On a radio ship, apart from the radio presenters and technicians, you have the ship's crew. How did they look at the things happening on board? To learn more about this, in 1970 Hans Knot talked with Joop du Pau, one of the crew members of the MV MEBO II. He recollects his remarks in this installment of the RNI Memories.
A radio ship's crew. On board a radio ship there is a lot more to be done than just playing the many records, queuing the jingles and commercials, and presenting the shows in a smooth way, starting programme tapes and looking at the transmitters. Apart from the radio presenters and technicians you have the ship's crew. Next to the captain on each ship there should at least be a main technician, a generator technician, a cook and three deckhands. If you look back on the history of offshore radio, you will find out quickly that these international shipping rules often were not followed after 1972.
The crew from Beverwijk. The Caroline organisation, for instance, only had a really complete crew aboard their radio ships the MV Mi Amigo and the MV Ross Revenge in 1972 and 1973 and again in 1983. At other times the radio personal tried to combine their radio activities with a role as crwe member. Not so on board of the MEBO II. In our Radio Northsea International Memories we can honestly say that there really was a complete crew aboard the ship at all times. The owners of the radio ship, Erwin Meister and Edwin Bollier, hired their crew from a shipping agency in Rotterdam and there was a staff of seventeen different persons working for them, with each time seven men onboard. Seven of this crew came from Beverwijk, a little town in the province of Noord Holland, near Haarlem and the coastline.
Joop du Pau. One day I talked to one of them, Joop du Pau:
Joop du Pau (1974)
"As an engineer I had been going over all the High Seas for 18 years and I thought this was enough. Somehow I had the idea that it was time to start my own family and I was looking for work on land. In that I succeeded. Of course I still loved the sea, but also my wife. At the end of 1969 I heard that a Norwegian trawler was to rebuilt in the harbour of Slikkerveer, next to Rotterdam, to become the home for a new radio station, Radio Northsea International."
"I visited my old boss one day and he told me that the owners of the forthcoming radio ship were coming from Switzerland and were still looking for a proper crew and that one of them was staying at the Grand Hotel at Scheveningen. I decided to take a trip there and we found out that no one had yet been hired. Meister asked me if I had people in my area who would love to work on a floating radio station."
The clan from Beverwijk. Back in Beverwijk, Joop knew exactly, whom he had to ask for this job and a few days later a complete crew was at the Tweede Binnenhaven in Scheveningen to get aboard the MEBO I, which was the first tender, to set out for the MEBO II. The radio ship just had anchored off the Dutch coast. These people became the first crew: Joop du Pau, Cas Castricum, Ruud Teiner, Theo Niesten, Dick Adrichem en Jan Schotvanger. Throughout the next four years all of them, with the exception of Dick, were all aboard at the same time. Of course, having a crew all coming out of the same town, can cause problems with other personal on a ship, as they may form a clique. Though a small city, Beverwijk had a broad labour market. All sailors in that town, however, knew one other one very well. Du Pau:
"The Swiss owners saw that our clan from Beverwijk should have a captain from outside of this town and therefore we got one from Scheveningen. At one stage we were on the ship for a fortnight and then we went on for seven days, to get back on next Friday's tender. Most of the periods I was off, I stayed at Beverwijk."
Two captains. But during his stay at home, the work was still going on around the corner:
"The strange thing was that during those days off several people from Beverwijk came to me asking for a job on the MEBO II, for they'd heard what a luxurious ship it was. Talking earlier about the captains, we had two from Scheveningen. I think captain Harteveld loved the people from Scheveningen more than our gang. Also the tendering was done from the same harbour, although it should be much cheaper from IJmuiden, which was nearer to the anchorage of the MEBO II."
"The other ship from Meister and Bollier, the MEBO I, was to be used for the tendering in earlier days and for the rest of the week, it was staying in harbour at the quay, which was of course very expensive. At first this little ship was going to be used as the radio ship but it seemed the ship was too small and unsuitable for anchorage at sea. The Swiss owners solved the problem by buying a new radio ship and using the MEBO I as the ship's tender."
Off the British coast. After a few months of programming in German and English off the Dutch coast it seemed this was not a commercial success. In March 1970 the owners decided to take another try, now off the British coast. Du Pau:
MEBO's tender "Trip" lying in the second Binnenhaven Scheveningen (1974)
"We were anchored off Clacton and in the hours we were off duty we sometimes took the speedboat and went for a fine trip to the coastal area. Mostly we ended at Clacton beach having some fun with the women there. We didn't know at that time it was illegal to land on the beach without the permission from the authorities but luckily enough we were never caught. We never had any problems with customs and police although at one point a Navy ship was standing by the MEBO II and later a jamming transmitter was put on our signal by the British authorities."
Visiting Navy ships. At the end of the 1970s and in the early 1980s, as well in the mid-1980s it often happened that Navy ships or other official ships came near the radio ships. As it happened, photographs were taken as well as videos and sometimes, although it was illegal, the radio ships even were boarded. In the early seventies this also happened to the MEBO II. Du Pau:
"We made fun of it and of course we had enough other things to relax with. During weekends there was always a festive atmosphere with all those little boats coming from the coast to visit us, bringing us nice things and giving their requests. Our work schedule was 10 hours a day and apart from sleeping we filled the other hours with playing cards, watching television and reading magazines and newspapers. When we were back at the Dutch coast, at the end of June 1970, it was more comfortable for the Dutch crew for then we could watch the television programmes of Nederland 1 and 2 again."
"In August 1970 we heard that the station would only transmit in English from then on, although there were plans for a Dutch service. At one time we had an Italian aboard, who was said to present an Italian programme once a day on the 31 meter band. This, however, never did happen. We also loved each Sunday morning on the MEBO II in 1970. During 30 minutes we, as crew members, could take the microphone and wish all the best to relatives and friends."
Changing frequencies. At the time of my first talks with Du Pau in 1970, the station was transmitting, on 217 metres, apart from the Shortwave and VHF. Du Pau said a change of frequency was in the air:
"Again there are complaints coming in that we are interfering, this time with the Dutch pop station Hilversum 3. We therefore will change frequency soon. The Swiss owners, who have put 6 million guilders into the project, don't want any problems with Dutch authorities, and therefore ordered to change frequency in the forthcoming week. We have a transmitter with a power of 105 kW and use a 70 metre high aerial, which is quite a bit stronger than the 8 kW, which is, used aboard the Radio Veronica vessel the MV Norderney."
"Radio Caroline" fights Harold Wilson in the British election campaign of 1970: "Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Wilson?"
"Of course, if a station is willing to survive, it's very important that it gets enough advertisers. At the moment our station is failing at that point. When we were off the British coast we had commercials from the Spanish airline Iberia and from the Japanese Radio Company Toshiba. The station also made a lot of publicity for the Conservatives, when the elections were held in March. Edward Heath became the new Prime Minister and we thought we could be on the air from that moment on without problems. But when the jamming transmitter stayed on the air, the Swiss owners decided to leave for Holland again. Research pointed out that due to the publicity of RNI the Conservatives gained 4 percent more voters than expected."
Lifting the anchor. Although there were no commercials on RNI in August 1970, Du Pau optimism about the future of the station endured:
"The Swiss bosses have put a lot of money in our radio station and of course they want their investments back. Whenever we need something special onboard, we just have to ask and it will be arranged. Our working room is full of special tools and equipment and we can do all the work with this equipment. With one exception: when the radio ship has to go to another anchorage a tug has to be hired to lift the anchor, for our own winch can't do the job properly. The Tack Company from Rotterdam was hired twice to do this, first when we went from the Dutch to the English coast and visa versa."
Insurance policies. In those early days of RNI, the payments were very good and there was only one thing the crew was not satisfied with, their insurance policies:
"We are only insured when we're aboard the ship. When we are in an accident on the ship our salaries are paid during the recovery period. Whenever we are sick, however, during our stay on shore, we will not be paid. You only get a month's pay and whenever the sickness takes longer you can leave your job to another guy. However I still love the sea and I like to work for the station for many years. My wife Paula has been with me on the ship for a week recently to get a feeling of the atmosphere and she was quite happy after this period".
Hans Knot interviews Captain Harteveld, to the right: Joop du Pau and Rudi Kagon (1996)
Off the Lybian coast. After the restart in 1971, Du Pau again was part of the crew and stayed with the RNI organisation until August 31st 1974. He was also one of the crew, under captain Van der Kamp, who sailed the MEBO II in 1977 to an anchorage off the Libyan coast, where the ship was to become the home of a new radio station, The People Revolution Broadcasting for Libyan leader Gadaffi. After three months, he went back to Holland and left the radio world to go back to a quiet living in Beverwijk.
The sound fragment on this page is copyrighted. It is used here according to the rules of fair use and academic quoting. Take a look at the index of RNI Memories for other installments of this series.