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‘MATILDA JAYNE’ our great canal journey

Local author, mum and Morecambe resident is very proud to present her book, Matilda Jayne, our great Canal Journey. The book follows the family’s journey from the purchase of a dilapidated canal boat through its transformation into a floating home.


The boat was transformed primarily by Jaynes son Billy when he was a teenager and was followed by George Clarkes Amazing Spaces as seen on Channel 4. 

Billy was home educated, trained as a carpenter and successfully competed and won a Skillbuild contest for the construction trade in the UK when he was only 16. Here is the first chapter of Jaynes book. 

Billy, Matilda and I were all in the cab of our much-loved truck, a Volkswagen LT, Vera. We were driving along in silence and apart from concentrating on the road ahead, I was not thinking of very much, mundane thoughts were just floating around in my head; like the first fall of delicate snowflakes, fluttering and dancing in the night sky, struggling to the ground and attach themselves to something secure. Suddenly the silence was broken with an abrupt yell, out of the blue my son, Billy blurted out”, Why don’t we get a canal boat?” 

Billy then put up a damn good argument, which wouldn’t have looked that out of place if it was coming out of the mouth of an accomplished QC. Billy didn’t stop there, he carried on explaining that we could buy a narrowboat, maybe one which was totally dilapidated and refurbish it, he then added that it could be a wonderful family project and how when it was completed, we could all go off cruising the waterways exploring England at a leisurely 4 miles an hour. 

Whilst Billy had been wittering on stating his case, I had pulled Vera up in a layby, I was now sitting sideways in the cab staring at him in disbelief. Where I’d parked the wagon, just happened to be next to the canal, the beauty of this spot helped to cement Billy’s argument. Matilda was already siding with Billy and needed little encouragement to throw herself head first into our new adventure. They both tried to convince me that this was the best idea since sliced bread and why in my 40 years on this earth, I had not had the good sense to think of it previously. Matilda looked at me with that look, reminiscent of an old school teacher looking over his bifocal glasses when you had been naughty, her look screamed ‘honestly mother, you know why you’ve never thought of this before.‘ 

Well, there are two main answers to that and a couple of obvious flaws in Billy’s cunning plan, one was ‘the joining together as a family to refurbish it’, I hardly knew one end of the hammer from another and the other and most important was we were skint. 

So that is how we came to buy Matilda Jayne. I was very nervous about purchasing my first boat, and I realised I need not have been, we also made and learned from our mistakes. I decided to write this book for many reasons, but one was so that people can see how easy it is to purchase their first boat, and how simple it is to go through all the different things associated with it from launching your boat into the water to getting your boat a safety certificate. 

In the following chapters, I am going to take you through our canal boat journey from purchase to finished build. I also wanted a log of all we went through as a family and a record of Billy’s unique achievements, so in years to come, we could look back on it. The other reason for writing, was that we were lucky enough to have the amazing experience of being on George Clarkes Amazing Spaces, but, really the main reason why I started my book was because I was terrified of getting a boat, particularly being a single mum without a man about to help, support and provide the physical strength! 

I wanted to write this book, so that other people can see that with a bit of determination and a dash of throwing caution to the wind you too can live the dream, so here we go, this is the story of our journey as a family with our first boat; Matilda Jayne, enjoy! 

Even though Billy was still only 17 years old he was already an award-winning carpenter, Billy had been bullied at school and the head of school blamed him. She spouted the usual rubbish that they ‘have a zero tolerance to bullying,‘ it didn’t appear that way to me, I believe, she just didn’t want it to be shown on her OFSTED report, so it was easier for her to blame Billy. I took Billy away from all the trouble at school, and home educated him. Later, after Billy had left the school, the bully admitted to Police that he had indeed bullied Billy. After the bully left school the following year, he attended the same college as Billy, and he started to bully him there. The difference was the college took a more logical approach and investigated it thoroughly and they were having none of it. The bullying stopped immediately, and Billy was never bullied again. Billy was then left in peace to do what he went to college to do; learn. 

The saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, definitely fits our situation, out of something bad something good has surfaced, had Billy not been bullied, had the head of the school been more supportive, Billy would not have achieved what he has today. The best thing I did was home educate Billy and send him to college at 14 years old. By the time Billy was 16 years old he was a qualified carpenter and had already won the Skillbuild competition, a prestigious event for people in the construction trade. At 15 years old he was the youngest person to fully transform an old horse box into a camper van without ANY help. Not only did he plan the whole build himself, he re-designed the horse box into a fully functioning camper van, then he rebuilt the engine, fitted the electronics and all the plumbing, and installed the heating all by himself, he did it to such a high standard even George Clarke was astounded. 

Anyway, back to the refurbishing of the boat and another fine mess that Billy got me into! Billy is not only an expert carpenter he’s an expert at wrapping me around his little finger, in fact as superb as he is at carpentry it’s a toss-up at which he is best at; carpentry or wrapping me around his little finger! So, it wasn’t long; half an hour to be precise that he had successfully convinced me I couldn’t be without a narrow boat and within moments he had me trawling the internet looking for a suitable boat. 

That’s when we realised, we did not stand a cat in hells chance of getting one, they were a fortune, we couldn’t find anything under £12,000, and they were all in various states of disrepair. Our dream or should I say Billy’s soon came to an abrupt halt. A bit downhearted we started the wagon and limped home, bottom lips well and truly out. I should have known my son better, and a mere 12 grand wasn’t going to scupper his plans, a boat he wanted and a boat we were going to get. 

My daughter, Matilda is a keen walker, but Billy is rubbish at walking for any period of time, he always has been, as a child I would have to drag him the few hundred yards from work to home, he was the laziest walker ever and that reluctance to use his legs for anything that was not absolutely necessary stayed with him as he grew up. 

Suddenly though walking was on the daily agenda and guess where we were to walk, yeah you got it, we were going for a walk down the canal. So, we all set off on our ulterior motive jaunt down the canal and we ended up at Galgate Marina, Billy immediately wanted to peruse the boats in the harbour. 

We trundled around for a while, eyeing up every boat and commenting as you do, then all three of us stopped dead in our tracks, our eyes transfixed on the one thing in front of us, the gleaming red boat that was sitting bobbing on the water and guess what? It had a large for sale sign on it with a mobile number to contact, but they had not stated a price. I stood there dreaming; I was cocooned in my own little cartoon bubble, you know one of those things that are drawn over the characters head when they are deep in thought. 

I imagined myself cooking tea on my Rayburn whilst we gently bobbed up and down on the water. We would be moored out in the country in the middle of nowhere, the only noise being the wildlife passing by, or a persistent swan that was not leaving until it was fed. We would be far away from the madding crowd, no people shouting and moaning, no impatient drivers, no traffic wardens dictating where you park and no unnecessary traffic lights, no Police or people in authority watching your every move, just simple tranquillity. 

My thoughts erupted like a volcano, and after about 30 seconds my mind had successfully purchased the boat, we now owned her, and we were cruising out of the marina on our first journey and, knowing my Billy, his thought process would be very similar. Then the nagging began, it was in both ears, a kid at each side screeching into my poor ears. Both chanting in unison, working as a team, Orcas circling their prey, until it finally realises its fight with life is fruitless and sacrifices itself to its fate. 

Billy being older, and the more accomplished nagger quickly changed tactics, after they have worn you down with noise levels registering dangerously high in the decibel scale, he then slumped to a silent, soothing whisper and looked at you with drooping, puppy dog eyes. Amazingly your now so happy with the peace you inadvertently succumb to his demands, kids are masters at getting what they want! He manages to turn it , so you think it’s him that’s doing you a favour, it’s genius. Matilda, a little less experienced, had let her emotions run away with her and was now jumping up and down like a caged Chimpanzee, the fact we had no money fell on deaf ears, and the nagging was building with a crescendo of epic proportions. 

I didn’t want to ring, I despise time wasters myself, I have been in business sales for many years, and I had sold numerous things, and my biggest bugbear was and is timewasters. I certainly did not want to be telephoning someone, giving them false hope of selling their pride and joy when we didn’t have a pot to pee in. However, Billy had been so persistent in his continual nagging he had ground me down, and I had lost the will to live and like a divvy, I telephoned the number……

Jaynes Book – ‘Matilda Jayne our great canal journey’ can be purchased from


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