Safe passage

MV Macleay, 1935

The wooden-hulled motorized pilot launch MV Macleay was specifically built and commissioned for service at the South West Rocks Pilot Station. The station was established in 1902 after major floods in 1893 shifted the original river entrance from Grassy Head to a new opening 14 km further south. The site was chosen as it provided uninterrupted views for the Pilot to observe the arrival and departure of vessels at the Macleay River to the northwest and harboring of vessels in Trial Bay to the east.

The Pilot service assisted in the movement of vessels along the coast, in Trial Bay, and when crossing the Bar to navigate to upriver townships and factories along the Macleay River. Pilot crews also attended emergency events and rescues.

One of four pilot boats built to one design for the State Department of Navigation of NSW, the MV Macleay replaced the launch MV Ajax destroyed by fire in 1934. The MV Macleay serviced the Trial Bay area until the vessel was decommissioned in the 1960s when the pilot station closed.

The complex had featured the typical characteristics of an early 20th-century coastal pilot station – Pilot’s and Boatmen’s family residences, flagstaff and flag locker for signaling to ships, access to the Pilot boat and boat shed, and the Pilot boat itself. The Pilot’s House also served for many years as a telegraph and telephone service for the wider community.

Many of the buildings and related infrastructure are now used for community purposes, including for the South West Rocks Maritime Museum and a fully restored MV Macleay. A number of the original items used on board the MV Macleay are kept within the museum and grounds, including the helm’s wheel, anchor, propeller, klaxon and boat horns, boat hook, life buoys, life jackets, and compass.


What was the name of the boat the MV Macleay replaced and when?

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