On the map, look at the Shotley Peninsula near Ipswich. Thanks heyoka!