The Northern River Pirates were friends of the Ransomes who formed a fleet to sail the Norfolk Broads in 1938 and 1939.
Cruises on the Broads had now developed into major expeditions. In both 1938 and 1939 the Ransomes led a fleet about the northern waters for a week in spring. Arthur was admiral; in his train came four Fairways and a Whippet (sailed by Taqui and Titty, who proved to be the most efficient of the younger sailors). The rule was that every boat could do more or less as she liked during the day, but all had to arrive at the same rendezvous for the night. In practice the boats sailed pretty much together, and Arthur was usually at hand to help in misadventures, of which running aground seems to have been the most common. To aid identification every ship had to fly a Jolly Roger (according to Arthur, his own, made by Genia, was much the best): many crew members fell overboard, stepping backwards on narrow counters to get better views of their magnificent flags. .... Sometimes Genia would invite guests to supper, and feast them (if George Russell’s experience was typical) with plum pudding, cold tongue, tomatoes and hot potatoes ..... in 1939 the sailors turned pirates and doused each other with buckets of water ..... In Nancy Blackett, with Lapwing as a sister ship he also led expeditions to Hamford Water and Kirby Creek. The elders remained afloat in their cutters, while the small boats took the children off to camp on Horsey Island. Tents sprang up. There were fires at night, and during the days, great exploration of all the intricate waters that lie, hidden from the sea, behind the Naze (Life pages 360-2).
In 1939 the final cruise before the war included George and Josephine Russell, the Youngs, Nigel Arnold Foster, and two younger girls Vicky and Susan Reynolds with their parents. They sailed the waters above Acle Bridge. George Russell kept a log, and the Russells captured the Young’s mop and ran it to the masthead in triumph (NBUS pages 15, 120-1, 153)
George Russell was killed at the battle of El Alamein. At Horsey Island a local woman (and owner of the island) who had met Ransome in the Nancy Blackett and Selina King before the war told Christina Hardyment that he came back in Peter Duck after the war but no longer bought children with him. Many of the boys he had known were killed in the war, and the loss of young companions meant that his desire to write children’s books dried up (CFT p193).