CRUISING: KING OF THE KIMBERLEY

True North Ad­ven­ture Cruises are a great way to discover the Kimberley, with founder, Craig How­son OAM, work­ing in the area since 1983.

Vacations & Travel - - Contents - BY RODERICK EIME

Craig How­son OAM, founder of True North Ad­ven­ture Cruises, has been work­ing in the Kimberley since 1983.

To fully un­der­stand the Kimberley is to take a jour­ney back through the ages, to a time when the early an­ces­tors of mod­ern man were be­gin­ning to reach Europe and take up res­i­dence in the alpine caves. This is the time when many be­lieve the first peo­ple ar­rived in Australia, cre­at­ing the mys­te­ri­ous Gwion Gwion rock art that could well be the old­est any­where in the world. These first ar­rivals set foot on a land much dif­fer­ent than to­day, yet the heart of the Kimberley had been long es­tab­lished over mil­lions of years.

As re­cently as 50 years ago, the Kimberley was still a wild frontier with a his­tory quite apart from any­where else in the country. Ja­panese, Chi­nese and var­i­ous Euro­peans had cre­ated an econ­omy seem­ingly out of nothing. Pearling was well es­tab­lished in Broome and the sur­round­ing plains had main­tained vast herds of cat­tle for many years be­fore.

Lobster har­vest­ing was also a prime source of in­come for the hardy, re­mote folk who de­fied the norms of civil­i­sa­tion to cre­ate wealth and pros­per­ity in one of the harsh­est en­vi­ron­ments any­where on the planet.

It was into this arid no-man’s-land of Australia’s great North West that Craig How­son cut his teeth. As an en­er­getic young man, How­son toiled on the deck of a cray fish­ing boat, slic­ing his fin­gers on the sharp twine and wire of the cray pots and im­pal­ing him­self on the thorny shells of the lob­sters un­til he’d per­fected his craft. It’s hard to imag­ine to­day’s In­ter­net-era young­sters sub­ject­ing them­selves to such dis­com­forts in the course of their work.

“I left home at 18 of my own ac­cord,” re­calls Craig with a chuckle. “I’m sure mother missed me.”

His mother and brother have a slightly dif­fer­ent rec­ol­lec­tion. “He was ba­si­cally a good kid, but pretty wild,” says his mum. “But very de­ter­mined which ob­vi­ously stood him in good stead for later in life.”

“At 21 I got my first boat, Pass­port,” says Craig, “a ba­sic 40-foot fish­ing boat with a big back deck.”

This boat launched him into the fish­ing char­ter business and also gained a rep­u­ta­tion for good times and par­ties.

How­son’s en­thu­si­asm for fish­ing saw him de­velop quickly as an ex­pert an­gler trolling for the elu­sive bar­ra­mundi in the es­tu­ar­ies and wrestling the gi­ant pelagic species in the rich wa­ters off Shark Bay and Broome. De­spite his tender age, his skill and local knowl­edge were widely known through the North West.

When he headed to Perth for the Amer­ica’s Cup in

1983 to throw a party on Rot­tnest Is­land, How­son shot to rock star sta­tus after his wild shindig hit all the pa­pers and sealed his rep­u­ta­tion as a fun-lov­ing bloke who could make things hap­pen.

With his brother Terry, How­son also be­came a skilled sailor, rac­ing Lasers at the Rock­ing­ham Yacht Club. In the lead-up to the 1987 Amer­ica’s Cup in Fre­man­tle, How­son struck up a friend­ship with mem­bers of the Cana­dian syn­di­cate who were pre­par­ing their ves­sel, True North, for the big event. How­son built and op­er­ated the tender boat for the Cana­di­ans, chris­ten­ing it ‘North Star’.

The eu­pho­ria of the ‘83 Amer­ica’s Cup was short-lived and the ‘Auld Mug’ headed back to the States, leav­ing How­son won­der­ing what to do next. It wasn’t long be­fore he was back in action, run­ning fish­ing char­ters out of Broome aboard the trusty North Star, sup­ple­mented by de­liv­er­ing fuel to pri­vate ves­sels.

After ac­quir­ing valu­able local nav­i­ga­tional skills from Broome el­der, Dan Gre­gory, How­son was equipped to be­gin com­pre­hen­sive char­ters in the wider Kimberley region in 1991, in­clud­ing the ground break­ing two-week voy­ages to Wyn­d­ham in his new 10-pas­sen­ger ves­sel, North Star IV.

Open­ing im­age: Al­most like a celebrity, True North shines un­der lights,

© Shaun Hut­ton, True North Ad­ven­ture Cruises.

Clock­wise from right: True North at King Ge­orges Falls; A he­li­copter flight makes for a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence; Walk along the white sands of the Kimberley.

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