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Radio Mi Amigo 272 - History

Former Radio Mi Amigo owner Sylvain Tack and tender operator Patrick Valain purchased a vessel of their own to re-launch the station during the early part of 1979. During the months before the original station went off the air in October 1978 they had experienced problems tendering the MV Mi Amigo and considered that she was in a dangerous state of repair. Attempts by Sylvain Tack to persuade Ronan O'Rahilly to purchase a new vessel had also come to nothing.

Tack and Valain purchased the Centricity in Cyprus and the vessel was then secretly converted and equipped in the Greek port of Patros, Athens. The radio and transmitting equipment was purchased from the USA, secretly shipped to Greece and installed on board without attracting any attention from the authorities. The ship was renamed Magdalena, after Patrick Valain's wife, Magda.

Unfortunately everything took a lot longer than originally expected, but the Magdalena left Greece in the early summer of 1979. However, she soon experienced engine failure and had to be towed through the Corinth Canal back to Patros, where repairs were carried out - adding significantly to the cost of the project.

After months of rumours since Radio Mi Amigo had closed suddenly in October 1978 the new ship finally appeared on the North Sea anchoring in various locations in mid-June 1979 and finally ending up in a position near the Thornton Bank, off the coast of Belgium.

Test broadcasts of continuous music, with occasional Radio Mi Amigo ID announcements, started on 25th June 1979 and continued for three days. After a further two days of silence, tests started again on 1st July 1979 and the station officially opened at 12 noon that day.

The re-launched station, which was aimed primarily at a Flemish speaking audience, also had its own magazine, Mi Amigo Fanblad, published in Belgium by the Mi Amigo Fan Club.

Rumours about the ownership of the re-launched Radio Mi Amigo began to circulate almost as soon as the station returned to the air. Some Belgian newspapers claimed that Sylvain Tack, if he had ever owned the Magdalena, had sold her before broadcasts began, possibly to Adriaan van Lanschoot (ex-owner of Radio Atlantis) and that the use of the name 'Mi Amigo' had resulted in Tack's villa in Spain being searched by the authorities. In fact the Magdalena was owned by Patrick Valain, who purchased it using the Honduran registered company, Magdalena Shipping and Commercial Enterprises.

Radio Mi Amigo 272 was off the air frequently during the late summer of 1979 as the result of transmitter and generator failures. However, on 9th September 1979 when the station returned to the air after one of these breaks engineers had managed to tune the transmitter to an EBU frequency of 1098kHz (273.5m), which considerably improved reception, particularly during the hours of darkness, although it continued to be announced as 'Radio Mi Amigo 272'.

The Magdalena lost her anchor on 2nd August 1979 and for seven days she sailed around the Thornton Bank. In the absence of any proper equipment the crew eventually tried to anchor the vessel by throwing overboard an old motor which was attached by chains to both sides of the ship.

Not surprisingly this temporary arrangement did not work and on 14th September 1979 the Magdalena dragged her 'anchor' yet again, this time drifting in a north easterly direction off the Belgian coast. For two days she managed to hold a position ten miles from her normal anchorage, but on 17th September the vessel drifted onto Middle Deep Sandbank eight miles off the coast of Walcheren Island. Changing wind directions during the night sent the ship drifting once again, this time northwards towards the Belgian coast, while the crew and DJs battled to try and start the ship's engines. They were unsuccessful because no one on board could operate the compressor mechanism.

By the morning of 18th September 1979 the radio ship had drifted 28 miles from her usual anchorage position. Radio Mi Amigo 272 opened transmissions half an hour earlier than usual at 6.00am, but stopped after only 10 minutes because the ship was being forced further and further towards shore. The Magdalena continued drifting and during the morning of 19th September 1979, in a Force 8 gale, she entered Dutch territorial waters. Shortly before nightfall that same day the radio ship finally ran aground.

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