Meet Jim the Ferryman

  • Meet Jim the Ferryman image

If you’re strolling around the Kingston harbour of a morning, there is a chance you may bump into local Ferry Operator Jim Paterson, as he sets out for a day of cruising on the Capital’s picturesque Lake Burley Griffin. Jim is a character blessed with great knowledge of the Lake and the local landmarks, along with a laconic wit, and is rarely seen without the trademark fishing cap that gives him the look of a man that has spent his life on the water.

In all fairness though, Jim had a long and successful career in the media, spanning 30 years, before he took to navigating our famous body of water, and has been at the helm of Lake Burley Griffin Cruises since 2003.

“I did grow up around boats,” he says. “My family had a commercial boat shed on the Hawkesbury River.” But Jim went on to work for the ABC for many years, including a long stint as a Unit Manager of Australia’s first nightly current affairs show This Day Tonight. “This Day Tonight did a lot of satire. Even though my role was in admin, I was one of the people that dressed up to do some

of the comedy stuff,” he says. “After I moved on from the ABC, I spent many years working in commercial radio around the State, and found myself in Canberra, heading up 2SSS, the local community sports station.”

By late 2002, it seems the writing was on the wall for 2SSS, and by that time Jim had his eye on a little steamboat owned by another operator. “It was getting a little ragged and Steve wanted to sell it,” he says “so I bought it off him and converted it to electric. We’ve got two electric boats now,” he says, referring to the original boat MV Cygnet, and MV Gull, a later addition to the fleet.

Asked whether he thinks that ferry travel may be a viable alternative on the lake, and specifically about a Kingston to Acton service, Jim sees a number of challenges. “There is a 10 knot limit on the lake at the moment, which would make it a little too slow as a serious transit alternative, and the Lake isn’t quite deep enough in sections. At the moment, it’s a half metre lower than it should be as there is work being done on Scrivener Dam, so you have to navigate around the edges at times,” he says. “It’s really up to the NCA though,” he adds “and whether they are willing to allow a faster boat on the Lake–but certainly as a recreational trip, it is viable.”

Jim believes the real opportunity is to expand his offering to include certain attractions that are located on the Lake’s shores. “I’d love to organise something with some of the restaurants here at the Foreshore,” he says. “Perhaps dinner or lunch with a one hour lake-cruise, included as a package.”

Currently, Jim operates three cruises a day seven days a week, with a fourth cruise during Floriade. Whilst his boats may be seen moored at Kingston Boat Harbour, the cruise pickup point remains the Acton Ferry Terminal.

For more information, or to book a cruise go to