Youngest female lifeboat coxswain celebrated

Becky Cannon comes from a proud line of RNLI crew with her father, Ian Cannon, taking over from his father Ron Cannon MBE as Coxswain at Ramsgate upon his retirement, and her Uncle Paul in the role of second Coxswain.

Becky has grown up with the sea in her blood, which is only to be expected when you are part of a true RNLI family. Not only are her immediate family part of the crew but the tradition goes back nearly 85 years to Dunkirk and beyond when Becky’s great, great, great Uncle Alf Moody was second coxswain when the Prudential lifeboat launched to evacuate the beaches.

Joining the Ramsgate volunteer crew seven years ago at the age of 17, the same age that her father joined, she became Coxswain of the inshore lifeboat last year. However her ambition was to become Coxswain of the all weather lifeboat and on June 22 at the age of 24, she achieved her dream. Becky, who works at Dover Harbour as a Vessel Traffic Services Officer, had to be assessed by someone other than her family. A perfect opportunity arose when her father went away on holiday and his role was covered by Dan, a relief Coxswain, who was also an assessor for the RNLI.

As was to be expected for such a responsible role, the examination was tough and after passing her Collision Regulations exam, the lifeboat went to sea where Becky was given her search scenario by the assessor. The scenario was a person overboard, obviously a dummy was used, but with one engine failure thrown into the mix. After recovering the ‘body’ there was a simulated fire to contend with in the engine room which meant that abandon ship procedure by launching the life raft had to be demonstrated as well as fire fighting.

Then Becky was expected to show how she would manoeuvre the lifeboat with a single engine around the harbour and then into a boat hoist. This last manoeuvre was extremely difficult involving moving the boat astern into the hoist with just enough room for a fender either side. All of this was carried out under intense scrutiny and whilst answering many questions.

Speaking to Becky after she had successfully passed out, she talked about her pride in being, what is believed to be, the youngest female coxswain in the RNLI ever. She credited her family for their inspiration and support, and in particular mentioned her grandfather Ron Cannon MBE. Sadly Ron passed away in 2018, so never got to see how well she has done but her grandmother Julia said how proud Ron would have been of Becky. Her father Ian, the current Coxswain at Ramsgate and her Uncle Paul who is deputy Coxswain echoed the sentiment.

Becky also wanted to thank the crew of Ramsgate RNLI for their support during her training, and in particular, her volunteer team who were with her on the assessment day, Clive, Maz, Emma, Lance and fellow coxswain Simon. When asked how she was going to celebrate, her plans were to go away for a weekend with her boyfriend, then when her Dad returned from holiday there are plans for a family BBQ and maybe a glass of fizz.

Asked if she would be happy for her own children to continue the family tradition and join the RNLI she replied, ‘ Absolutely, with no hesitation! The RNLI training teaches you great skills, confidence, teamwork, courage and a sense of being part of something meaningful. Who wouldn’t want that for their children?’

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