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Once a mundane fishing trawler, the Ross Revenge became famous as the ship which hosted the pirate radio station Radio Caroline between 1983 and 1991. Her colourful history, which included breaking the law, breaking her moorings, being marooned on sand-banks and sold for scrap now lies in the hands of a few dedicated volunteers who are trying to restore her for posterity.

Early beginnings

Built in 1960 in Bremerhaven, Germany, the trawler was originally named the MV Freyr and was owned by an Icelandic fishing company. She was then sold to Ross Fisheries UK and renamed MV Ross Revenge. Unfortunately the British fishing industry was to undergo a massive decline when the government finally capitulated to Iceland in the cod war of 1976, and most of the British fishing fleet was laid off. The Ross Revenge served as a diving support ship in the North Sea before being taken to Rosyth in Scotland to be sold as scrap.

Finest hours

In March 1980 the Radio Caroline ship, Mi Amigo, broke anchor and sank so the station's owner scoured the country for a replacement. The Ross Revenge was deemed a suitable replacement as she had been built to withstand heavy sea conditions, and with huge holds which could be filled with ballast to counterbalance high transmitter masts on her deck. The eventual antenna was the tallest mast ever built on a ship, and at 300 feet needed 300 tons of concrete ballast to stabilise the ship.

In her former days as a trawler, MV Ross Revenge would have been at sea for a maximum of 28 days before returning to port. As a pirate radio ship, it was impossible to return to shore without being impounded and the crew being put under arrest. It was also an offence for other ships to supply or have contact with her, but supplies were secretly taken to the ship by small fiberglass boats, which were invisible to radar surveillance equipment. This resulted in the Ross's longest stint at sea - a total of almost 8 years.

The beginning of the end

In October 1987 a hurricane hit the British Isles with the result that most commercial radio station on land and sea were silenced due to damaged equipment. Incredibly, the Ross Revenge managed to ride out that storm and was still broadcasting until another storm a month later caused the collapse of the now weakened aerial - 300 feet of twisted metal fell into the sea. At this point most of the crew left the ship, but a few die-hards smuggled pieces of metal aboard and constructed the twin masted structure which still stands today.

Continuing battles with authorities and financers came to a head in 1989 when Dutch and British officials (illegally) boarded the Ross and ruthlessly stripped her of her broadcasting equipment even as DJs were transmitting the event. Difficulties in obtaining supplies and damage to the ship hit Radio Caroline hard, broadcasts became more and more sporadic; the last one from International Waters went out on the night of November 5, 1990.

The new Broadcasting Act of 1991 gave British troops authority to board radio ships outside of British territorial waters and to use force if necessary to silence them. This meant that there was really no hope of Radio Caroline ever being able to restart and most of the crew abandoned ship.

The middle of the end

In a fierce storm in late 1991, Ross Revenge broke her anchor chains and ended up marooned on the Goodwin Sands. This fate would have broken most ships but her hull was strong enough to survive it. She was towed into Dover harbour with a salvage price of £20,000 on her head. Such was her fame and popularity among radio fans that the money was soon raised from donations, merchandise and guided tours. Low cost radio broadcasting equipment was installed and a broadcasting license purchased, and by Easter 1992 Caroline was up and running once more, albeit only for a one month period to celebrate its birthday.

The end - or a new beginning?

Enthusiasts are keen to use the Ross Revenge for sea voyages once again. She has been in dry dock for a hull inspection and has been shown to be still seaworthy, despite a large dent caused by the sand bank. She is currently moored off the Isle of Sheppy in the Thames Estuary while various legalities and certificates are sorted out by the authorities. Meanwhile, volunteers work tirelessly in their spare time to restore her steering gear and engines, relying on their own skills and donations of money, tools and equipment.

Radio Caroline continues to broadcast from dry land and is now a strictly legal operation.


Built: 1960 in Bremerhaven
Length: 230 ft (approx)
Beam: 38 ft
Draught: 16 - 18 ft
Air Draught: 310 ft with original mast, 110 ft with the replacement masts
Range: 12,000 nautical miles
Speed: 12 knots (Cruising), 16.5 knots (Maximum)
Gross Tonnage: 963 tons
Engine: Verkspoor 10 Cylinder, twin turbocharged Marine Diesel; Maximum Speed, 200 RPM; idling speed, 50 RPM; Maximum Power, 2400 HP.
Accomodation: 70 people when fishing, 20 people now.


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