Date posted: August 13, 2014

The Grining family tradition of water cruises on the Gordon River in Tasmania spans more than 100 years. In 1948, 11-year-old Charles Grining left his Lithuanian home and ran away to sea. Arriving in Australia many years later, he found work around the mining fields, but it wasn?t long before he met Irish girl Mary Minnock, who would be the one to ground him. After several years of marriage and several more children (they have nine in total), Charles and Mary moved to Trial Harbour (then known as Remine) on Tasmania?s West Coast.

A twist of fate

On Feb 26, 1887, a natural disaster would change the Grinings and their future generations? lives forever. While Charles and his two eldest children were working at the Heemskirk mineral fields, a bushfire destroyed everything in the community. The townsfolk headed to the sea for protection. As the family home was destroyed, Charles decided to move to the new settlement of Strahan.

It was here that Charles became one of the most influential businessmen of that time. He built one of the town?s early hotels and went back to his sea roots building boats. Two sons followed in their father?s footsteps: Charles Jnr, a sailor and Harry, a master boat builder.

Cruising along

The Eagle, Harry?s first vessel, was used to transport cargo and passengers around the harbour including Kelly Basin, Sarah Island, and on the Gordon and King Rivers. Harry was also there to assist in many salvage operations, as many attempted to navigate through the narrow channel of Hell?s Gate. In 1985, Grining Bros Charter and Cruise Operators, was formed by Harry and his two brothers, Edward and Frederick.

The business was passed down to Edward?s son William, who then passed it down to his son Don. After Don married local girl Sandra Morrison, her family bought Mayfair the last vessel built by Harry. The boat was used to carry passengers to and from the Gord-on River, and as a tug for Huon Pine logs.

A new venture

Under fifth generation Guy and Troy (Don?s sons), the Grining?s have taken the business to a new level. The two boys both married girls named Sarah and have continued the family link with the Gordon River under World Heritage Cruises.

“I married into the family, but they are real local locals here. Guy and Troy are very proud of the area and in business that shows. In many ways the area has been a focal point and what they?ve been interested in promoting,” says Sarah, wife of Troy.

World Heritage Cruises have three vessels that run day and overnight cruises. The Magic of the Gordon day cruises feature a range of different cruises visiting the Gordon River, Sarah Island Convict ruins and Hells Gate. The overnight Tasmanian Wilderness Escape Cruise is an exclusive world-class eco-tourism experience that holds only 24 people and spends two nights in total immersion in the Tasmanian Wilderness.

“The overnight boat is our new product which really has only been operating for a year. It has been a passion for a long time. Our aim has been to show people a lot more of the beautiful area, not only what they were seeing through the days. By just having the knowledge of the area, it?s really started to take off,” explains Sarah.

The most recent venture for World Heritage Cruises has been to take the overnight boat to Queensland in the winter months and run it around Harvey Bay and Fraser Island. Working in conjunction with the multi-award winning Kingfisher Bay Resort, the three night cruise not only features the gorgeous scenery, but the chance to observe whales, manatees, dolphins and turtles in their natural surround-ings, plus kayaking, snorkelling and excursions to isolated beaches.

“The area up there really needed a product; it?s such a beautiful area which we really want to help promote and it?s really taking off,” she says.

Obstacles The biggest challenge the business has faced has been to get the licence granted by the government to travel up the Gordon River, because of Austra-lia?s stringent licensing systems. Sarah admits that because the area is world heritage listed, dealing with the bureacracy, government bodies, and parks and wildlife has been a challenge, but perseverance has been the key.

“All you can say to people is that if you believe in something, if you pers-evere, you can overcome the obstacles. They were some very hard obstacles and it?s still a battle as we are trying to go further up the Gordon River to St. Johns falls, but it hasn?t stopped us,” she says.

Future journeys The overnight boat is still in its infancy and the major goal of World Heritage Cruises is to ensure that its a success. The family has invested a lot of money into the boat ($4 million) and all their efforts are going into getting that off the ground. They also realise they?re very fortunate that the day cruise is helping to subsidise this venture.

Currently the Grinings don?t have a succession plan as Sarah mentions that you never quite know what your children will be interested in and you must be very careful placing that kind of pressure on your children. Guy and Sarah, have a daughter Georgia (13) and son Riley (11), and Troy and Sarah have two sons Jack (10) and Alex (6). Already the three boys are certainly into boats and two of them even get in and drive them.

“Riley and Jack can take the big boats out and that impresses the tourists on board,” laughs Sarah. It seems the sixth generation of Grinings is keen to follow suit, stay on the water and cruise down the Gordon.