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volume 6
january 2004

New Year and no nicotine ...


  The wet and wild history of Radio Caroline (4)
by Frits Koning
  From August 9, 1983, till November 6, 1990, Radio Caroline would be airing its programmes from the MV Ross Revenge. Over a three year period — from 16th December 1984 to 24th November 1987 — the "Lady" shared her ship with Radio Monique, airing its programs from a separate 50kW transmitter at 319 meters / 963kHz between 5.00 AM and 7.00 PM. Frits Koning was one of the guys who worked for Radio Monique. Here he shares his memories of his first Christmas and New Year aboard the Ross Revenge.
1 Right: The MV Ross Revenge in 1984 (photo Marcel Poelman)

My first time on the Ross Revenge. I vividly remember arriving on December 1st 1984, allowing me to be present at the official opening of the Dutch station Radio Monique on the illustrious radio ship MV Ross Revenge. The schedule for the deejays would be: four weeks on, two weeks off. So, I would celebrate Christmas on the ship and be at home on New Year's Eve. But things turned out to be a little different. On the ship, for Radio Monique, there were already Ad Roberts and Maarten de Jong. The last one, so was promised him, would return home before Christmas. For some reason, I cannot recall, he was not allowed to go home for the festive season. As result of that he was a little bit depressed, when Christmas approached. Chris Rea's "Driving Home For Christmas" wasn't out yet, but if it were, we would probably not have played it ... Nevertheless, I remember having celebrated a very cheerful Christmas on the ship, accompanied by good food, fancy cake and we did play lots of games. I think we even had a darts competition.

But then, the bad weather came and the tender boat could not reach the ship. So there we were, stuck on the Ross Revenge. The lack of supply was frustrating, not so much because there was little food. I don't remember we had a serious lack of that to the point of starving, but what we did lack were ... cigarettes! Tobacco addicts as both Maarten and I were at the time — I still am, don't know about him — and that posed a serious problem. But, we still had a supply of cigarette paper. So, we searched the whole ship, looking for cigarette buts. And if I mention the whole ship, I mean the whole ship. We searched in the living quarters, on the deck, in the toilets, in the store room, in the generator and transmission rooms, literally everywhere. As most disc-jockeys are heavy smokers — does anybody know why? — we found a lot of those buts, helping us through at least a couple of days.

2 Left: Ron West and Frits Koning in the studio Radio Monique (photo: Leen Vingerling)

A beautiful sight. There was one guy on the ship who had his private storage of cigarettes, of which we of course were very jealous. It was Jay Jackson, who had worked before under the name of Crispian St. John for other offshore radio stations. He would allow us to get one of his only once a day. Well, maybe it's understandable if you're addicted to tobacco and afraid of running out of your own supply. Anyway, at one point Maarten and I were so desperate for a smoke that we tried rolling crushed peanut shells into cigarette paper. Maybe, we hoped, it would give us just the feeling of smoking a real cigarette. It didn't ...

On top of that there was a gale force 12 storm hitting the ship in the early days of January 1985. The Ross Revenge had no sophisticated positioning equipment, but with our own eyes we could see that the MV Communicator, the Laser 558 ship, was approaching the Ross Revenge. So, the captain decided to call them on the wireless warning them, that their anchor may have been broken. The answer came quickly and decisive: "No, we're quite sure that your anchor has broken!" Right! My first time on a radio ship and we were adrift! Everybody was called on deck to make sure that no one would fall overboard, while Johnny — "Morning Lad!" — Lewis and some others tried to unwind the old and very rusty emergency anchor. I still have a vivid memory of me standing at the rail on a rolling ship in the middle of the night, wild waves and a foaming sea around me. Despite the critical situation, I wasn't frightened at all. I know it sounds strange, but instead I thought: "What a beautiful sight, I have to remember this!" Well, almost twenty years later I still do and I think I'll never forget the images in my mind. Miraculously, the men working at the anchor succeeded in getting the emergency thing down. We didn't really trust the rusty chain but for the time being it should be sufficient.

3 Right: Jay Jackson painting the MV Ross Revenge (photo: Leen Vingerling)

Laser helps out. The day after, the old problem was more pressing than being on an emergency anchor: no cigarettes! As now everybody on the ship dearly missed his daily tobacco shot — by now even Jay Jackson, I think — it was decided to pay the people at Laser 558 a visit to see if they could borrow us some. The ships were now closer anyway ... Three or four people got into the rubber boat and challenged the still quite heavy swell. A few hours later they returned. And, with a load of cigarettes! To everybody's joy of course and we all sat in the living room to smoke, one cigarette after the other. As the door was always open, it was a good ventilated room. Otherwise we might have suffocated in our own smoke!

  After his time on the international waters, Frits Koning extended his experience with radio by working for the very first cable radio station in the Netherlands, the ill-fated Cable One. After that, he worked for stations like Radio M and Business News Radio. Last year he decided that it would be time for him to look for another job. He now is a free lance journalist working from Cambodia.
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