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volume 8
february 2006

The second time around


  Remembering the Voice of Peace (25)
by John Dwyer
  John Dwyer joined the Voice of Peace in 1983 to work on the MV Peace, the former MV Cito turned into the VOP's radio ship. He left again in the summer of 1984 after six months of work and fun. The very next year, though, Abe Nathan himself called him back to the "1540." Here is what Dwyer himself, back in 1985, wrote about this short episode in the history of the Voice of Peace in which the crew did its best to give the station a new lease of life, but generator as well as financial problems forced the ship into Ashdod Port.
1 Left: A sun-tanned John Dwyer in the Voice of Peace studio (Photo © OEM)

Back again to the MV Peace. My first period on the station had been very eventful and when Abe phoned me and asked me to rejoin the station, I had a little think and decided to rejoin the station for a few months. I flew out from Gatwick on June 18, 1985, with a guy called Jeremy James, also known as "J.J." He had already spent three months onboard the MV Peace directly after I left the station in the summer 1984. We arrived at 9:00 local time in the evening in our Hotel in Tel Aviv and we decided to go out into the town as we knew that there was a big chance that we would be out to the ship the following day as Abe liked the new deejays go out to the ship as soon as possible.

2 A new lease of life. Sure enough we went out to the former MV Cito late next afternoon, after having our "medical" at one of Tel Aviv's hospitals. The medical was a fairly new thing which the staff members had to run through. This as some of the deejays in the past went aboard without saying they suffered from certain illnesses such as asthma and epilepsy, thus making the ship's insurance void in case of a real emergency. As Jeremy and I jumped aboard three of the other deejays were happy to leave the ship: Mark Edwards, Sally Kahn as well as Keith York. It was David Fortune, Grant Goddard and Don Stevens who were on the ship and also Bob Noakes arrived to maintain the transmitters for a few weeks. He had an earlier stint on the Peace Ship in the 1970's. Over the previous months Abe had been wrapped up in his Ethiopian project and not been too active with the station. He had been in Ethiopia for a month before I came back on the ship.
  Right: The Voice of Peace 25 kW transmitter (Photo © OEM)

Abe had engaged Don Stevens and Keith York to generally give the station a better sound and a new lease of life which, with the non-interference of Abe shouting down the Motorola all the time and the presenters feeling at ease on air, had succeeded very well. The "Perry Como" at five minutes to five every afternoon had gone, so had "Sunset" and the disjointed fifteen-record format which catered for everybody and appealed for nobody. The office-staff, headed by Reuven, left the broadcasting-staff to do the job and make the station sound good and more profitable, which it had not been of late, as Abe, unfortunately, likes to do everything; create weekly formats, organise shore leave, handle the advertising, buy the food and more! Working conditions on board were going nicely and together with pleasant weather and a crazy Dutch seaman called Adrie — whom we think Abe put there just to entertain us! — life was OK. Then Abe, who apparently could not do everything he wanted to with his refugee camp sites in Ethiopia due to the Government there, decided to head back to Israel.

3 Generator problems. Just before Abe's arrival in Tel Aviv we had suffered problems with all three generators, which needed maintenance; also, due to Israel's bad economy the price of ship's oil had practically doubled in price overnight. So he was not too happy when he got back. It was only a couple of days, and a few breaks in transmissions, before Abe announced that due to lack of advertising revenue, generator problems and staff problems we were to enter Ashdod Port until further notice. He did a closedown speech in Hebrew and English and the VOP went off the air at Wednesday 10th of July 1985. We aboard wondered what was to happen next, as all that we had been told was similar to what was on the closedown-tape.
  We upped-anchor at 3.00 on Thursday, entered Ashdod at about 7:00 and sat it out for the day. The captain, as it turned out, was planning to fly out for his annual leave in Holland, and when Abe arrived at the port on Friday the captain left with him, leaving five deejays and three crewmembers aboard. At that point it was uncertain when — rather than if — the Peace Ship was returning to sea, but whilst the captain was away, and certain jobs including generator repairs had to be done, it was going nowhere.
4 Left: Photo taken from a departing tender, left to right: Radha Krishna, Chris Pearson, Rob Charles, Stuart Clarke, Mark Warner and (just visible) Jim Hutchison (photo Tim Shepherd)

The sixth to go. I had been offered a job on a station in Italy so I travelled the fifty miles to Tel Aviv and told Abe. He was none too happy, as out of eight deejays he was losing six! Don, Keith and Jeremy were going to WLS in Galway, and Mark's and Grant's contracts had expired, so I made the sixth to go. Also both seamen had decided to call it a day, too, so the ship's crew numbered two jocks — Sally and Dave — a cook and a diesel engineer. Although Abe publicly stated that the VOP would be off air for the foreseeable future it was clear to us that the ship would set sail when all the repairs had been carried out and sufficient staff were aboard.

Living on the ship in a port was not a joke! It was boring, there was no booze at all so the heats get to you, and the flies won't leave you alone. I had dozens of bites in just one week so I was glad to get into Tel Aviv for a few days before leaving. Ironically Abe was already in London on July 21 preparing to interview deejays and crew for when the MV Peace was ready to go back on air again. All in all it was a good publicity stunt, and a two-week break in transmissions while cleaning jobs were being done by the staff meant that Abe did not have to find a relief captain for two weeks.

5 Will this be the end? I don't think Abe expected to lose so many crew when the ship went into Ashdod, but there's no shortage of people willing to do a stint on the Peace ship. The money we got, 100 dollar a month, goes absolutely nowhere with the prices in Israel; but for six month you can get a crash course in radio techniques and a good suntan and learning to live with twelve people on a small ship can be enlightening! I enjoyed it both times out at the Peace Ship. I only wish that Abe would spend more time on the ship, then he would know what's like having to do without things quite unnecessarily. Also, if he paid good wages then there wouldn't be such a high turnover of staff, which there is, and probably always will be. I am glad that the Voice of Peace is still broadcasting and hope it will be for many years to come. But the ship is over forty years old now, so who knows how much longer it can safely remain at sea? I don't think that there will ever be another Peace ship, and Abe is also is very unique too!
  Note of the editor
  by Hans Knot
  These memories were written down in the summer of 1985. As Dwyer here mentions the name of Bob Noakes, it is worth recalling that Noakes had already been on the Peace ship in 1975, had terrible memories of Nathan and also not a few problems leaving for Israel again — he wrote a long story about all this in Dutch just last year. Nevertheless, he returned to the Peace ship in 1985. On May 7, 1985, at 8:00 o'clock in the morning, the transmitter aboard the ship suddenly was turned off as the chief engineer decided it was time to leave the ship. No one else was informed how to handle the transmitter and other equipment and so it proved to be impossible to keep the station on the air. Abe Nathan was quite desperate in finding a replacement for the engineer, but suddenly remembered that Bob Noakes was living somewhere in Amsterdam. On June 11, 1985, Bob phoned me early in the morning to tell me he would leave from Schiphol Airport to do some adjustments to the transmitters.
  Right: Master radio technician Bob Noakes discusses the 50 kW transmitter on the MV Mi Amigo

Noakes promised to call me back as soon he was in Holland again, what he did on July 4, 1985. He had been able to restore the transmitters and get them in working order again. On the Peace Ship he had met some good old friends from the past, notably Don Stevens and Keith York, who had worked there in the 1970's when Bob had made some longer spells on the ship. As Dwyers writes, just a week after Noakes had left the ship went into the harbour of Ashdod. It looked like a normal fuel and water load-up, but when preparing to leave the harbour the crew and captain were told that they were not allowed to leave as the ship was unseaworthy. It definitely looked like the end of the ship's long career. Abe, however, thought it was better to spend some money for maintenance instead of impounding the vessel forever. Before the start of the repairs, to afford payment of the shipyard's bills and to get salary costs at the lowest point, he sent all of the crew back home. The station did return on "1540" again that very same year.

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