RNLI helm retires after nearly two decades of saving lives at sea

Jon Colwill at the helm.

Jon Colwill at the helm. - Credit: RNLI/Helen Lazenby

After 17 years of volunteering in the Portishead RNLI, Jon Colwill hangs up his drysuit for the last time. 

Jon reached retirement age for the inshore lifeboat crew in December 2020, which means he is no longer able to go to sea on the Atlantic 85 class lifeboat based at Portishead, My Lady Anne. 

He joined The Portishead Lifeboat Trust back in 2003 when the rescue service was an independent charity, based at Sugar Loaf Beach. Jon became a helm just a year later and he has played a ‘large part’ in supporting the charity ever since. 

Jon Colwill (left) with volunteer crew members Ian Alder and Dave Hodges ready to receive My Lady Anne for the first time.

Jon Colwill (left) with volunteer crew members Ian Alder and Dave Hodges ready to receive My Lady Anne for the first time. - Credit: RNLI/Helen Lazenby

Jon made many memories over the years as well as organised a number of charity golf day fundraising events with his wife, Tracey, helping to raise much-needed funds for the lifesaving service. 

In April 2015, the RNLI secured the adoption of the Portishead Lifeboat Trust on the  completion of a brand-new lifeboat station. Jon and two other crew members were then selected to welcome the purpose-built Atlantic 85 Lifeboat, My Lady Anne, which arrived a few months later to replace the relief lifeboat which had been on station since the adoption. 

Jon said: “It was an honour to be able to bring My Lady Anne in to service here in Portishead.  

Helm Jon Colwill

Helm Jon Colwill - Credit: RNLI/Helen Lazenby

“It is sad I won’t be able to go to sea with her or my other friends anymore, but, don’t worry, I will still be around to annoy everyone. I might have hung up my drysuit, but I still have my yellow wellies.” 

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Lifeboat Operations Manager, Dave Slack, said since he and Jon and joined the crew on the same day back in 2003, he has always been well respected by everyone.  

Dave adds: “One of his key strengths is that, in terms of his skills and experience, he is so modest. Combined with the fact that he is also someone who truly puts other people before himself, Jon has been an ideal teammate to learn from. 

Jon Colwill at the Helm from Portishead Lifeboat Trust days

Jon Colwill at the Helm from Portishead Lifeboat Trust days. - Credit: RNLI/Helen Lazenby

“Jon has also been part of our training team for many years now, striving to achieve the high standards that we set for ourselves, and he has been instrumental in developing the next generation of helms.  

“So, as one helm retires, another steps forward. Our values here at the RNLI require us to be selfless, dependable, trustworthy and courageous. Jon embodies these values in every way and I look forward to serving with him ashore, for many more years to come.” 

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