Laser 576 ... All Europe Radio

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    December 1986 ... View from the Bridge

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    1. ketrin1407 72 months ago | reply

      Whoops, there's a tyo for you. Should be 558 of course.

    2. Kirk Clyatt 72 months ago | reply

      You're right, actually when I was on the ship I belive the frequency had been moved to 576 ... before a winter storm blew in in early '87 and we were all, but done.

      The ship was quite an adventure ... exciting, kind of a trip to hell would be, but not quite like the new movie that is coming out!

      Thanks for your correction!

    3. ketrin1407 72 months ago | reply

      Right - Laser did some tests on 729 kHz, but when it officially started it was on 558. Caroline retaliated by launching a daytime service on 576. When Laser closed in 1985, Caroline immediately moved onto 558. They were still there when Laser returned a year later, so then Laser had to use 576.

    4. Kirk Clyatt 72 months ago | reply

      My experience in the North Sea was kind of like what a trip to Hell might be like, very interesting, but I sure wouldn't want to go back! This is part of a journal I kept while on the Laser adventure … Yes all these years later I still had to make some edits, but if Laser was a part of your life you still might find it interesting.

      Here is the link to what I sounded like on the ship;

      7am GMT 12-4-86 Flight #2

      One hour out of London, still dark ... so far, so good. Newark was not bad ... all flights on time ... I met some very nice people.

      Mark a blood researcher who was in Boston for 6 months, knew all about Laser and the Road Show. Ernie, a social worker from Boston and Margaret a Nanny from Birmingham. All missed their flight last night because of bad weather, but were in a good mood.

      12am GMT 12-6-86

      So far I've been in the UK for only about 40 hours, but it feels a lot longer. I must get up at 5:15am to go to the ship ... The M.V. Communicator at 51N 1E, the ship is at Knock Deep.

      Not much sleep tonight. Still too soon to tell if this is going to work out, but I think I'm going to be happy with decision to give this a try.

      I've already met a lot of the staff ... like any station some good, some ... oh no, like, I guess he is the Sales Manager, good at selling, but Andrew Turner thinks he might sell the station and the staff with his big mouth. Thank God for Andrew, a bit of sanity in this 'North Sea of Madness.

      You think a station on land is crazy you should try one 14 miles out at sea. Had a good time in Walton-On-The-Maze ... I love the name ... what is a Maze? It's just like a story book town. I even saw a draft horse ... and they still have milk bottles ... I even liked the 'Pub's' ... cider is good ... beer fair. This is a summer resort town. In the Summer I could fake it, but in the Winter I stand out like a sore thumb ... I'm sure most people are wondering just what I'm doing here.

      When I come off the boat I've got to come back to Britain to get my exit visa ... and go on and off the boat from France or Holland ... I know it's going to be a problem, I just hope not a huge one ... today should prove to be very interesting.

      12-9-86 23:15 GMT

      On the M.V. Communicator ... first a few things I forgot to mention ... on landing at Gatwick on Peoples Express the Captain almost put the left wing into the sod ... that would have been an interesting way to start my trip.

      The food in England is poor. I don't think they believe in spices. I would kill for a huge chocolate milkshake and some Rosette's Enchiladas right about now.

      Well here I sit on the M.V. Communicator - The M.V. stand for Motor Vessel - it should be known as the attitude adjustment, more on that soon.

      Last Friday the night of the 5th-6th, I slept very little back at the Queen Anne at Walton ... England seems to have many, many of these Bed and Breakfasts. They seem to be reasonable nice and only 8 to 10 pounds per night ... I can't yet make a good 'pounds' symbol (and don't have a key for one on this keyboard either) ... one thing unlike American Hotels they give you lots and lots of covers ... of course you don't have a private bath, but that's not horrible, you have a wash basin.

      The shower was the same kind they have on the ship, a small unit that heats the water as it goes through ... I guess they can get away with such a small unit since you only get to use such a small amount of water, a very 'fine spray' ... but at least it's hot!

      At Gatwick they had free luggage carts ... something you would never see in the US! A big help. Since it is so much smaller, it's got a very good public transportation system. The trains and -Tube- reasonably clean and close to being on time ... it's just hard to figure out what kind of ticket to buy ... they have strange names like 'Cheap Day Return', etc. Also the trains are very crowded ... not easy to travel with a lot of luggage ... as usual I over packed ... this may be the trip that finally teaches me I can get by with less ... in fact I almost lost a lot of it on the way out.

      Malcolm who works with Ray Anderson, who really owns the boat, but then again doesn't came by to pick us up Saturday morning at about 5:30 am, we meet another car at a local Post Office with Paul Dean and Steve and an engineer who looks like 'Jesus', he only stayed a few hours ... Paul claims to own part of the ship and acts as the operations manager ... he and this kid Jeff -Johnny Rock & Roll - he has been on the boat a week longer. He is an 'Puker' from Massachusetts ... anyway he and Paul seem to get along well bitching.

      I didn't mention that this 'Rob Day' (sales manager) whose real name is 'Paul' something or other ... I knew I was in trouble when I was in his office ... the nice thing to do would have been to set me up in a London hotel for the night, but noooooo. I sit there while this Jim Wilson like guy (Jim Wilson was a radio talent I worked with in South Carolina back in the late 70s.) talks on the phone for hours and then he has to borrow 35 pounds from me ... we then go on this marathon 25 pound taxi ride to pick up records ... it would have been easier to just go to a store and buy them, but at least I got a nice ride around London. I saw the Palace, Parliament ... the Canadian and South African Embassies, both just beautiful and of course what was called the 'endless demonstration' going on outside the South African Embassy.

      I got my luggage out of 'left luggage'. A very good idea, for a small fee, attendants will watch over your luggage. There was no way I was going to travel on the -tube- with all of my luggage, which was at Victoria Station and made our final car trip to Liverpool Station ... where we took a very crowed train to Colchester. I ended up sitting on my briefcase by the toilet ... they're not called Rest Rooms. There at least was a very interesting girl to look at ... who looked like Muriel Hemmingway ... I on the other hand looked like 'death warmed over'.

      We made it to Colchester ... it is a city in Essex about the size of Salinas, California, maybe a little larger. We finished our 40 minute train trip, got off took another taxi to a hotel-private club type place ... anyway it was run by Adam and his mother ... this is where I got my 35 pounds back from Adam. I made up my mind I was not going out to the boat until I got back my 35 pounds ... Adam gave it to me ... I also gave him my plane receipts ... I hope this was not a mistake ...

      Anyway, we waited, or should I say I waited while Adam and Rob decided what to do ... Adam seems like a nice enough guy ... I'm told he acts as Rob's brain. One of the first things Adam's Mom does is to get out the Scotch ... it seems like the English ... smoke and drink much more than the Americans ... It's almost as if drinking is a national obsession. They had Scotch ... I had Milk.

      From there we went to Walton in Adam's car, a tight squeeze. Met Bob the proprietor and Jeanette, Ray's girl. As of this time there are no women on the boat ... it would take an insane one to come out.

      On Friday bought a map of the area, not as good as US Maps and a British Postcard and called Janice (My 1st Wife). The phones are much harder to use than in the US ... the system in some ways seems, like much of the country, a bit antiquated.

      In Walton spent a lot of time in this one pub with Andrew ... England has an amazing number of pubs. TV is very strange here ... I even saw the non-stop excitement of a Dart Tournament on TV, Wow!

      At the Post Office a small truck met us we caravaned through a lousy road, through a swampy area to a small harbor ... while lugging my luggage we headed for his small ship the Lady Gwen ... this was not as easy walk with all my luggage. There was about a two foot hole I had to navigate over. We made it to the ship ... the Captain's name was Chris and his mate Peter. They wound their way out of the harbor, Which is not easy, there are many sand bars, some of which are even exposed during low tide ...

      11:10 GMT 12-14-86

      The trip out was very interesting, the day was clear and cold. This time of the year it's horrible. Daylight only 8a to 4p, went past many large cargo ships at anchorage waiting to get into London including a large Soviet Ship.

      At 9am on the 6th made it to the ship - 89 meters of Junk - built in 1954 I later find out quite a bit older than I thought. The ship is orange with a white bridge and two antenna masts with a five wire horizontal antenna. Climb the latter, get shown to one cabin, waaay to small, get another a little better, but it still makes Motel 6 seem like luxury accommodations.

      Get unpacked, as usual, I grossly over packed. Most of the ship’s crew is nice enough. Ray Anderson, The owner, is on board, of course, technically he is not really the owner ... it's all a mamby, pamby paper trail. The UK seems to be a nation with a worse bureaucracy than the US.

      There is so much rush, rush between the time I get on and he (Ray) gets off. I don't have much of a chance to talk to him ... however, I do hit him up for the money owed ... still have not seen it as of the 14th.

      The Lady Gwen comes at 1pm to take him and several others away. At this time there are 10 on board at night a French tender comes to take 2 Dutch Engineers off, down to eight on board ... I do my first shift that night from 8 to 10.

      The equipment is not great, but at least it's better than KTOM's (KTOM is a station in Salinas, CA)

      Seas are moderate through the day. Sunday the 7th, I'm on the air from 12 to 2 and the seas are much rougher. I'm super sea sick!!! Doing the show and barfing out the porthole. In fact, even a few days later you can still see my barf on the side of the ship ... big fun.

      It seems like the seas are at their roughest when I'm on the air. Live through the show and make it back to the cabin and throw up some more ... I'm not a happy sailor. Someone found some seasick pills and they helped a little ...

      Monday is my first day doing 'Breakfast'. I dub some of my standard bits from the reels I brought ... just remembered I forgot my 'Dees Comedy Reels' ... I knew I would forget something ... the show goes fine ... I'm on from 5am until 9am, which is really no problem being on a ship and no one is in the studio before me.

      Andrew is a delight to work with. He helps to keep me sane on this rust bucket. I may have the largest audience I've ever had, but it sure doesn't feel like it with no phones and nothing to see out the window, but miles of very cold, sometimes very rough green water ... the shows are fine ... my normal stuff ... apparently going over well ... sales is already claiming I'm the most listened to 'Breakfast Show' in the UK ... I have no idea if it's true.

      Taking a shower ... a problem, not much water pressure, but at least it's hot. Exercise ... a problem ... they have some weights in the bilge, but smells like a combination of rotting flesh and diesel fuel in there ... I was going to bring them on deck, but I'm afraid they may roll off into the sea. (They should grow mushrooms down there; it is about the right type of horrible environment.) I've even resorted to calisthenics for some exercise.

      Food ... it became a very big problem ... it was bad became worse ... more soon

      14-12-86 that's the British way ... 11:46 GMT
      Total owed as of 16-12-86 507 pounds 44 pence

      12-18-86 10:45pm GMT * 2245

      Hard to believe it's been four days since my last entry ... still on the ship ... to finish up on the background information ... last week food was becoming a major problem ... I started to get nauseous just thinking about it ... all that was left was pork & beans, potatoes, a little UTC Milk (horrible) and some bangers.

      To make matters worse, the British don't seem to believe in refrigeration ... they leave everything out ... Yech! If a supply ship did not arrive soon ... I was going to get on the VHF and tell the Coast Guard to come and get me.

      All last week I felt like I was going to get sick again at any moment ... I didn't know if it was from being seasick or just thinking about the food. I think it was kind of half and half. Also last Saturday I did 7 hours on the air 5am to 9am and 7pm to 10pm, I can't remember the last time I've done that many hours.

      About the only thing the ship is good for is sleeping ... must be the sea air and the rocking motion of the ship ...

      At last, Saturday night ... Sunday morning about 2am ... the 'Lady Gwen' the boat I came to hell on arrived with food, even some fresh milk ... tons of meat ... mostly red meat ... yeah! I can't believe I'm at sea fro two weeks and I've not had any fish ... in general British food 'sucks', but at least this is something!

      In Britain the climate is in some ways similar to the CA central coast, so they are able to grow celery and brussel sprouts, but they aren't as good as in CA. In fact, in London I saw 'Bud of CA' lettuce. Beer ... my God, did they bring on a lot ... the crew has consumed amazing amounts in just a few days. Johnny one of the crew members went back with the 'Lady Gwen' ... I gave it serious consideration, but stayed.

      Monday the 15th all hell broke loose ... I didn't get up as early as usual on Sunday I had done 12 to 2 and 6 to 8 ... last week my sleep schedule was totally f**ked up. I was going to bed at like 2 or 3 in the afternoon and getting up at like 1am ... totally nuts ... but since I was on a ship it didn't matter much ... anyway Monday was up by about 4:15am and the sea was a little rougher than usual.

      I went on the air, as usual, a little before 5 ... Mike the ships CE, not transmitters, but generators and engine turned on everything ... meter readings are not something you have to worry about here ... more soon.

      19/12/86 * 03:30 GMT

      The engines have been started ... actually they were a few hours ago. The North Sea weather has more than live up to its advance billing ... I woke up about an hour and a half ago ... not so much by the engine as by the shaking of the walls of the ship. Got dressed and went to the bridge.

      The night is partly clear, about 2 degrees Celsius and unbelievable windy ... the seas are 15 feet, the wind is over a force 10 about 65 mph, maybe more ... the engine is run to hold position with the anchor in place. The anchor is about 240 degrees port, about 600 feet of chain is out. The ship is trying to maintain a heading of 250 to 260 as this is the direction of the wind, kind of landing a plane.

      The engine is at half ahead ... credit must go to Mike who went to the bow to check on the anchor chain. I thought about doing it, but I want to live to see another day. The tide is going out, this is addition to the wind is making the sea so mean.

      Pressure is 29.40 inches or 996mb, very low ... running the engine helps keep the ship from rolling as well as dragging anchor. Tonight is the worst weather since I've been on board, but not by much.

      It's quite a sight to see when the stern comes out of the water with the engines on ... God does it churn the water and it looks just like a movie when the waves crash over the bow. It's very interesting and somewhat exciting; however I'm a little concerned for my personal safety.

      The ship is vibrating quite a bit, not all that noisy, but everything is vibrating quite a bit. I hope this old boat holds together. There is nothing I can do ... going to try to go back to sleep, but leaving a cabin light on ... as long as the generators stay on everything should be OK. In fact, all 'n all we've had fewer power failures than with PG&E. I trust the crew, even if I didn't I don't have much of a choice ... more soon ... if we make it 'til dawn which is not for another four hours.

      'Tis The Season To Be Jolly ... is being sung by Captain Bob on the bridge.

      4am 12-19-86
      Total owed as of 19-12-86 = 569.30 pounds or $828.33

      Well here it is Friday the 19th at almost 10pm ... things are getting to be almost a bit out of hand ... the radio crew is about to get mad ... the lights just flashed off ... looked for my back-up flash light batteries ... can't find them ... now that makes me mad!

      Anyway as you can see we all lived through last night ... the storm was unreal! I've never felt such a cold wind and hope to never again.
      Back to last Monday the 15th ... as my show went along the sea started to get rougher and rougher ... I was not feeling that great, but pressed on ... the studios are in the stern so there is quite a bit of motion. After my shift I had a couple of spots to cut ... I never would have thought three months ago I'd be doing production while sea sick in the North Sea.

      I went to lie down and turned on the radio ... the sea is very rough, by now kind of like last night. I figure as long as the station stays on the air everything will be OK.

      At 12:45pm ... Paul Dean ... Station Manager ... kind of ... excitedly shuts down the station, in the process tries to call the station Laser 558, its old frequency.

      The marine crew had wisely decided to shut down because the antenna, a five wire, 1/2 ton piece of copper cable was about to come completely loose from the towers. Paul and the marine crew were able to lower it down part way ... it is nothing, but a tangled mess ... so we're off the air ... still.

      You can be sure I will not come back out to this ship ... the lights just flashed again ... without a substantial increase in pay. In fact, earlier this evening I finished writing a four page outline of what I could do for the station and what I wanted in return, a lot of it had to do with record company liaison ... oh well, I'm good at it ... I'd be happy to do certain favors. Honestly, I don't think it'll happen since I'm going to be asking for 70 pounds a day, plus I'll do some no charge shore work for them ... I don't want to be on this ship more than two weeks at a time. The isolation is unreal!

      Before '84-'85 the ship had a satellite link so at least you could make a phone call once in a while ... anyway I'm worth the money. Already they were billboarding me as having the UK's most listened to 'Breakfast Show' ... was it true? I don't know. They say the New York office has gotten about 600 letters. I hope for a chance to see them.

      As of today I'm owed about 570 pounds, I hope to see that the second I get off the boat or I will be very unhappy.

      Back to the story, since Monday we've been waiting to get off the boat. Andrew has got to get off since he has to be in Austria on Christmas Day. Quite a three week deal he's got with 'Blue Danube' radio ... it pays a bundle, for not that much work. I think I may go pay them a visit.

      The weather has not been good and we are staring to run out of water, but on Wednesday ... ya' know all day today I kept thinking it was Saturday, but it's Friday ... we got a visitor from the 'Bellatrix' our new French tender ... some guy named 'Freddie', used to own a boat called the 'Windy', but sold it to buy the 'Bellatrix'. He also has some kind of a service deal with 'Caroline' and 'Ross Revenge'. It has two stations, 'Caroline' at 558 and a Dutch station, 'Monique' at 963, so Freddie came on Wednesday in his new boat. He got it in Holland from what I understand he was asked a lot of questions about what he was going to use the cutter for, so he took it out of port in the darkness of Wednesday morning in a force 10 ... nuts! 10:30pm 2230GMT 19-12-86 * More Soon.

      It's now about 9:10 in the morning on the 20th ... it's bright, clear, cold and windy ... probably just too windy for the 'Lady Gwen' to come out and rescue us, we will see.

      Last Wednesday the 'Bellatrix' arrived ... we think it may have more jocks on board, it didn't ... Thank God.

      The 'Bellatrix' is a large boat about 100 tons. The seas are too rough for them to pull along side ... so after about two hours they send over two men a in a rubber raft. It looked like something out of a movie. After a struggle they make it, soaked. After a few more hours there is a rope passed ship to ship and they are about 75 meters behind us, maybe less.

      They pump us some water after we run a hose through the hall of the ship. The two men are given 2 of our 4 exposure suits and on a rope tether the rubber boat is sent back. In addition to water, they send over UTC Milk, lots more beer ... duty free ... and tobacco.

      Andrew is advised by Jimmie, one of the crew, who is making only 100 pounds a week and is so far owed 7 weeks ... he worked 3 1/2 months on the 'Ross' and was never paid. The problem is there is no way, or at least no safe way to get Andrew to the 'Bellatrix' . They say they are to return on Friday with fuel ... they didn't.

      Except for the major storm, not much else major has happened this week. The storm ripped down, actually part of the dangling antenna cable cut through the CB antenna so now we have no shore contact. Oh well, it seems as if before they were just ignoring us. They know we want to get off and they are not doing anything to help us.

      Paul has been doing most of the cooking and the drinking ... I had a minor disagreement with Andrew about cleaning up. So far my health has been OK, been taking extra vitamins ... the food is so dam bland I haven't needed as many Tums as in CA. I cut my left index finger on Wednesday while cutting cheese. I did bleed quite a bit, it's still bandaged.

      The marine crew is getting a little on edge and the radio crew is about to go nuts. The Captain yelled at Andrew and Johnny (Jeff) for waking him up with their beer can bowling. We've taking many walking tours of the ship ... all our minds are starting to turn to mush ... I know how a POW must begin to feel.

      Unless big bucks are delivered, which is doubtful, the life at sea at least on this kind of a ship is not for me. I did one load of wash ... in a bucket. The ship has a washer, but it takes to much water to make it work, so I did my wash in a bucket. The ship also has a dryer, but the heating elements hardly work, if at all. It took 2 and 1/2 days just to dry my clothes.

      According to Paul Dean an Ex-Patriot American, The future for Laser does not look bright. He's not a bad guy, a pretty good cook ... keeps me from having to do too many dishes.

      Many of the people who were involved with the ship before and directly or indirectly made it fail are involved again. Someone named Paul McClaren, who is supposed to be setting up runs from the British side ... done a great job so far ... ha, ha. Someone named Cole who is supposed to be setting up runs from the French side. John Catlet in the US ... I understand (forced edit ... sorry)

      Going to see what's new and maybe unpack enough to try to take a shower ... I've been packed and ready to go for three days now. 9:45 am

      12-20-86 1pm

      One thing about being on this boat, lots of sleep and vivid dreams ... just one about 'Rac' the dog in Maryland ... anyway to make a long story short it involved, a radio, TV spot, listening to a friend, full service station, well its not quite like that, vent, getting up starting day. I know what you’re saying, this makes no sense at all. Ask me and I'll explain more ... (Don't, all these years later I have no idea what they were about)

      1-7-87 Back to the US Somewhere over the Northwest Atlantic on Continental flight 5

      It's packed. Hard to believe, mid-week January and every seat is filled. I'm not having a lot of fun.

      I've had an incredible adventure ... some of it like an adventure through hell, but an adventure none the less. I felt it was, and is, important that I come back ... I may go back to the UK, it will all depend on what kind of a deal can be worked out. Or if my prayers are answered and I get a job with MTV Europe.

      No job at MTV was forthcoming, but I ended up on TV anyway, nor did in any real sense Laser return to the air ... I hope you enjoyed this journey back into British Broadcast history.

    5. richarris 70 months ago | reply

      KC -- Really enjoyed your narrative. I was onboard with LASER 558 at the time of the launch and for about a year after. We experienced similar inconvenience and discomfort, but in the end it was an adventure worth taking.

    6. Community Archive 27 months ago | reply

      Thanks for your log Kirk ~ this is why offshore radio is so appreciated!

    7. JAYBEE+1958 24 months ago | reply

      KC - just come across your diary and enjoyed it very much. You won't remember me, but I remember you! They were crazy days on the North Sea and oh how I wish we'd been able to prepare some of you US guys in advance for what you were letting yourselves in for! I felt rather sorry for you when you arrived, expecting something quite different to what you got. I'm delighted you're still involved in the broadcasting world and in particular that you seem to have done well for yourself. It would be nice to think that the experience on the North Sea played a part in that, although it probably didn't! If nothing else you are now part of that very special family of offshore broadcasters and it would certainly be nice to see you back in the UK again for a visit. Our food really isn't as bad as you experienced on the North Sea you know - and by the way it's Naze not Maze and it's the name of the headland upon which Walton is located. Thanks for the memories!

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