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A Selection of Pictures from Tilbury RSL 2004

An RSL (Restricted Service Licence) is a low power temporary broadcast licence which allows a radio station to broadcast to a very local area for a period of 28 days. In this day and age of multi-national big money corporate control of broadcast media, an RSL is the only realistic chance for a station like Caroline to have a presence on the conventional terrestrial airwaves in the UK. Although acknowledged by all within Caroline to be something of an insult in comparison with her illustrious and glorious past, the RSL allows her crew and presenters to come together and live as one big happy family onboard the ship again, whilst inviting listeners from far and wide to come and visit. As the 2004 RSL was Carolines first on which she also broadcast simultaneously on the now established Satelite and Internet feeds it was judged by all to be the most succesful of the various RSL's since her offshore career ended in 1991.
These pictures cover the period from the last month or so in Rochester, through the week of preparation prior to the RSL launch, the temporary move to the Cruise Liner Terminal, to the last hours of broadcasts from Tilbury.

The page layout is basic and the content a bit random and haphazard, but you can click most pictures for a larger version. Spending 3 days a week onboard the Ross, and trying to squeeze five days worth of day-job into the remaining four whilst living something resembling a normal life left precious little time for creating sexy page layouts!

It's about a month before the broadcast is due to start, the Ross is in Rochester, and something rather important has still to be assembled. It takes three weekends solid work to turn 5 drums of 6mm earth wire and some 15mm copper pipe into an antenna.
Soldering in the wind and rain showers can be a bit difficult - so a Caroline improvisation has to be made. David turns up the heat; Yours truly on the left, with Trevor. I already look exhausted, and this was just the start. Every weekend except one for the next two or three months was to be taken up by the Tilbury RSL.
Nick prepares for the climb - rather him than me; Not far to go now on the front mast; and Trevor up the top of the rear tower.
Got a head for heights? Was the view worth it? I reckon so. (Thanks to Nick for snapping these pic's)
Meanwhile the RSL transmitter undergoes development on my dining room table. Within a month this would be on air!
Note the original RCA Ampliphase modulator in the background.
With less than a week till on air, the Ross is now in Tilbury and the painting crew are busy chipping, scraping and painting. Even Peter the Plank gets set with some red paint.
The efforts of the paint crew are evident from these before and after pictures - plus a pretty rainbow too. These three pic's by Lee Shuttlewood.

The week prior to the broadcasts was very hot and humid, and the painting crew did a truly magnificent job. For many it was their first time working onboard the Ross but they quickly got into the routine of life onboard, and soon the grinders, chippers, hammers and brushes were busy. Much of the accumulated junk gathered over the years since she was last on a quayside could be disposed of, such as old TV's, Fridges, Microwaves, cookers etc. When one of these fails, efforts are expended in obtaining a new one, however it is rare that we have the enthusiasm to remove the old one in the fibreglass dinghy and carry it up the jetty in Queenborough or Rochester to dispose of it! Although outside work was progressing well, inside the Ross some minor problems had to be overcome. The fuel transfer pump used to draw diesel from the bulk tanks to the day tanks for the generators was playing up which necessitated removing the tank hatches and drawing 1 1/2 tonnes of fuel up through a rubber hose prior to shore power being connected. The cold water system developed a habit of filling with air and no sooner had these been attended to than the hot water immersion heater failed, leaving us without hot water for a day. Not very convenient when you have a hot, dirty and tired painting crew onboard.

Studio 1 gains a computer, whilst Studio 2 looks a little too bare, and a mid-sized continent floats past the porthole
Whilst the the Ross Revenge underwent some major cosmetic paintwork during the pre-broadcast week to make her look pretty for visitors, a lot of work also had to go into the technical side of the broadcasts. The shore power had to be installed, as did the broadband connection to Maidstone and the studio phone line. The "Dutch" studio, had to be completely rebuilt to suit the new computer playout system. A whole local area data network had to be installed along with computers for the playout library, email access, streaming service to Maidstone, as well as an emergency playout and general computer access in studio 1. The Ross Revenge has never known technology like this before!

Elsewhere, the RSL transmitter system has to be installed, the new antenna tuned and matched to the transmitter, and all the audio equipment aligned to ensure peak performance. At the beginning of the week, we worked fairly sensible hours, sleeping from about midnight to 7 am. As the week wore on, the bedtimes started slipping towards 4 or 5 am, and the awakening time slipped twoards 8 or 9 am. Failure to meet the Friday night deadline was not an option!

Mike Brill works on the studio computer systems under the watchful eye of Peter Plank; the TX rack is built in the old transformer cage; and some black magic takes place on the antenna tuner.
The delectable Pandora smiles for the camera and looks pretty, whilst the not-quite-so pretty Mark Stafford test-drives the new desk, and Rob Ashard takes a breather for a few seconds in studio 1.
As Friday approached many people burnt much midnight oil to get everything ready. The first "broadcast" from the ship was Stuart Camerons pre-recorded show between 9 and 10pm on the Friday evening which was played from the ship to Maidstone and a few problems identified during this programme were attended to during the following two hours of JP live from Maidstone. Finally, a few seconds past midnight the big AM switch was flicked, and the Ross Revenge was back on the air:- on 1278 AM to Kent and Essex, across the UK on Sky Digital, to a third of the planet on Worldspace Digital Satellite Radio, and around the entire world on the internet.
The moon hangs silently over the Thames as midnight passes; in the studio Mark Stafford, Riga Steve and Barry James take to the air watched by Trevor the electrician and the lights of Gravesend and Northfleet twinkle over the water.
With the station on air, some minor antenna adjustments occured during the small hours of Saturday morning, and finally I crept into bed about 5 am. Although we were all up on Saturday morning to welcome the hundreds of visitors and VIP's, a band played on the pier as the Mayor toured the ship and a good time was had by all, I crept back to my cabin and slept through most of the festivities, happy and content that we were broadcasting and all was going well.
The following weekend, it had been arranged that the Ross Revenge move about 250 metres along the jetty into the Cruise Liner terminal to make way for a film crew on the public pier. The tug had been booked to arrive at 7:00 am, which meant a 5:30 am start to disconnect the shore power, and make arrangements to move. All went well and we transmitted on AM as we moved down the river. Shortly afterwards the broadband line was re-connected and once again the Ross Revenge was broadcasting to the world.
The Radio Caroline team prepare for the Olympic tug-of-war competition. Walter Galle (visitor from Belgium), Graham Hall, Riga Steve and crew member Paul help moor the Ross; The Ross in her temporary home for two days; Graham Hall helps re-connect the broadband line.
Some subtle advertising; Peter Smith arrives for Plank duty; Pirate Radio ship, Officer? I see no Pirate Radio Ship round here. Honestly.
Feeding time at the Zoo. Left to right, clockwise around the table: Trevor the Spark and assistant Chef (standing), Pandorra, Mark Stafford Junior, Mark Stafford Senior, Mrs Stafford, Clive the Chef, Rosemary Weston, Mike Weston, Peter Smith (glowing), Nigel Benn, Jim Ross, Pete Anderson. Sorry, but I don't recall whose elbow was on the RHS!
Pandorra finds a Coffee squeezing thingy, unaware that we normally use it for filtering the bilge water..........
Under the studio desk: the 100mb network switch, the UPS, and the audio limiter to protect the Maidstone feed from over-level; In the right hand picture the playout computer with over 10,000 songs for the broadcast (nearly as many as the ships library) is on the left, in the centre is a Sanyo Worldspace for making sure we are going out, and on the right, could that really be the genuine Pandorra's box (or two)?
There are several reasons why it was decided to use Studio 2 for this broadcast, not the least of which is space. The under area desk space in studio 1 is much more restricted than in the old Dutch studio, which would have given little room to install the four computers and associated equipment. Also adding the computers to the "558" studio would have involved much cutting of the exitsing wiring and adding new circuits, whereas with an almost bare Studio 2 it was much easier to start from scratch. The turntables in studio 2, mounted on the surface of the desk were easy to remove and replace with the computers, wheras those in studio 1 are actually sunk into the desk and would leave two large holes. Most importantly using the second studio means that the 558 studio will be preserved to the state it was in in the North Sea days without undue modification and is much easier to show to visitors and studio 2 will now be the "digital" studio for future use. However, switching is available to allow either studio to be put on air if we wish, and the current arrangement actually allows the two studios to be switched separately to 1278AM and Maidstone if required. An unexpected added bonus of using Studio 2 is the view across the river from the porthole, thus giving rise to many interesting comments from the on air team with regard to activity along the Thames.
Jim Ross interviews Dick Palmer in the studio;
Two stars of the broadcast:- The bridge webcam, strapped to an old capacitor and pointing along the deck, and a spectrum analyser plot of the transmitter undergoing modulation tests.
On Saturday 28th August an impressive fireworks display was staged at the nearby Elizabethen Tilbury Fort (one of our advertisers). The display was enjoyed by all those upon the Ross Revenge that evening.
One of the many advantages of being moored to a quayside is the ease of which old junk can be disposed of. For as many years as I can remember an old lump of steel, with some teeth has been laying around the deck. I have never found what it's original purpose was, but as it proved to be a five man lift to move it, I'm glad we never tried to take it away in the dinghy at either Queenborough or Rochester. However, with a skip alongside the Ross Revenge, it was about time it went for recycling. It took five of us to shift it, a chain block and much elbow grease to lift onto the quayside, and finally it ended up in the skip along with a couple of old fridges. As this is the first time the Ross has been moored along a suitable quayside since Docklands in 1996, all manner of junk and scrap has been disposed of. Four fridges, two TV's, two microwaves, an old cooker, goodness knows how many old radios and amplifiers and enough lead acid generator and lighting batteries to power half the country. It's not that we hoarde things on the Ross Revenge, it's just that when the fridge or TV breaks down we struggle to get the new one out to the ship in the dinghy and along the pier, and have no enthusiasm whatsoever to remove the old one by the reverse process. Hence the advantage of having a skip alongside the ship for a while.
On Sunday 29th, Graham L. Hall presented his Sunday afternoon prog from the aft deck of the Ross Revenge and entertained the visitors in the process. Unfortunately, due to big black clouds on the horizon the event had to cut short and the show finished from the normal inside studio.
Some evenings, particularlry at weekends, the Ross has been home to 17 or more crew members, and cooking for that many can become something of a task. Here Trevor the Electrician turned Chef had to go to desparate lengths to get the old gas cooker to light up. Then, after the meal, yours truly took a break from transmitter duties to attend to some plumbing problems in the galley - alas, the real problem was that the discarge over the side was blocked, causing the pipes to back up. So, at about 9:30pm on a Sundat evening yours truly dons safety harness, straps into bosun's chair, and goes hanging around, a few inches above the Thames whilst unblocking the drain. Fortunately I managed to get out of the way before a large quantitie of smelly water came rushing out, though a big wave fresh from the North Sea did manage to soak my feet. All in a days work for the team. (drain picture by Graham Coull)
Dave Foster gives Pandora a helping hand onboard, but did he get close to her box?
Only a few hours before closedown and some of the crew and visitors relax on the fore deck: L-R. Clockwise, Eric Wilsher (sitting on bollard), Tony Lake (standing), Lee Shuttlewood, Peter Plank, Jim Ross, Rob Ashard
Meanwhile, the fridge prepares for the closedown party....... Definitely a blokes fridge.
Finally, it's midnight and it becomes my sad duty to flick the off switch on the RSL transmitter. But have no fear, Caroline Continues.....
One oft photographed and talked about item during the broadcast was this superb model of the Mi Amigo. It was built in the mid '70's by amateur model maker Malcolm Lovett, who was asked to build it by a friend who worked for Caroline at that time. It was supposed to be presented to Caroilne back then, but for various reasons this never happend, and it stayed in Malcolms house gathering dust for nearly 30 years. He finally presented the model to the Caroline crew during this RSL and it rightfully took pride of place in the on air studio. The model has now been taken off the Ross Revenge for some small repairs (concrete patches in the hull?) and will be put on display again once it has been placed in a protective glass cabinet.

Check out Horizon Magazine webpage for more pictures and stories from Tilbury.

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