Dolphin flies into welcome after maiden trip West

Tim Slater
Head coxswain Bryce Cooper and assistant harbour master David Teague on the bow of the Kwillina. Pictures: Tim Slater

A new $2.2 million state-of-the-art pilot boat arrived in Esperance last week after a four-day voyage from Melbourne.

The 16m French-designed craft was built by Hart Marine and is the third of its type to be based at a WA port, with similar boats in Albany and Geraldton.

Senior coxswain Bryce Cooper sailed the boat to Esperance with three representatives from Hart Marine.

Mr Cooper underwent familiarisation training with staff from Port Phillip Sea and Pilots before embarking on the voyage home.

Named the Kwillina, the boat departed from Martha's Cove on the Mornington Peninsula last weekend and had stopovers at Queenscliff near the Port Phillip Bay entrance, Marina St Vincent near Adelaide and Ceduna before arriving in Esperance last Tuesday.

Mr Cooper said the highlight of the Kwillina's maiden voyage home was seeing a pod of killer whales in a feeding frenzy half way across the Great Australian Bight.

The boat has a maximum speed of 27 knots and a cruising speed of 25 knots, and is powered by two 600-horsepower Cummins engines.

It can accommodate a crew of five and is equipped with an array of high-technology marine navigation equipment, including a forward-looking infra-red camera that can be used for search-and- rescue operations.

An Aboriginal ceremony led by Noongar elders was held on Thursday afternoon to welcome the boat to Esperance, with the vessel being named Kwillina which is an Aboriginal word for flying dolphin.

Mr Cooper has previously been the skipper of the 46-year-old lifeboat Khami which had been leased from fisherman Steve McWhirter after the port's previous pilot boat the Spitfire was badly damaged last March when it was hit by a 40-knot squall and fell off a 5m wave during a pilot transfer.