MW Free Radio

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday lunch with a difference

Some bad news from the east of the Netherlands yesterday. At around lunchtime, Radio Tower was broadcasting on 6306 kHz when two members of the AT showed at the studio. However, the meeting was very civilised and the AT guys even had a drink while the transmitter remained on air. In fact, the broadcast continued for many hours and during the evening a second transmitter was added on 1611 kHz, which was giving a fair signal here in England.


The AT chat with a member of the Radio Tower team on Sunday afternoon

The Tower team was told they would receive a letter in due course that would tell them they would face a fine of 2,500 euro if they were found broadcasting from the same location again. So perhaps this will signal the end of the station?

Listening around on the MW band last night there was a distinct lack of activity. Clearly, now the AT has turned attention to AM, many stations are running scared. I also understand Santana and Vrolijke Mijnwerker have heard from the authorities in recent weeks, with a promise of a hefty fine if they return to the airwaves. Worrying times for pirate operators . . . 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Afternoon delight

I was working at home today and at just after 1430 I switched on the radio to the top of the MW band. I didn't really expect to hear anything as it was over an hour before sunset, which is when the Dutch pirate signals usually start to arrive over here. Imagine my surprise when I heard music on 1640 kHz. Then when that station closed down, there were signals on 1645 and 1629. 

I had found a qso between Cobra, Picolo and Baanbreker, and the first two of those names were new to me, although I think Picolo was a more well-known pirate using a different name which is a popular tactic at the moment to throw the increasingly active authorities off the scent. 

It was pretty impressive to hear these guys during the afternoon and a reminder that conditions are starting to pick up again for listening to Dutch pirates here in England. The signals weren't strong, and I wouldn't expect them to be at that time of day, but they were listenable, as you can hear on this short recording of Baanbreker . . .



After that brief burst of activity, the band remained quiet for several hours, with nothing coming through until around 1820 when I heard another qso, this time featuring Baanbreker again, but with the addition of Interpol, Kleine Man and Derdeman, all of whom I've not heard for a good while. 

That's the great thing about this time of year over the summer months. Sure, propagation might be a little up and down, and skip can often be long with Balkan pirates coming in strongly, but it also gives the chance to hear Dutch pirates at a different time of day - and that means the opportunity to hear some names other than the norm. Some Dutch stations broadcast only in the daytime, which means for most of the year I don't get to hear them, but the winter months give that opportunity. Now if I lived by the sea on the east coast I would be hearing the stations round the clock every day of the year - but I don't, and if I did then I'd never leave the radio room!

Anyway, here's a recording of Interpol I made at around 1830 local time. Looking back through my logs it seems the last time I heard this station was on January 7, 2013 - nearly two years!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Something different in SSB

Greetings from the radio room and apologies for the lack of recent blog action from this side. The reason: conditions being unsuitable for listening to the Dutch MW pirates here in England.

I just switched on the radio at 2215 and all I could hear was a Balkan pirate around 1630 kHz and various local noise. And that has been the story for the last few weeks. Couple that with the 48 metre band fading out during the late afternoon, and there hasn't been a great deal to pull me towards the radio just recently. The good news is this has been the same for the last few years and it won't be long before propagation changes and the MW pirates start coming through with consistently good signals.

I was having a tune around earlier in the evening - at about 1700 - and there were some final signals before the conditions changed. I heard the Zwarte Boekanier (who was also using the name Eenzamejager, which means Lonely Hunter in English) qsoing with Osaka and Digitaal. All were coming through really well. And then I heard a somebody around 1637 kHz whistling into a microphone. 

At first I thought it was somebody tuning up a transmitter. Then I realised the signal was in SSB, so I switched mode on the radio and heard somebody calling for the Boekanier. There was no station ID, but he was coming through very clearly. Who it was, I have no idea, although there were some Dutch fisherman on 1675 kHz a few minutes later, so just perhaps it was one of them and they had been enjoying some polka sounds and thought they would give a report. 

The same thing happened back in the late 1990s on the 76 metre band. There used to a lot of late-night pirate activity around 3945 kHz, where some Scottish fisherman also used to illegally chat to each other from time to time. From listening to them it turned out that they often used to listen to the pirates while they were out in the North Sea. The likes of Live Wire Radio, Subterranean Sounds and the Wizard's Magic Spell could then often be heard sending them best wishes and playing records for them!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Back in business

So this afternoon despite having something of a fear of heights I was at the top of a long ladder putting the loop antenna back in place at the top of one of the two masts and aligning it with a northerly direction so it would work in sync with the rotator. I was doing this after being without the loop for a week or two while waiting for a new part. Like I mentioned in my previous post, it has been a frustrating time as I haven't been able to receive signals on MW with anything like their usual strength.

But the good news is everything is working fine now and I am listening to the regular Sunday evening programme of Witte Tornado on 1647 kHz as I write this. And the signal is pretty good, despite propagation conditions not being great for hearing the Dutch pirates - I can hear a legal station from the US on 1610 with a fair signal.

It was also good to hear Matrix for the first time in ages during the late afternoon. Exactly two years ago he was over here in England to celebrate my wedding, so it was fitting to hear him on the radio today.

Earlier in the day I was listening to shortwave with the inverted v antenna. Skip was short during the morning but as we went into the afternoon, stations further afield started arriving with good signals. One of the best of the day was the Free Radio Service Holland, who could be heard on 7700 and 9300 kHz with a repeat of last weekend's programmes that were being aired again due to the SW blackout seven days earlier. I made a recording as Peter Verbruggen handed over to Roger Davis, the voice of Britain Radio International for so many years . . .


Saturday, November 01, 2014

On the high seas (sort of)

For the last week I've been at sea. Well, my family and I were on some of Britain's canals, gently coasting along at around four miles an hour. And as we relaxed and enjoyed the great weather I noticed a few things that reminded me of the pirate hobby . . . 




It's been a little while since I heard Odynn on MW, but he was testing with a new antenna a couple of months ago and will hopefully be active during the autumn and winter months. As for Alaska, looking back at the logs I see it was just about 12 months ago I last heard him, and before that he was making it across the North Sea on New Year's Eve 2012. 

Anyway, it was nice to be reminded of the pirates as we meandered along some countryside waterways, and I even managed a little listening with my old Sony ICF 2001d and small portable loop. Now, tuning the bands while inside a metal box isn't ideal and there was all sorts of interference, even with most appliances switched off. So, on Thursday night in the pitch dark I took the receiver and loop outside and sat at the front of the boat and was very surprised to hear some cracking signals, none more so than Professor Sickbok, who was very strong on 1640 while qsoing with Casablanca

We're back home now and I've been doing some antenna maintenance. Yesterday I replaced the coax cable in the shortwave dipole antenna and tomorrow I'll be reinstalling the outdoor loop antenna which has been on the sidelines for a couple of weeks waiting for a new part. I can't wait to get it back in working order - it's essential for pulling in weaker signals on AM, and I've been lost without it. Trying to listen to MW, for example, with a SW antenna is not ideal and it's frustrating when signals are being received with only a fraction of the strength they should be, together with loads of noise as well. The right antenna for the job is so important . . . 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Antenna work

Today I've been busy with my MW coil antenna, making the earth connections to the mast, and there's not much more to do now. Soon, as well as the loop antenna I use for listening to all the pirates, I'll have the coil antenna in action as well. I used this a couple of years ago for a short time, but the earth I had was minimal so I abandoned it. But this summer I've placed lots of copper pipe in the ground which should help it work better. As many of the Dutch pirates use this antenna to transmit with, I'm hopeful to get an improvement in reception. Also, two good MW antennas on the go will mean that, with the help of the noise cancelling enhancer I've got, it will be much easier to null any unwanted local interference. In short, the antenna situation here will be improved this autumn and I'll be ready to hear lots of pirate signals from across the North Sea.

The band seems to be getting a little busier again following a drop in activity levels following some work from the Dutch authorities, issues warning letters to some MW pirates and paying the odd visit here and there. Also, now the days are becoming shorter, signals can be heard for longer over here, which is a real plus. Whereas during the summer it is often late evening before stations are audible, I can already hear them from around 1700 utc - as the weeks pass by and the clocks change later this month, the signals will start to arrive earlier and earlier.

There has been some excellent propagation just recently as well. Take Sunday evening, when there were some tremendous signals to be heard. Have a listen to this mp3 and you'll see what I mean.  



That mp3 kicks off with Quintus, who is followed by Pontiac, Moonbreker, Schaduwjager, Viking, Witte Tornado and Blue Star Star. The standout signals are Pontiac and Schaduwjager. Both are usually very strong here, but they were local quality this time. Amazing!

Time now for the latest logs from this side:

Monday, September 29, 2014
1645       1723       Blauwe Reiger 35443 qsoing
1633       1734       Vrijevogel 25222 music programme
1643       1736       Baanbreker 34333 qsoing
1640       1753       Pecon 45434 qsoing
1640       1756       Free Netherlands (Klaverboer) 25222 qsoing
1613       1804       Black Power 45444 short test
1620       1824       Calipso 55444 music programme
1655       1901       Carona 35333-45344 music programme
1646       1902       Zwarte Bizon 45344 qsoing
1655       2150       Wilskracht 35343 music programme
1636       2230       Pandora 55444-55555 testing
1647       2236       Jeneverstoker 35333 report for Pandora

Sunday, September 28, 2014
1620       0510       Santana 45344 music programme
1647       1703       Witte Tornado 35343, 45444 at 1740, 55444 at 1828 music programme
1671       1734       Viking 25332, 45444 at 1900 music programme
1629       1755       Quintus 45434-55444 music programme               
1620       1828       Moonbreker 34333-45444 music programme
1636       1830       Schaduwjager 55555 testing
1660       1842       Pontiac 55444-55555 music programme
1655       2211       Vliegende Schotel 35333 asking for a report
1636       2217       Pandora 55444 music programme
1630       2325       Bluestar 35333 testing

Saturday, September 27, 2014
1647       1645       Casablanca 34333 qsoing
1620       1650       Akai 34333 qsoing
1636       1650       Keizer en Keizerin 34343 music programme
1646       1654       Vendor 25342 qsoing
1630       1708       Bonte Specht 25332-35333
1648       1712       Zeewolf weak signal qsoing 
1648       1801       Pecon 35333 qsoing
1655       1841       Relmus 45434 music programme
1648       2043       Moby Dick 55444 music programme
1665       2049       Polkaman 25222 music programme
1630       2053       Vrolijke Mijnwerker 43443-54444
1620       2105       Calipso 54444 music programme
1630       2235       Blue Star 35443 testing
1655       2239       Wilskracht 24332-34333 music programme

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
1640       2007       Wadloper 35333-45444 testing modulation
1620       2231       Calipso 55444 music programme
1636       2255       Pandora 45444 report for Calipso
1648       2255       Monte Carlo 35333 report for Calipso
1640       2306       Monte Carlo 35333 report for Calipso

Monday, September 22, 2014
1636       2146       Mi Amigo 25222-35333 music programme
1648       2228       Monte Carlo 35333 report for Mi Amigo

Saturday, September 20, 2014
1629       1907       Quintus 35333 music programme
1645       1908       Batavier music programme
1611       1908       Barones 35333 music programme
1636       1912       Keizer en Keizerin 35333 music programme
1647       2247       Nachtzwerver 35333-45344 qsoing

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
1650       0032       Jeneverstoker 25222 qsoing
1636       2204       Romax 44444 music programme
1620       2205       Calipso 55555 music programme
1650       2205       Mi Amigo 35333

Observations

  • Because of the recent AT activity some stations have been changing their name. So, you might hear one that you think is new when actually it's an old hand with a different ID!

  • It was good to hear Blauwe Reiger for the first time in a while on Monday. Also good to catch Wilskracht a little later in the evening. When I was in the Netherlands in August I was driving around with Relmus and we went down the street where Wilskracht lives. I was looking at his antenna when we suddenly noticed the man himself chatting to his neighbour! We had a little talk, and that was another Dutch pirate I've had the pleasure of meeting. Strange for him that a listener from England should suddenly be driving past his home!
  • On Sunday morning I set the computer to record 1620 kHz from 6am local time (0500 utc) thinking I might hear Zonnester with his regular programme. When I listened back to the recording, there was indeed a station on the frequency, but it was Santana and with a fine signal, too
  • Moonbreker was a new name for me on Sunday evening. He was broadcasting from Twente and giving out the email address moonbreker@gmail.com
  • On Saturday it was good to hear Zeewolf on MW for the first time in a while. Although the signal was weak, it was around 1700 utc and so still early and before the sun had set. He was using only 40 watts

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Calipso jukebox

Monday night has been exceptionally quiet at 1611 kHz and upwards. In fact, I've been tuning around since 2100 and, over three hours later, I've heard only three stations. It seems most operators are still lying low. 

One who has been braving the airwaves is Calipso, who is just about to close down on 1620 kHz as I write these words. He's been playing requests throughout the evening and pumping a strong signal into the UK. As our regular reader Terry from Bristol commented on my last post, Calipso is always heard well in the UK, and tonight was no exception, as you can hear from this recording . . . 



There was a nice surprise on 6397 kHz at around 0900 utc on Monday morning when Good Ship Venus was playing out a programme of Weekend Music Radio that aired over the weekend. The signal from Scotland was very good here, and further evidence that propagation is changing as the summer drifts away and autumn starts to arrive.

Like I say, MW has been quiet recently because of all the AT activity and I haven't posted any logs for some weeks, so let's bring things up to date:

Monday, September 15, 2014
1620       2112       Calipso 55444-55555 music programme
1636       2229       Mi Amigo 24322-34333 music programme
1630       2254       Vrolijke Mijnwerker 55444-55555

Saturday, September 13, 2014
1620       1828       Calipso 55544-55555 music programme
1637       1831       Keizer en Keizerin 35343 music programme
1611       2021       Turftrekker 34443-55544 qsoing
1630       2021       Pioneer 35333 testing
1648       2021       Moby Dick 45444-55544 music programme
1620       2029       Schaduwjager 55444 qsoing
1620       2034       Akai 34333-45444 qsoing
1629       2057       Python 25222 testing
1651       2156       Turfsteker 33433-44444
1666       2219       Digitaal 55444 music programme              
1628       2219       Zwarte Panter 24332-35443 music programme
1641       2222       Monte Carlo 55444 qsoing
1655       2226       Turfsteker 34443-44444 qsoing

Thursday, September 11, 2014
1650       2005       Kristal 35333-45444 music programme
1629       2046       Golden Oldy (Atletico) 25222-35333 music programme 
1655       2158       Plof Kip (Witte Kat) 35333 qsoing
1654       2201       Studio 69 35333-45444 qsoing
1621       2205       Pioneer 35333 testing

Monday, September 8, 2014
1633       1940       Vrolijke Mijnwerker 55444 report for Vrijvogel

Sunday, September 7, 2014
1655       2050       Studio 69 35333-45444 music programme
1638       2055       Bluebird 45444-55555 music programme
1665       2057       Polkaman 34333 music programme
1647       2057       Witte Tornado 45444-55444 music programme

Saturday, September 6, 2014
1620       2043       Schaduwjager 55444-55555
1611       2044       Barones 44444-55544 music programme 
1643       2046       Batavier 35333 music programme
1648       2046       Moby Dick 55444 music programme
1635       2053       Yogi Bear 23322-44444 music programme
1653       2054       Nachtzwerver 25332-35333 music programme
1656       2113       Nachtzwerver 25332-35333 music programme

Monday, September 1, 2014
1638       2140       Bluebird 45444-55444 music programme
1620       2146       Spanningzoeker 45434-55544 qsoing
1647       2154       Monte Carlo 34333-44444 qsoing
1648       2227       Casablanca 45434 qsoing
1620       2228       Soerabaya 25222 qsoing
1620       2240       813 25222 qsoing
1650       2250       Spanningzoeker 55444 qsoing
1634       2305       Jeneverstoker 35333 qsoing

Thursday, August 14, 2014
1611       2116       Armada 24322-35333 music programme
1620       2117       Calipso 55544-55555 music programme
1655       2117       Mohammed Ali, Drentse Variant & James Bond 55444-55555 music
show for Carona
1640       2118       Noordzee 35333-45444 music programme
1625       2119       Atletico 23322-34443 music programme
1645       2120       Batavier 25222-35433 music programme
1663       2201       Nachtzwerver 25222-35333 testing
1637       2205       Toulouse 35443-45444 report for Noordzee
1620       2216       Montecarlo 44444 report for Noordzee
1636       2217       Repower 35433 report for Toulouse
1636       2226       Romax 35433-45444 qsoing
1655       2230       Carona 45444 report for James Bond etc
1648       2232       Jeneverstoker 35433 report for James Bond etc
1663       2246       Monte Carlo 35433-45444 qsoing
1620       2350       Soerabaya weak signal
1650       0010       Jeneverstoker 25332-35333 testing
1636       0039       Pandora 44444-55444 report for Jeneverstoker

Saturday, August 9, 2014
1476       1950       Edelkampioen 33533-45544 music programme

Friday, August 8, 2014
1620       1908       Sterrekijker 35453 music programme
1620       1956       Calipso 35453
1645       1908       Relmus 35453 music programme

Thursday, August 7, 2014
1611       2115       Brugwachter
1620       2120       Schaduwjager 55444 qsoing
1620       2126       Meteoor 35333-45343 qsoing
1671       2126       Armada 35333-45444 music programme
1638       2126       Bluebird music programme
1654       2127       Kristal 35333-45444 music programme
1629       2129       Atletico 25222-35333 music programme
1615       2150       Polkakanon 25232 music programme
1662       2154       Wilskracht 34333 qsoing
1655       2331       Studio 69 45333-45444 qsoing

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Worrying times

I've been a little quiet with my words on the blog in the last few weeks - there's always something to keep me busy. But I've been tuning the bands and doing plenty of radio listening, although the top of the MW in particular has gone very quiet of late. The reason: the Agentschap Telecom (AT) has been very active in the Netherlands. 

In the last few years the proliferation of high-power FM pirates has kept the AT very busy, but as more and more of these stations have been taken off air while fines become ever bigger, it seems attention has been turned to pirates broadcasting on MW.

A few weeks ago I heard that Radio 0511 was taken off air, a station that has been broadcasting every Sunday for some time. Another who can be heard with a regular weekend programme is Radio Sanussie on 1512. However, I understand they had a visit from the AT last Sunday. From what I hear, other stations who have been told to cease transmissions include Denappel, Sterrekijker and Bluebird. They could also be facing payment of a hefty fine.

So, if you think MW is a little quiet when you are tuning around for pirates, increased AT activity could be the reason as stations take a slightly lower profile.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Back from pirate land

So it's been a little while since I posted on the blog. The reason? A holiday in pirate land! It had been a couple of years since we visited the Netherlands, so on July 30 we headed across the North Sea for a week in the sun and to visit some pirate friends. 

I must say a very big thank you to Radio Batavier, Relmus, Barones and Zeewolf for being so kind with looking after me and wife and two girls so well and for making sure we had a great time. Thank you also to everyone else we visited who made sure our trip was just perfect.

We travelled all around the Netherlands, starting in the west and moving via the north to the east. We visited plenty of pirates and even had a party with Barones when broadcasters from across the country visited and drank some beers into the early hours of the morning. In fact, it was 0500 when I finally got to bed that day!

Here's the lowdown of the pirate operators I met during our seven-day stay in the Netherlands. Hopefully I haven't missed anybody off the list!


Akai
Arabier
Barones
Batavier
Calipso
Einstein
Foxfire
Havana
MRF
Napoleon
New Wave
Powerliner
Relmus
Sluwe Vos
Snowman
Yogi Bear
Wadloper
Wilskracht
Witte Reus
Zeewolf
Zwarte Non


And there were plenty of antennas to see belonging to pirates we didn't have time to meet, as there were other things to do. For example, we visited the great Waarbeek family fun park in Hengelo and the Speelstad Oranje theme park, which Herman of Radio Zeewolf arranged and took us to. It was perfect for the children, and a great day for the adults too. And we also managed to get a close-up look at the incredible 300-metre radio mast nearby at Smilde, which is billed as being the most important in the country, serving no end of local radio and tv stations. In July 2011 it was hit by fire and collapsed, but to look at it now, you would never know . . .







Another interesting trip we took was with Foppe of Radio Batavier to Harlingen where we saw the lightship Jenni Baynton, home to Radio Waddenzee. Although it was all locked up when we visited in the harbour, it will be out at sea from next Wednesday as it broadcasts live from the ocean for 11 days. Here are a few photos I took . . .







We also paid a short visit to the transmitter site of Radio Waddenzee. Interestingly, some of the pirate antennas I've seen in the Netherlands are somewhat higher . . . 




Once again, a big thank you to everybody who we spent time with during our holiday. And apologies we never got to see some of the people we would have liked - there never seems to be enough time. Hopefully we will return soon and continue our pirate tour!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

That makes a refreshing change

I was down in the radio room doing some work today and at about 7pm I switched on the Kenwood R5000. Not much on SW, so I had a quick scan at the top of the MW band, not expecting to hear anything as it was several hours before sunset and conditions are not great at this time of year. But I was very happy to be proven wrong as there were already a couple of stations coming through, and with good signals.

Now the longest day of the year is a few weeks gone, perhaps this is the start of improved reception of the Dutch pirates for me. I hope so.

Here's some of the stations I heard today:


Monday, July 21, 2014
1640       2115       Veronica 44333-44444 qsoing
1655       2116       Sluwe Vos 34333 qsoing   
1625       2116       Zwarte Panter (Oldenzaal) 33333 
1654       2119       Studio 69 34333-44444 qsoing
1633       2121       Vrolijke Mijnwerker 55444 qsoing
1611       2122       Brugwachter 55444 qsoing
1638       2123       Bluebird 55444-55555 music programme
1644       2123       Uniek 34333 music programme
1617       2125       Soerabaya 24222-34333 testing
1612       2130       Monte Carlo 55444 qsoing
1655       2132       Batavier 44444 qsoing
1666       2133       Snowman 24222-34333 music programme
1655       2136       Vliegende Schotel 44444 qsoing
1631       2143       Monte Carlo 44333 qsoing
1670       2146       Digitaal 55444 qsoing
1658       2225       Monte Carlo 55444 qsoing
1670       2301       Batavier 35333-45444 testing
1648       2322       Casablanca 55444 asking for report


Observations

  • The storms we've seen across the UK and the Netherlands over the last couple of days have died away and there was plenty of action on the band, including some low-power transmissions. Snowman continues to do very well and was busy with a music programme on 1665, although his accent continues to confuse me as he sounds very much like fellow Friesland pirate Witte Raaf! 
  • It was also good to hear Soerabaya, Uniek and Zwarte Panter, who all use low power
  • Brugwachter, Bluebird, Vrolijke Mijnwerker, Digitaal, Casablanca and Monte Carlo led the way with strong signals, although Batavier was pretty strong at times despite running with only 100 watts. He sent these pictures taken in his studio while on air . . .