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volume 9
july 2006

A bit more about the ship and the "mutiny"


  Remembering the Voice of Peace (16)
by Guy Starkey
  On Christmas Day 1977 Guy Starkey first set foot on board the MV Peace. Here, he tells us more the accommodation of the Peace Ship and the crisis of March 1978 that became known as the Mutiny.
1 Left: Guy Starkey

Guy Starkey gets aboard. Way back in 1977 it was on Christmas Day that Guy Starkey first stepped on board the MV Voice of Peace, also known as the former Groningen coaster MV Cito. Officially he should have boarded the ship three days earlier but the sea had been too rough to get a tender to the radio ship so Guy, together with John Miller, went to Jerusalem where he got his first taste of the hospitality and generosity of people in Israel. They were put up by one Orly Morag, who was also an old member of the Peace Ship Family and could later be heard on Kol Israel's Reshet Gimmel. Guy Starkey remembers the accommodation of the Peace Ship.

"You may be interested in the ship itself, accommodation wise. Below the bridge were two cabins with a bathroom, intended for the captain and the first-mate. But in the absence of both it was used at the time by Bill Danse and transmitter engineer Mike Galloway. Then there was an opening onto a short passageway to a small saloon — a lounge which was socially the focal point of the whole ship and very nautical in design, with oak-panelled walls and portholes for windows.

  At the aft of the ship (right by the generators) were the galley and the mess-room, with seating for about a dozen people. Below were seven crew's cabins (mostly unused) the larder and the two sea-water toilets. That, though, was where all resemblance to a normal freighter ended as the main below deck areas were in what was the hold, on two storeys with a large lounge at the very bottom. This had a television set, three big red settees, a table tennis table, an exercise bike, storage fridges and ten bunk beds lining the walls. There were three ladders down to the hold: midships, fore and aft. Two corridors ran its length, and between them a self-contained, soundproofed and air-conditioned unit of ten rooms, raised a foot off the ground. At one end of it were the washroom, shower and laundry areas, and at the other the transmitters. Five of the rooms, although they were intended as news reading points, were actually deejay cabins. One was the telex-room, which however was not used as such! And the remaining four the studios and record library."
2 Right: Under in the ship

In the harbour of Ashdod. In December 1977, in addition to Crispian St John, the line-up of the broadcasting staff was as follows: Guy Starkey, John Miller, Tony Allan, Gadi Bitton and Avi, the only Arabic presenter. Guy was put on breakfast, which was mostly done with new recruits to the Voice of Peace. Talking about peace, how were the contacts with Abie Nathan?

Guy: "One week after my arrival I met Abie. He had been with an Israeli delegation to Cairo, but I must admit that neither I nor any of several other presenters were ever given any briefing by him over the peace ideal; which surprised us at first. But I soon realised that the deejay's role on the VOP was keep the music flowing so that as many listeners as possible would tune in for when Abie did his thing."

  But the first stint for Guy Starkey wasn't too long as five days later tragedy struck as generator trouble forced the ship into the harbour of Ashdod, a stay which lasted ten days. Guy again: "The morale could have easily sagged, but instead, everyone worked to get the station back on the air, especially as money was short at that time. I personally, as well as helping in a general clean-up of the ship, took the night-time security watch on the bridge. One night I even stood a five-hour vigil by the Allis-Chalmers generator, while it was being run-in, and the engineers got some sleep."
  After some time the ship went back to sea and the VOP came on air again while they were using a stand-by generator which gave a very low power which — for instance — wowed the records every few minutes. Normally a station would lose a lot of listeners going off air but strangely enough the VOP audience stayed. Guy Starkey again: "They did stick with us, as the great Happening of February 1978, only four weeks later, more than demonstrated. By then much had happened. Tony Allan had left, to be replaced by Don Stevens. Avi and Gadi had left us and Kenny Page had arrived. Abie, under great stress, had almost closed the station for good during another technical breakdown. There was some new programming, including The Beatles programme sponsored by the Hassneh Insurance Company."
3 Left: A look into the galley

A frightening experience. Strangely enough after the sponsorship was ended the station kept the programme on air, still announcing that it was sponsored by Hassneh. And that for a period of 4,5 months. Probably to attract more advertisers; a trick which was often done in the history on Offshore Radio. In March 1978 there was one of the many crises the VOP went through during the twenty years the station was on the air, one that has ever since been known as "the mutiny." Guy Starkey recalls: "There certainly were a lot of "heavy vibes" being generated shortly after the station had been due to close, simply because more than half of the crew were either due for shore-leave or at the end of their term of service, having promised to stay on until March as a favor. Crispian and Bill were on shore-leave, and not due back until the next Friday. But unfortunately, those going on shore didn't see Abie's point of view that it would be better to send just one boat, on Friday, to cut down costs. And Abie didn't see theirs that to leave on Friday would be useless as all Israel shut down for 24 hours on Friday afternoons for the Sabbath.

The transmitter went off that day at Midnight, just as Kenny's Page new Midnight Show was to begin, and the air tingled as heated discussions followed via the Motorola link with the office on shore. Luckily one of the deejays could put the transmitter back on the air, so the programme went ahead eventually, and it was interesting to note that Abie got his way in leaving just Kenny, John, the new seaman Brian, Chrispian, Bill and myself on board — four presenters and two crewmen, with no cook or transmitting staff!"

  In the meantime, the weather became worse and winter ended with one of the worst storms. The ship was driven to within one mile of the beach. Lifejackets were issued and it was a very frightening experience for those on board the ship. Guy was on shore as this was happening: "Not only a bad situation for the guys on the ship but also for Abie and myself in the office, as we were in contact with the ship but powerless to help, and making each other more and more nervous, too! That episode was quite an initiation for new arrivals Vince Mould and Malcolm Barry. Tony Britten returned to 1540 too, although he had left months ago and he hadn't really come back. These were storm tapes recorded by Tony a long time previously."
  Commercial wise the station became more popular, partly influenced by a strike. Guy recalls: "It was great to have Crispian continually rushing into the studio to add more commercials to the logs, during the two week long journalists' strike at Kol Israel. And when it had ended, with the coffers full Abie stood me to a four week holiday back home in Wales during which time the only events on board were a trip to Ashdod for water and oil. But returning back there was a surprise in the month of May as I found a new, bigger, production studio set up in place of the old, unused, conference studio. Next to new people like Roger Swann and Steve Foster we had also a busy time, dealing with regular visits from cockroaches in the galley."
4 Right: Sleeping and seating room

Great fun. As many of the deejay staff mostly stayed for one or two periods they had to leave the station for other things. In the case of Guy Starkey it was studying four years long for a degree at the University of Bath, so he had to leave too: "Just before my final departure on the 17th of July, Abie launched the appeal for an ambulance and medical supplies to take to war-torn Lebanon, with a continuous 38-hours broadcast direct from the ship — during which the "regular" deejays and new seaman Peter, were treated to a weekend on shore with meals, a showing of Saturday Night Fever, and an LP give-away session all pre-arranged. Great fun.

Mike Galloway had left by then, to be replaced by Canadian Bruce Sabsay and 17-year-old electronics wizard Noam from Tel Aviv (who turned to be out one of the station's biggest fans). But it was at this crucial time that the transmitters decided it was their turn to put us off the air for another week of deathly silence — during which the newspapers were rife with claims that sabotage was responsible — and it took the return of Bill Danse from Holland to bring back the Middle East's Most Music Station! I must admit that I looked back at the Peace Ship many times as a small pleasure boat took me on my final hour-long journey back to the Tel Aviv Marina — to be welcomed on arrival by many boating and sunbathing listeners at the quayside, of course. If you ever go to Israel, wear a VOP t-shirt: things will happen you won't believe!"

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