Messages and Book Reviews

The following are personal emails sent to me via my website:


Received 27th December 2021

Message: 2 days before Christmas I tested positive for covid so I am confined to the bedroom of a small 2 bedroom house I share with my wife and teenage daughter I also have a passion for canals and canal boats which is not shared by the wife or daughter  so sadly any idea of a canal holiday are zero. Anyway, I'm not a big reader only of Bill Bryson but my wife saw a narrow boat at large on amazon and got it me for Christmas it is the best and funniest book I have ever read and thankyou so much for getting  me through isolation I just could not put it down she gave me the book early just before Christmas  and I have just finished it superb thanks again.

Paul H........

Received 4th October 2020 

Message: Hi Jo and Jan (cos I feel like I know you both)
I’ve just finished reading ‘a narrow boat at large’ and it was fantastic, factual and sooo funny ! Bonny what a clever addition, for about 9 years my wife and I with 3 other couples had yearly holidays on the cut visiting lots of the places you mentioned and seemingly meeting similar people and having similar experiences my friends will be getting the book for Xmas. I loved your book and I’m looking forward to reading the rest. Thank you so much best book I’ve read in ages, Regards Mi........

Received 13th January 2021 

Message: What an inspiration you are!
In the autumn of my years I developed a blood cancer -  not life threatening but life changing (according to the man with the knowledge). Anyway, my previous addiction to my bicycle saddle has faded due to some balance issues leading to a lack of confidence.
However, it doesn't stop me using my legs to walk. Lucky then that my wife's recent Parkinsons diagnosis has resulted in walks aplenty. Got to keep the brain to muscle connections in fettle.....
We live in Shropshire and have discovered the delights of the canal network via the towpaths. Much of your book took in several of the areas we have strolled.
In short, I found it extremely amusing and it has given me a few hours of escape. I am now longing to be back out at Chirk, wandering from Wolverhampton or just jostling with tourists at Bratch Locks.
Thank you for a damn good read...I'll raise my next pint in your direction. Go steady sir! (Suitably distanced of course)


Received 6th February 2021

Message: thoroughly enjoyed the book. going to start the next one.
hope all is well. it has always been a dream of mine. It’s on my bucket list.
best wishes from Carlow, Ireland. Pe.......

The following are reviews of my boating books on

(Typos and errors have been addressed since these reviews)

A Barge at Large


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 January 2021

“Best Barging book ever!”

Excellent read a humorous take on real canal life, and the contribution from the pet just nailed it for me a very clever and entertaining style of writing can't wait for the next book, brilliant!


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 6 January 2021

I really enjoyed this book and its predecessor. I do have to things to mention that I found frustrating though. Firstly, there are many typos and other errors in the book and secondly, it would be nice to have a map included as sometimes it was difficult to work out exactly where they were. On the whole a thoroughly good read.


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 November 2020

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Not only is it a broad description of the vagaries and hiccups of life on a barge, but a very rough guide to continental waterway travel. Add to that Jo's sense of the ridiculous and we have a great read.


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 December 2014

Joyfully written, thoroughly entertaining and often laugh out loud funny. Joe May, with his sainted wife, Jan (the skipper), recounts tales of their travels together around the rivers and canals of the Netherlands, Belgium and France over a five-year period in their one-hundred-year-old converted Dutch barge. A thoroughly good read. Recommended!


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 November 2014

Well done Jo. Great read for anyone contemplating boating in Europe, it's a well-researched, informative, interesting and humorous book that is written both for the first-time boater and the old timers "who think they know it all"!!! Loved the interjections of "Bonny" re her owners and her adventures. Looking forward to the next book!




A Barge at Large II


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 3 February 2021

“A completely different laugh out loud”

I am two thirds the way through this the third book, having read the first two. They are completely different read, even if "messing about" on a long boat on the canals of England and mainland Europe may not be your thing the "situation" humour had me cackling to myself all the way through all three books. The self-deprecating attitude of the author is clearly very honest and at time poignant, especially following the inevitable demise of Bonny! (Sorry about the spoiler but at approximately 112, what do you expect?)
I would recommend these three books to anyone who want a little emotional escape and just some light reading. Brilliant. I wish there was another 3!


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 June 2017

“A good read for boating nuts and novices alike”

 really enjoyed this book, and the narrowboat book before it as well. In the last 18 years I have cruised most of the English and Welsh waterways going through 3 boats, two wives and a dog (I miss the dog) so I can identify with Jo's experiences. His sense of humour makes the book as does his writing style which cuts to the chase and avoids the problem of many travelogue's of going into too much detail about each place and therefore becoming boring. Some reviews have criticised the grammar and odd spelling mistake but come on get a life! I have not cruised in Europe (and now I am probably too old) but this part was also really interesting. His clashes with officialdom and those pompous prats that regularly turn up are also well told. I've just bought the third book so hope for more of the same.


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 November 2015

“Wonderful Book”

Many thanks for a very enjoyable book, loved the first one, and have now purchased the second, have also purchased a copy for a friend. Waiting for the next episode, is there one?


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 August 2019

“A right good read!”

I love it when you find an author that writes really great stories and can describe simple things with humility, sarcasm and truth however, I don’t like it when I finish what they’ve written......



A Narrowboat at Large


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 July 2019

“Once it gets into it’s stride it’s brilliant”

Firstly, this was a great read. I did feel it was very stilted for the first 15 or so pages and at one point the excessive use of commas and humorous similes had my mind's voice gasping for air by the end of a 'sentence'! However, I stuck with it and am very glad I did. The book begins to flow and the humour becomes sharper. The departure from Lime house lock onto the Thames is, quite frankly, one of the funniest things I have ever read (Bill Bryson offerings excepted of course). Final verdict is buy this book! You will not be disappointed.


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 February 2020

“A really good read….”

Very well narrated, feeling like you were there on their journey! Lovely to hear of cruising the canals without too many disasters that water and boats can create....smashing.


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 9 September 2020


I loved this book, I felt like I was there. Did you see me Jo? I was in the bilges!! Now for your next one


Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 February 2020

“A humorous ad informative book”

I liked the writing style and humour. A very enjoyable read and I would not hesitate in recommending it.