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Radio Caroline 1970’s - History (9)

Radio Caroline's 14th Birthday was celebrated on 26th March 1978 with a special programme of listener's Top 50 Album Tracks. Throughout the beginning of August 1978 the Caroline Fun Bus toured various seaside resorts in East Anglia and south east England. A former London Transport double decker, it provided a base for the Caroline Roadshow Disco as well as an outlet for souvenir sales. Miss Caroline '78, who had been chosen by DJs on board the Mi Amigo from photograph entries in a competition which the station had been promoting for some weeks, accompanied the Fun Bus.

On 20th October 1978 Mark Jacobs interrupted the programme and said that Radio Mi Amigo must leave the air due to a generator fault.  Radio Caroline and Radio Mi Amigo went off air 11:54am. This sudden closure of Radio Caroline and Radio Mi Amigo and the length of their unexplained silence led to speculation in Britain about the future of the stations.

On 14th November 1978 the Daily Telegraph carried the headline SHORTAGES HELP TO SINK PIRATE RADIO and went on to quote 'a source close to the staff of DJs' as saying:-" It could be a generator breakdown but on top of that there have been money problems. It is highly possible that Caroline will not be heard again in Britain." The article speculated further about the dwindling advertising support Radio Caroline had received in recent times and the cash crisis this had caused the station. Surprisingly, for a quality paper such as the Telegraph, whose readership would not normally include Radio Caroline listeners, that same issue also carried an editorial comment supportive of Caroline's stand against the authorities.

This story and Editorial, although supportive of Radio Caroline was premature in the assumption that the lengthy silence from the Mi Amigo was permanent. The cause of the station's present problems was indeed a generator breakdown as well as a chronic shortage of diesel fuel and the radio ship was to remain silent for some months yet.


1979

Fuel supplies on the Mi Amigo were so low by mid January 1979 that the crew had to run the generators for just three hours a day while they cooked a meal. They then remained without power for the rest of the day and as a result had no heating, lighting, television, cooking or deep freeze facilities.

On 16th January the Mi Amigo began taking in water and at about the same time the small generator, which had been supplying what little power was available, had to be brought into full time use to operate the bilge pumps. This overworked generator failed later that night and a larger generator had to be brought into use, consuming valuable fuel. However, that too failed after a few hours and the Mi Amigo was left without power and the electrically driven bilge pumps became inoperable. Meanwhile the ship continued taking in water with no means available to pump it out.

By the afternoon of 17th January 1979, with rough seas and a Force 7 gale blowing, the level of water in the radio ship began to rise alarmingly. The crew decided to call the emergency services and Thames Coastguard sent a helicopter from RAF Manston to the radio ship, while the dredger, Cambrae, was also requested to stand by to provide assistance if required. Two other vessels in the area at the time diverted towards the Mi Amigo, while the Harwich Lifeboat was also launched.

Although the helicopter offered to winch the radio ship's crew off while there was still some daylight, the DJs decided to stay on board. Shortly before 6.30pm the Harwich Lifeboat arrived alongside the Mi Amigo and took off all those on board. The lifeboat crew later described the Mi Amigo as having her stern almost under water and her bows in the air - the estimated life of the radio ship at that time was put at less than 24 hours.

By the following morning, 18th January 1979, the weather in the North Sea had improved and during the afternoon a salvage team arrived alongside the radio ship to find her floating upright. Despite her apparent stability the vessel was full of water and engineer Peter Chicago decided to stay alone on the radio ship overnight to prevent any salvage attempts being made by third parties. Single-handedly he managed to get one of the pumps working to remove water from the engine room while another was used to pump out the studio, record library and living quarters. Fortunately the transmitter compartment remained undamaged by the sea water which had been up to a foot deep in some places.

On 19th January 1979 some of the DJs who had been removed two days earlier returned to the ship, together with other engineers and a new petrol generator enabling the Mi Amigo to have a regular power supply once again.



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Lloyds List

22nd and 23rd January 1979

Daily Telegraph

14th November 1978

Daily Telegraph

15th November 1978



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A series of Home Office surveillance photographs of the Mi Amigo taken in April 1978

Home Office photographs supplied to and published by Felixstowe and Offshore Radio.   https://www.facebook.com/felixstoweandoffshoreradio/


SlideShow Home Office Photos