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volume 9
july 2006

The summer of 1987 and a coconut


  Remembering the Voice of Peace (27)
by Chris Edwards and Hans Knot
  In June 1987 the Voice of Peace was plagued by some technical problems and, of course, there were also the ungoing changes in the team on board of the Peace Ship. One of the disk-jockey's, Mike Davis, was interviewed by Chris Edwards. Hans Knot here presents some extracts of this interview as to give an impression of what was going on on the Peace Ship at that time.
1 Left: Paul Fraser

Waiting for a coax cable. Early June 1987 the Voice of Peace went of the air as the generator could not run the new transmitter, a Nautel TX, on the full power of 10kW. The reason was that when put on full power there was interference from RF, which came from the FM signal. People on the ship had to wait till the end of June when a long coax cable arrived on the Peace Ship. It was specially flown over from the USA and it became the task of Tim Shepherd to construct a quarter wavelength stub of enough length to enable the FM and AM transmitters to be used at full power at the same time without interference. Also the lads on the ship had a minor problem with the AM audio feed from the studio mixer, which was audible on June 20th in the programmes of the Voice of Peace. That time the second engineer on the ship, Tony Stevens, was keen enough to sort out the problem the following day, and so the AM transmitter was on the air soon again.

  It seemed that everything should happen within a few days as the Peace logbook stated that on June 22nd the Allis generator "blew up" and with it the station was off the air. Within fifteen minutes the signals were back as another generator, the Caterpillar, was started up. Again six days later there was a gap of 8 hours of non broadcasting. That time however it wasn't a technical problem as the Peace Ship sailed down to the coast and the harbour of Ashdod to pick up fuel, water and food and some small technical work had to be done. For instance the AM aerial was lowered so a broken spacer could be replaced. July the 7th saw Mike Darby, also known as "Coconut" leaving Israel as he went for a months holiday to England. Dutch captain Aaldijk also went for a visit to his family. This happened on July 10th and with him deejay Paul Fraser went for a short shore leave.
  Lucky enough new recruits came in the persons of Richard Steed and Gil Katsir. They were accompanied by the driver of the station, who wanted to go for one day to the ship. The next morning he made regular appearances in "Nitebeat," to play some of his favourite songs and to have a talk with presenter Steve Richards. Summer was there and this gave the Israeli singer Bennie Berman the idea to sail out with his yacht to the Peace Ship to bring and present his new record. July 13th a relief captain from Israel, Chaim, thought it was time to have a few days stay onboard. That month saw more changes in the staff Alex Dee left the station forever to get a job as an overnight presenter at the Irish station Hits 954 in Limerick, while Richard Steed went on his first shore leave early August. While onshore he decided not to go back to the ship, leaving the station and so handed in his resignation. Captain Aaldijk was at that stage already back on the ship.
2 Right: "Coconut"

An interview with Mike Davis. Mike Darby also would return, that on August 11th, together with an American deejay Jerry Sales. Only a few days later he went again to the shore to "sort out some problems." He would come aboard on the next trip again, only to take his belongings and fly away to the USA again. Other names during that period were Pete Anderson, Neil Amstrong, Radha Krishna and Tony "Cucumber" Stevens. September 1987 saw the arrival of John McDonald.

Above we mentioned a lot of persons who worked on the station in the summer of 1987 and one of them, Mike Davis, was interviewed by Chris Edwards. It was published in OEM in England as well as Freewave Media Magazine in the Netherlands. Let's take some extracts of this interview to give an impression about Mike and his time on the Peace Ship. Mike was around nine when he had already lived in London, where he was born, Wales, Scotland and back in England.

Edwards: Where did you start your career in broadcasting?

  Davis: Well, the usual, I started listening to radio and got interested in it. I listened to Caroline on 259 in those days and used to buy Record Mirror every week for the frequent news reports of the station and also subscribed to various free-radio publications and got involved with it. I always wanted to be a deejay from about 16 because I had a big interest in music. I suppose I just drifted into it and I made contact with some people who were involved with land-based stations and did tapes programmes for them, which really didn't get out very far but they actually did get on the air. From there it was the local hospital station and after I had a talk with Barry Johnston and he told me that if I ever wanted to go out to the Voice of Peace it wouldn't be a problem. So the Voice of Peace became my first professional job on a national radio station.
  Edwards: Of course the next question is how the first impression was arriving on the Peace Ship.
  Davis: I thought how small and quite rusty the ship was. When I was showed my cabin it was small but tidy and clean. The main studio is also tidy and clean but the one for production-work is quite scruffy and also the rest of the ship has been in better days and is maintained as well as possible in the circumstances. There's a lot of money going around but very less to the ship so it's getting scruffy but workable. It took me some weeks to get used to it.
3 Left: Abie gave a lot for the refugees in Ethiopia

An unexpected answer. On the question what his very first programme was, an unexpected answer was given.

Davis: It was the Russian programme which is a spun one, which lasts for an hour every single night. If you like Russian music it's fine. But if you don't it's horrible. The next programme I did after that was between midnight and three which was called Love Songs, basically very lovey-dovey romantic music. This was followed by Kassack between 12 and 13 every day which featured music in Arabic and Greek influence and indeed sounds a little strange to Western ears but which was very popular with the Jews, especially those coming from Arab countries like Jemen, Iraq etc.

  Edwards: Just after you got there some heavy storms were there. How did you cope with that?
  Davis: The month of March was an extremely bad time. From the beginning of that month we had about 10 or 11 days of extremely bad weather. The ship was rolling and nearly turned over a couple of times. Even the crew thought we'd had it. On the 12th the weather had calmed down sufficiently to allow a boat to come out and bring another deejay, Steve Richards, and some food because we had run out. The next day we had again an extremely bad storm and it had built up from the previous evening. The ship rolled extremely from side to side. At one stage, if you walked along the deck, which was very dangerous to do, your hands were actually dipping into the waves. Well they weren't waves in the conventional sense, just the level of the sea was so high that you could touch the water. It's a very unstable ship and it is not properly ballasted. It also a round-bottomed so there's no keel on it so it just rolls from side to side. It's like a pendulum motion and also when it tugs on its anchor chain it stretches and stretches until it comes to the end of it chains and then it rebounds and the whole ship judders and does all sort of things. Record jumps, racks comes at you and you can't stand up. It's really unpleasant. Captain Aaldijk said it was the worst storm he had ever seen in all those years out there and most of the crew were under the impression that it was going to sink at the time. Abie came on his Cellnet telephone link an did a 15-minute speech to the listeners that the ship was liable to be washed on shore in front of Tel Aviv Hilton. The music was being played on tape and compact disc because it was impossible to play records. Abie asked himself also why the station couldn't get a licence on land so we could broadcast without problems onshore. He told that people were putting their live at risk and he mentioned the nationalities of the people on board saying that people came from all over the world just to play music, and they have to put up with storms and again why couldn't they come onshore.
4 Right: High in the sky

About the new transmitter. Edwards: Do you get out beyond Israel or is it just local and is there any peace message being put out these days?

Davis: There's no real peace message being given out now, to be quite honest. The signal can be picked up in the Lebanon on AM and the FM covers virtually all of Israel now along with the AM. Abie was telling me some weeks ago that the AM signal is being picked up in Egypt in Alexandria on a cheap radio set and it can also be heard on Cyprus. The staff onboard are still waiting for the first report from Europe, which will surely happen especially when winter comes along.

Edwards: At one time there was a short-wave programming from the VOP. Are there any plans to go back to that?

Davis: There's no plans whatsoever to go on short-wave. The last time it was closed because it was interfering with the Swedish Embassy communications with the homeland and Abie didn't want to cause any problems with any government. There are bits and pieces on board which could be made into a short wave transmitter but there are no plans to go back on short wave.

  Edwards: Can you tell us more about the new transmitter on the ship?
  Davis: The new transmitter was supplied by a Canadian company called Nautel. It's a 10 kW and a very modern design and has lots of features on it which you don't find with the older transmitters. It consists of 48 power modules of 250 watts each and say a couple of them blew up, then you can put a couple of spare ones in and the station still carries on broadcasting. It was installed in Ashdod port in May but it wasn't until June that it was actually on-air because we needed an aerial tuning unit and the parts had to be flown from Canada and a Canadian engineer came out to install it.
  Edwards: Did you get any problems getting the transmitter onboard?
  Davis: There were no real problems. It came to the dockside and we hoisted the cabinet over the ship and loaded it into the hold and transferred it by hand from one end of the ship to the other. That was very difficult because of the confined working spaces. But it was done and was very hard work. There were one or two slight injuries, a few bruises and trapped fingers and plenty of rude words! Even Abie was quite reasonable while we were in Ashdod and gave a hand. He was quite calm and collected and didn't explode when things went wrong like he usually does! Tim Shepard, Noham and Tony Stevens built the transmitter up from scratch but we couldn't use it until the ATU was built. The Nautel is virtually alongside the old transmitters. The FM and the AM are only a few feet apart and the old transmitters are just behind them going towards the studio area. Both the AM and the FM transmitters are very compact and small unites whereas the old AM ones are huge and take a lot of space.
5 Left: FM Transmitter

Working for Abie. Edwards: What about the shore-side of the organisation? Who is actually in charge of things in the office?

Davis: The office itself is located in central Tel Aviv, just off the main street. There's Abie and Reuven, who is the second in command, who looks after things when Abie is away and various projects. Helen, who is an accountant, and secretary. Gil, who is responsible for advertising and does the voice over work for them and occasionally does taped-programmes or taped inserts for various programmes. On a couple of occasions he has come out to the ship to present some special programmes live. There's also Ritzik who bombs around bringing mail, picking deejays up from the marina and collecting supplies.

Edwards: Of course the question what's like to work for Abie?

Davis: He's a very difficult person to work for and he makes up rules and regulations as he goes along. One minute he tells you one thing, the next he tells you another so you just don't know where you are with him. You have to realise this and make your own mind up. The deejays are treated reasonably well by him and sometimes Abie comes on the phone or the Motorola to tell you off for doing certain things and he shouts and screams for a while, but then it's forgotten. He sacks people left, right and centre but then he forgets to tell them so you stay on and do the programmes and don't bother about it. You get used to it but he treats some of the hard working people in the organisation very badly. He doesn't pay them when he's promised to. Working conditions on the ship are dreadful and living conditions are quite poor. The safety standards are very bad. Thing like life rafts, which should have gone off in March to be checked, are still there. It's a dangerous ship to work on. The electrical system is extremely dangerous. You have to be careful about wires and things like that. There are no real safety standards and there's no lifeboat drill etc. So from a safety point of view, it is very bad to work on the ship.

  Edwards: What was your most memorable incident out there?
  Davis: I think the earlier mentioned storm. I'll always remember that. The captain said: "We're going to sink" and other crew members said the same. I suppose in a funny way I quite enjoyed the experience because I though that if I can handle that then I can handle anything else in the rest of my life. There have been a couple of other memorable moments like some of the programmes that have gone out when Abie hasn't been listening, have been quite funny. On other radio stations, where there is usually a lot more freedom, they wouldn't have put out some of the things we did! If Abie had been listening, he would have probably sacked the whole lot of us. But there were a lot of good times on board and I think the good times outweighed the bad. It was a very enjoyable six months.
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