A BRIDGE TOO FAR
The bridge was always open, and we initially had no idea how it was supposed to be,
as all the other similar vessels had had their bridges enclosed since the mid seventies.
The skipper of sister ship ‘Earl of Romney’, Capt. Graham Smith came to the rescue with an old original general arrangement drawing which included a plan view of the
bridge. The layout is not 100% as I lost the plan, so it ended up being from memory!
There is still an addition to go, the ‘chicken house’, a covered R.U. chart table behind the helm grating. This year sometime, maybe?
I’m still waiting for the front screens to come back from being lengthened, I got a
bunch from Harry Pound’s, off the ‘Ham’ class minesweeper M2726, HMS Shipham. The modern gear looks a bit incongruous, but original telegraph looks the business!
Not connected at other end yet though.
Behind the bridge, I converted the old radar room into a chart room and ‘day cabin’
for O.O.W. The old big chartroom below has been the Pirates’ ‘office’ but will soon be the actual radio studio control room. We have a mixer (from the recycling tip in
Southampton ?5- fully working!) but need to build a console and equipment rack, a
seating area for ‘guests’ and Bob’s yer uncle. If only getting a radio licence was that easy!!
WHAT WAS WHERE
The studio control room area occupies what was the ASDIC room, the galley and the radio room, all in a space 6’6”x 20’- the galley to feed up to 22 men was 6’6”x 4’6”! I
think modern health and safety requirements would consider it unusable? Liam Murphy, ex chief bos’un’s mate we met on arrival in Kilkeel, told me of a galley fire for which he was blamed in 1975?(corrections welcome). I found evidence of this when we were stripping paint and grease from the bulkhead in 2002. It would be good to hear from any other ex shipmates regarding this?
The main studio area occupies what was the Wardroom (holy of holies) and the Chief Petty Officers accommodation. The heads for both were on the adjacent flat, and the Wardroom had a separate internal heads/shower, now a vocal booth. There is still work to be done to finish these areas, though we have done several highly successful sessions aboard in Southampton - a great folk/blues artist called Steve Daniels, a ‘Pompey’ (Portsmouth) band called ‘Surfless’ and a wonderful instrumental bunch called ‘Smerins Anti-social Club’, now based in Bristol. The studio benefits quite
accidentally from the fact that the shape of the boat has no parallel surfaces, something every studio designer spends lots of time and effort creating! This and the irregularities caused by the revealed beams and frames gives an acoustic my pal Phil Newell would die for!
FROM THE TYNE TO….
The first time I saw her was on the Tyne at Hebburn in 1993 and she was in a
sorry state! I bought her (out of pity) from the Marine Society, which had intended to
refit her with diesel electric machinery on the back of a bequest which, apparently,
was eaten away when somebody contested the will. Instead her gizzards were used to
refit her sister ships ‘Echo’ (Earl of Romney) and ‘Egeria’ (Jonas Hanway) – (who
were they? Answers email to; email@example.com guided tour as prize).
Abject penury prevented any serious refit work, apart from in school hols with my son,
(thoroughly bemused, even at the age of ten!) Then during a stint in Rostrevor
recording Vedran Smailovic, the Bosnian cellist/madman, (another story!) I was in the
house of executive producer Tommy Sands, looking out over the water at the N.I.
Royal Navy guard ship, a ‘river’ class minehunter and, out of idle chat, said – ‘I’ve
got one a bit like that’- Tom was suitably intrigued, and a bottle or so of uisce beatha later we had roughly formulated the concept behind Pirates. Penury still pursued me
however, and it took another three or four years to get to towing the poor old girl to a
refit berth in Southampton, where I lived at the time. The tow (another story!) was
undertaken by an ex RAF pal, Tony Chiddwick, in his 68’ RAF Pinnace. Poor Tony,
suffering from an extremely large gallstone, was taken off around Yarmouth by the
Cromer lifeboat, and we had to take the boat into Yarmouth and wait a week without
money, while he was under the sawbones. (The very thought of breaking up a
gallstone and sucking it out your tackle was enough to stop us complaining about
Having sneaked the old girl out of the Tyne, we discovered she wouldn’t tow
forwards, being too light by the bow and, several re-hitches later, in nasty weather of
course, she had to be dragged, kicking, by the arse all the way to Soton.
The charity Action for Children in Conflict, run by Peter Tyrer, stepped in at this
time and did wonders for us, helping to set up our own charitable organisation and
supplying much needed funding without which we would still be scraping paint!
Many thanks Peter and all at AFCIC, God bless you all!
THE ENGINE ROOM
The engine room had about eight tons of concrete block ballast fitted at Hawthorn
Leslie, to keep her upright, this was lifted out at Smith’s Quay by Barry the boss and
his trusty yellow crane, Barry is among the last of a dying breed of mighty men and totally fearless. Big yellow crane can strain to toppling point and even have the back wheels in the air and Barry will just carry on. Observers, usually more mighty men just standing about, pass looks of consternation accompanied by the standard ooh’s and arr’s, then, when all is done without mishap everyone nods sagely as if we all knew it was all safe as houses. He’s the thorn in the side of political correctness, the
Crown Estates, and Health and Safety, God Bless him. Once ballast was removed,
Itchen Marine towed us the mile and a bit across to Hythe Marine Services slipway, where we just fitted onto their cradle and up the slipway on a high spring tide. There Mark Redfearn and his gang slipped out the 2 ton, 6”dia. Prop. Shafts, and replaced them with 3” monel metal shafts from Pounds of Portsmouth (thanks Harry) a pair of computer designed four bladed propellers were made for us by ????????? the rudders were replaced, and the entire hull was stripped to bare wood to the waterline, filled primed and painted, the stripping and painting done by pirate volunteers Adam
Laurensen, Mark Wilson, yours truly, and any visitors! The new engine mounts were
also fabricated and installed at this time, and a pair of 225 Sabre turbo intercooled diesels from Chris Benham in Totnes dropped in place (see pics ‘engine beds’)
Financing this large part of the refit would have been impossible without the Wooden Spoon Society, AFPIC, and the support and trust offered by Mark at Hythe Marine,
who carried the tasks through to completion knowing we were strapped for cash. The outstanding bill will be paid as soon as possible. Didn’t she look smart on returning to
The studio came next, paid for by The Carnegie Foundation, and undoubtedly the
easiest bit to construct and install; I had built what seemed like hundreds already! The
only brainteaser was firming up floor resonance, as the under floor area was a great
chamber of wood filled with eight 250 gallon copper fresh water tanks! Lead would
have been nice, but we settled for 1” resin bonded MDF board laid on ?” rubber on
the frames. This works well and, although better solutions are available, money was
The equipment installed at the moment is not hi-tech, a 32 input 24 group traditional
analogue mixing console by Soundtracs that sounds great and, being manual, creates a
real ‘mixfest’ on final mixes, with all the band, roadies and girlfriends having
something to do – ‘a bit more echo on the backing vocals Annie’…. We have a great selection of modern ‘budget’ microphones; I’m not one to be fooled by the ‘classic
mic’ ploy. An old mic like a Neumann M49 was the best that technology could muster at the time and was good, but susceptible to moisture (breath), temperature, dust and
humidity, and had a limited frequency response. A modern Chinese or East German
mic is reliable and a better overall spec and costs ?150 instead of ?3,000! (and sounds
just as good. Don’t be fooled, the Emperor’s New Clothes comes to mind?)
All the above serves an Alesis digital 24 track computer; I like them. It’s like a tape
recorder without the tape - at ?150 a reel! I’ve also been collecting bits and pieces of
old keyboards, guitars, ethnic instruments and percussion stuff over the years, so we
have plenty of room for excursions into experiment?
thUp front in the fo’csle (from the 13 century ‘fore castle’ where archers would rain
arrows on the enemy) the original stowage lockers and bunks for the 15 crew
members were stripped out to provide an open space for a kind of ‘board room’ where
ideas could be discussed and kids can meet. There’s also room to swing hammocks, so, if in the future we can please the boring health and safety wallahs, enough we
could take groups to sea, maybe to study the habits of the basking sharks that
congregate round the Isle of Man, or to circumnavigate Ireland looking at the
beautiful coastline from the sea, possibly making a programme about what happened
where in ancient times?
LIST TO STARBOARD
On the monthly ‘spring tides’ when high tide is really high and low tide is really low,
and especially when the wind was from the north, the boat would settle on the mud and fall onto her starboard bilge, leaving all inside to struggle around on a 15 degree floor for three hours in every twelve!
As a temporary measure, a jury- rigged galley has been established in the fo’csle
under the hatch on the port side, opposite the crew’s heads and shower. The old shower is now the ‘larder’ and a good old ‘Baby Blakes’ toilet is next door. Eventually the galley will be in the reception area on the starboard side, in the form of a ‘coffee bar’ with a counter and stools. The ‘reception’ is the forward end of the old engine room, under the funnel, accessed by a new stairway cut into the engine room hatch. It will also house a seating area and a desk, filing cabinet and computer for our receptionist.
Our crew of volunteers came from many and strange sources, word of mouth in pubs, social services, crime concern organisations, extended work experience from local schools, the Princes Trust Volunteers, girlfriends and ex girlfriends etc. etc. bless ‘em
This is not in any politically relevant order, just how my fuddled brain dishes up the past. Some stick out more, maybe for being a pain in the ass! But good Pirates to a man (and some women too)!
I would like to have everyone included by name but the aforementioned brain doesn’t work that well, anyone not named will be included if they care to email us with their details?
Nathan ‘monkey boy’
Dick Cadbury – (he doesn’t know yet!)
Liam Murphy - ( .. .. .. .. )
Mark Redfearn and Lee, Dave, Tony and all at Hythe Marine Services.
This list to be completed
A ‘mission statement’ is a strange modern beastie! What can seem a logical sensible
strategy for a charitable initiative to one, can appear to another as a load of old hippy
shite, or to yet another as a monstrous step towards the breakdown of all that’s right
and proper. The infinitely complex interactions between all the elements of human
life on earth at this time are far too difficult to unravel and catalogue, and even more
difficult to make judgements on, even if we all agreed about what was right and what
Listen in, for a minute or two, to any conversation, in any gathering, from anywhere
on earth and usually someone will innocently be judged and sentenced by someone
else, using fairly arbitrary rules of engagement!
Despite, or even because of, the above, I’ll attempt a dreaded mission statement.
Hang on! The other thing about them is that, ideally, you should obviously only need
to do one, the first one, the one that comes from the heart, from the place the whole
idea came from in the first place!
The whole thing goes creepy when you find that, as you come into contact with the
‘outside’ as it were, each and every ‘Trust’, ’Foundation’ or ‘Fund’ wants to hear a
whole different language, albeit describing precisely the same thing!
So! Here we go.
No, Wait! Another piece of nonsense from ‘outside’ is the ‘politics’ issue. (Issue is
one of the words the ‘outside’ lot like to hear, but they don’t like the word ‘politics’!)
Let’s say one lot are ‘The Magenta Foundation’, and another ‘The Cerise Trust’; they
both agree that what you propose to achieve is useful, beneficial, etc but, should one
find out you have approached the other, Pandora’s box opens and every word of your
mission statement is taken to task lest ‘cerise’ or ‘magenta’ be considered backing a
Well, anyway, looking back at our first manifesto, I will admit that, in the first flush
of righteous enthusiasm, there was some fairly non PC stuff about idiot parents and
religious extremism, and even the sins of the fathers not being visited on the sons unto
the tenth generation or so,
Don’t get lost in grown up jargon, its for kids, let them have it! Demonstrate that we
mean it, that they can truly have a sense of ownership, and genuine involvement. Let
them get creative, Give them the opportunity to really participate, not just get ‘herded’
by the restrictions of an imperfect system, test that system! See if that system has
loopholes that allow, albeit questionably, more freedom for creativity than would be
first apparent. Push the boundaries, they may be untested, they may be woolly and
Pirates is about a bunch of grown ups assebling a team of people to start a radio
station based around a lovely old boat. The Radio station is for kids of all ages who
are enthusiastic about making programmes that maybe help to fill in the gaps left by
present day radio output.
The only rules are;
It’s cross community
It’s non partisan It’s morally and ethically sound.