Great Yarmouth pilot box coxswain sails into retirement after 46 years

A man who has helped hundreds of ships steer safely into the port of Great Yarmouth has stepped down from his piloting position.

Clive Williment hung up his lifejacket and retired from his post as pilot boat coxswain after more than 40 years.

Mr Williment, from Edinburgh Avenue, Gorleston, followed in his dad's footsteps by joining the 24/7 service, which provides a safe passage for visiting vessels into the port of Yarmouth.

The 66-year-old has been involved with pilot boats from a young age, living beside the quayside and after getting his first permanent job as a teenager. And he has worked on the water ever since.

He said: 'I used to go on trips on the pilot boat as a kid. I knew all the men and used to give them a hand to tie up the boats if they were busy and so I just fell into it really.

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'When I was a teenager, one chap cut the end of his finger off and they asked me to stand in for him, and that's the first time I did it properly.'

This temporary role led to a fixed position and Mr Williment became a permanent coxswain in 1968, ferrying pilots out to sea to large vessels so they could then be steered into the river port.

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In his 46 years he has seen several changes, particularly in the type of ships docking in Yarmouth.

A grandfather-of-five, he said: 'When I joined, the oil industry had only just taken off. Oil was 80pc of the work in those days and when the old power station was running they used to transport the oil in tankers to Yarmouth.

'I always think they were the lovely days because a lot of the men were local and you used to tie the ships up, and by doing that you spoke to the crew. We were like one big family.'

Today, most of the boats are linked to the offshore energy industry but Mr Williment has had to help steer in some VIP visitors.

'We had the Royal Danish yacht come in the 1970s,' he added. 'I took a pilot boat out for that and they actually gave the pilot a medal.'

But he has not always been limited to transporting pilots, having been called on in emergencies too.

In 2009 he came to the rescue after a boy fell in the River Yare while fishing on the quayside and he helped a group of youngsters after their holiday cruiser got stuck on one of the parapets of Haven Bridge.

And although he has now left his 'varied' post - which used to see him go out to 40 boats a day - he said he would not be leaving work entirely and hoped to find a part-time job - and would always have an affinity with the water.

'I was brought up in the fishing industry and my father was coxswain of the lifeboat in the 1980s so I've always had a close connection to the sea and the workings of it,' he added.

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