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volume 9
july 2006

Live at 6,000 volts


  Remembering the Voice of Peace (21)
by Rob Leighton
  Early February 2006, working on this series on the Voice of Peace, Hans Knot received an email, warning him not to forget mentioning the name of Rob Leighton, who worked on board the MV Peace as an engineer during May and June 1981. Well, this is what Leighton had to tell ...
1 Left: MV Peace Lifebelt (photo: Anatoli Rothman)

An engineer's job. "Don't forget to add my name to the VoP book! I worked on board as an engineer during May and June 1981. One of he biggest thing I remember about my time on board was how sick I got to feel in rough weather, thankfully as an engineer I was allocated a cabin in the centre of the ship away where the ship's movement wasn't quite so severe. At that time the poor DJs were allocated noisy cabins at the rear of the ship below the generators — not quite sure how I would have coped with that. The Captain used to like to check the cabins each week, which is when he used to burst in through the door in the middle of the night and turn on all the lights — I don't know what he expected me to be doing!

Watching TV was always a problem as the ship's movement required viewers to operate an antenna rotator that used to give the operator electric shocks, which was nothing compared to the potential shock that I could have suffered when Buck, the Chief Engineer, allocated me my first job. The AM transmitter was split into sections, and although only one half of the RF PA was being used both halves were live at 6,000 volts. Buck overrode the cabinet safety interlocks so that I could climb inside the "off" half and spring clean the whole thing — I've never studied a circuit diagram so hard in my life!

2 Antenna problems. We had a problem with the matching of the four stacked dipole FM antenna, and Harris engineers were called out to retune it. When they came aboard they were horrified we should be located so close to this monster 20kW 6dB (80kW) FM antenna, and when they found that out the lowest power that the FM transmitter could be reduced to for retuning the antenna was 500 watts they refused to climb the mast and demanded to return to shore. Buck sorted it out later by retuning it with just 15 watts of driver power applied. But it was soon back to 20kW to irradiate us all!"
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