The past is indeed another country, but the future is a map that we can draw for ourselves if we dare.
It was 20 years ago this morning, (20th November 1991) that I came to the end of the roughest night I had ever known in all my years at sea with Radio Caroline, and faced what I came to believe would be my last ever dawn.
Aground on the infamous Goodwin Sands, which have claimed hundreds of ships and thousands of lives, we were gradually rolling over, each wave pushing us a little closer to the tipping point where the ship would capsize. Ironically, although there was not enough water to float her, there was more than enough to flood into her and fill her up if we went sideways . . more than enough to drown in.
The waves were towering in the North Easterly Force 11 winds, the seas icy – we wouldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes if we went over.
The brave men of Ramsgate Lifeboat had already tried to rescue us and failed, running aground themselves, losing a man overboard in the process (happily quickly recovered by safety line). Now we were waiting for the helicopter, but it seemed we would be in the water before it arrived . .
Certain that we would be drowning in minutes, the floor beneath us already at a 45 degree angle, we hugged each other, shook hands, and said goodbye. We knew we were going to our doom . .
The story of that morning, and our eventual rescue by the RAF helicopter R166 is described in detail in my book Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline, but even the printed word cannot do justice to the memories which are still vividly seared onto my brain, even all these years later.
I absolutely believed that I was about to die, and that morning, and in particular that moment, has changed my life since then.
The 20 years I have lived since that morning on the Goodwins is a bonus, and the older I have got, the more I have appreciated this, and the more I have lived my life with zeast and purpose. The sudden seeming end of Caroline in 1991 (though not the final end, as it has bounced back and is adpating to a new age) instilled in me a knowledge of the impermanance of states of being, and ensured that when I got involved with Phantom FM in later years I treasured each moment, and drove myself to both give and take the maximum from every day that I worked there.
In life too, I reach out with lust for living to take the most from each day, and push myself to do and experience more and newer things.
Life is a bonus, and I am determined to spend that bonus to the full.
Many people around me comment on my seemingly unflappable calm when faced with difficult situations. This too comes from that morning on the Goodwins, for as I see it, I have been minutes from an icy drowning death, so why should anything that happens in a more normal work or life based situation cause me to panic?
Time has been kind to Radio Caroline too, and that morning, seemingly a point of closure for the station was to be in fact the first step in forcing it to adapt to a new path, which though seemingly bleak for much of the 1990s, has blossomed in latter years into an unprecedented period of stable broadcasts, with new technology enabling the station to be heard in undreamed of quality in previously unreachable countries.
20 years on I have spent the night of the 19th/20th November sipping wine with close friends, and thanking my lucky stars for all the richness of life and the benefits of new technology that both I and Radio Caroline have enjoyed in the last 20 years.
It’s right to raise a glass and look back, but the biggest gift of all is to be able to raise my gaze and look forwards.
Bare naked men (and women)? Yes – tastefully. Lunchtime shoes? – only by mistake. But the ones asking if I’m dead yet are mildly disturbing, and I’ve never been able to fathom my contribution to historical feminism.
But I must be the expert – Google says so!
It’s strange the things you see in your Google search referral logs – the daily/weekly/monthly stats you get with WordPress telling you what search terms people had entered on Google that brought them to your site. There used to be a great site called “Disturbing Search Requests” where bloggers shared these, but it seems to have closed recently. Which is a pity, as I have more than my fair share . .
So, I can accept that I frequently get searches for “men’s bare bottoms” and “naked arse” due to the story I published back in 2009 about the taking of a certain photo by Hotpress Magazine’s talented rock photographer Ruth Medjber. (and you should check out her cool photo blog at http://ruthlessimagery.wordpress.com/ for really cool and iconic backstage and onstage concert shots).
I can accept the typos that occasionally result in wonderful mental imagery – “RTE shoes at lunchtime in the 1960s”
But “the silent voices of women in the middle-ages” ? I’ve never written or published anything even remotely like that!
Except, of course, now I have, so I will doubtless become a genuine target for people looking for silent historical women, lunchtime shoes, and more bare arses.
More disturbing is the search I saw in my logs last month “Is Steve Conway dead yet?”
Some other gems that recently led frustrated Google searchers to stumble upon my site:
“pictures of seagulls” – yes, I see why they came here, but I’m sure this post was not quite what they were looking for.
“dartford big balloons” – no idea how this brought someone here.
“empty seas” – I get this a lot, almost every day, and am amazed that I seem to be one of the few sources for this!
“cheap girls + music of the special years” – because the music is less special if they are classy.
“what man did in frog on ferry” – I suspect it was actually fog and brought them to this post, or at least I hope so . . .
“Tasty Breakfasts” – ah yes, but not this kind I’ll wager.
And finally, I love this one, because although it is not wrong, it is wonderfully specific:
“steve conway’s excellent pics of the ross taken on saturday” – so not the ones on any other day or the week . .
20 years on from the most terrifying morning of my life . . aground on the Goodwin Sands with hopes of rescue seemingly dashed as the crew of the Ross Revenge shook hands and prepared for the ship to roll over . . .
Seven Towers Agency, East Wall for All and The Sean O’Casey Community Centre present:
Radio Caroline, former Phantom FM DJ and Best Selling Author
Reading from his book
Shiprocked, Life on the Waves With Radio Caroline
Sean O’Casey Community Centre, East Wall, Dublin.
7pm Monday 21 November
free parking, admission free
20 Years ago this November, Dubliner and East Wall resident Steve Conway survived the shipwreck of the Ross Revenge, the last of the Radio Caroline off-shore Radio Ships. Reading from his book, Shiprocked he tells of this event and of his life on the famous Pirate Station, Radio Caroline.
Steve will also read a preview excerpt from his new book, due out next year, that covers his career beyond Caroline, including the 10 years spent working for Dublin’s alternative station Phantom FM / Phantom 105.2
This event is free, but an opportunity will be available to give donations and to RNLI and Sean O’Casey Community Centre.
Have a listen to the tests of the custom-built AM valve transmitter on board the Radio Seagull ship in Harlingen, Netherlands, as picked up more than 300 miles away in Co. Kildare, Ireland
I reported during the summer on the construction of a custom built, old-style valve transmitter for high-power AM on board the Radio Seagull ship, the Jenni Baynton, located near Harlingen, in the northern Holland. For the last 6 weeks this transmitter has been in use, performing authorised tests on the 1395AM frequency, which is licenced to a different operator. During these tests Radio Seagull has been relayed, and they come to a close after this weekend (14th November 2011) after which Seagull will continue to be heard on its own frequency 1602Khz and online worldwide.
For the last week, the transmitter has been operating on a higher power setting, and in addition to providing coverage throughout The Netherlands (the intended coverage area) it has been possible to listen much further afield, the signal reaching many parts of the UK, and latterly Ireland.
Click on the link below to hear a short (1 minute) sample of reception on an ordinary car radio, at Monestrevin, Co. Kildare, at around 5.45pm on Monday 7th November. This recording was made simply by using to “voice memo” function on my mobile phone to record the sound inside the car, so the original reception quality is even better.
Not a bad reach for a hand-built rig on a little lightship. Kudos to Walter, Colin, Sietse and the the onboard engineering staff on the Jenni Baynton.