Charlie Persson’s parents owned a large house at Gladstone Road, Dutton Park close to the Brisbane River. One of their neighbours was Thomas Anderson, Captain of the “Lucinda” and often the young Charlie would wag school to go on cruises down the river to Moreton Bay. Once in the Bay Captain Anderson would let Charlie take over the helm because he reckoned that Charlie knew the channels as well as anyone.
Charlie was a river man long before we were married. He had a skipper’s license and used to run the cargo boats down to Southport for the Kleinschmidts. He was doing that when I met him, and I went down with him for the trip one day. He also skippered the “Wilfie” boats for the Port family.
I suppose you’d call him a freelance skipper – he could take any boat out. While skippering a boat, this was his total preoccupation. He and the boat were one – and the river. Charlie, the boat, and the river – they were one. This was why, when he died in 1995, we took his ashes back to the river. It was the only place we could think to put them that was right.
Charlie was not a talker. Although he helped form the Southport Yacht Club, we never went there for dinner. He didn’t like getting dressed up, and his feet rarely knew a pair of socks. His great love was mucking around in boats. He could fish, but preferred to have a sleep while others in his boat did the fishing. He loved sleeping out on the boat, and on weekend trips down the Bay would prefer to sleep overnight amongst the mossies in the Boat Passage rather than leave from Brisbane early the next morning.
Charlie bought the “Crest” in 1935 before we were married. She had been a cargo boat and was ‘pretty rough’ but he altered her for passenger cruises. He used to moor her at Kelly’s at the mouth of Norman Creek.
After our marriage Charlie worked as a crane driver, initially at the New Farm Powerhouse, then from about 1947 at the Darra Cement Works. Although he could have supplemented his income by chartering the “Crest”, Charlie was not a ‘money person’ and was happy to take friends for river cruises or fishing parties down the Bay or outside. If he just got enough to cover the cost of food and fuel, he was happy.
“Crest” was a beautiful old boat – 39.5 foot in length with an 11 foot beam and very big side decks with big railings. She didn’t roll and people could sleep on the decks in comfort. She had a very large engine – possibly a Wilson – which was run on kerosene. This made her very ‘fumy’.
The name “Crest” was shortened from “Gold Crest” because it was once owned by R.M.Gower who owned the flour mill of that name. Charlie bought her from J.D.Valentine for £275 ($550)
Charlie eventually sold the “Crest” because it drew too much water for Bay use. It was renamed the “Hero” and was used as a fishing boat. It was later wrecked on the Tweed bar and her upturned hull was washed ashore on the beach there. People used to camp and light fires in it.
In 1945 he bought the pleasure boat “Diane”. It had a big Packard engine, and the year before it had won the race to Myora. He later replaced it with another engine, which turned out to be slower. The Packard is still under the house.
Charlie had a habit of filling the petrol tank while we were going along. On one occasion in 1970 we were near the Apollo Ferry crossing on the Brisbane River after a fishing trip down the Bay. Charlie had just filled the tank, and we were experiencing a big wash from another boat. I jumped down to the galley to take the kettle off the stove, when I saw flames. I had a bag of money from my job in the West End and just had time to grab it before the fire took hold. We were both lucky. Charlie burnt his hands badly and was in hospital for three weeks. The “Diane” was burnt to the waterline.
That fire was the end of our boating for Charlie and me.
Mabel Persson, July 1997
Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.