Plans for the Coot Club

We’re reading Arthur Ransome’s The Coot Club, continuing our nautical theme. The kids in The Coot Club are boys and girls in a range of ages who sail around small rivers in the Norfolk Broads, having incredibly mild and realistic adventures. Ransome, like E. Nesbit, doesn’t have a lot of annoying gender essentialism — the boys don’t constantly think in the background “girls are like that” or “girls can’t do X”; the kids cooperate and work together, respecting each others’ strengths and weaknesses.


While the Coot Club isn’t the strongest in Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series, I started Moomin reading it because it has a conservation theme. The kids band together, not just to learn how to sail, but to observe and protect marsh birds. They also have just gone to live on a houseboat, so I thought Moomin would identify with them even more.

Here are some of the characters:
– Dorothea, who likes to write and imagines everything as if it’s in an adventure novel.
– Dick, her brother, who takes notes on birdwatching, isn’t super strong or physically competent, and has brilliant ideas.
– Tom, an older boy who has his own sailboat, the Titmouse, which he fixes up constantly. He unties a huge obnoxious motorboat to save a coot’s nest, thus becoming an outlaw for the rest of the book.
– Port and Starboard, twin girls about Dick and Dorothea’s age, who are great sailors and quite adventurous.
– The Death and Glories — Joe, Pete, and Bill — who have a boat painted black and dress as pirates. They run the Coot Club’s spy network of kids with bicycles.

Most U.S. kids around Moomin’s age would not have the patience for this slightly out of date book, with its slow-developing plot and action, and where every sentence has either some British English term or some dialect (from the townspeople or the Death and Glories) or a mysterious nautical word. In retrospect, I think it would be better to start with Swallows and Amazons!

I enjoyed re-reading The Coot Club to think about social class and to attempt to identify myself with The Admiral, the older woman who comes off as a bit physically frail and who paints watercolors and feeds chocolate to her pug dog. Like the Admiral, I’m on a boat but not always capable of running it, so need to sit and watch the young people scurry around and put plans into action.

Moomin’s plans now are to photograph pelicans, and to make a map of Redwood Creek and Smith Slough that will be like the Coot Club’s maps of Norwich Broads.

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45 Responses to Plans for the Coot Club

  1. BerkeleyBecca says:

    I've never heard of these series before, and they sound awesome. I'm going to have to check my library for them.

  2. Bryony says:

    My favourite is 'Winter Holiday' which is about living in a houseboat too. And introduces Dick and Dorothea .. so that is quite useful if you are abandoning 'Coot Club' half way through. (I'm sure you already know this.)

  3. Liz says:

    I vaguely remember Winter Holiday, maybe – but not the houseboat. Did they go on an ice boat? I was trying to remember the book where they go out at night with the kindly old eeler(s). Moomin is not abandoning Coot Club. He seems to love it dearly despite its slight boringness. Now I'm dying to lay the rest of the series on him.Soon… Hornblower!

  4. Bryony says:

    In 'Winter Holiday' the whole lake is frozen and Captain Flint's houseboat is iced in.He is away and they turn it into their headquarters while setting up re-enaction of Scott/Amundsen's race to North Pole.'Secret Water' is my other favourite .. set in mudflat coast and all about the 'Eels' secret society and pottering around in tiny boats. The setting is the most similar to where you are of all the books.(I once sailed round there using only the book's endpaper maps .. for fun ..I was only a lowly crew member, not in charge.)

  5. N6TQS says:

    And "Secret Water" is the one where the Swallows map the area (really the Walton backwaters).

    I'm a member of the Arthur Ransome Society, and the Nancey Blackett Trust.

    Now, to find again your photos of rowing in Pete's Harbor, to see Shing's junk, SAY-LON, in the background (I think), and point him at them.

  6. Liz says:

    N6TQS, there are some photos of the Say-Lon here!

  7. N6TQS says:

    Thanks. Did you know they didn't actually make it to Alameda until the next day? Two of my houseguest sailors had been invited along and were considering it, planned to be a half-day trip (three hour cruise?), but figured they'd made the right decision upon receiving a 'phone call that evening that they were anchored out, with minimal provisions, etc…

  8. Exactly the true observation in the boys and girls both as they can do better by giving respect and space to each other. And they can do better with the corporation and giving respect they provided to each other in their working place and more in their life too.

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  10. The Coot Club is the fifth book of Arthur Ransome’s. I have read this book and I liked it very much. I think you have so many plans for the Coot club. So don’t forget to share such plans and I am expecting more form you!

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