Thursday, February 11, 2016

A big welcome back

Over 20 years ago when I was much younger and had more hair I began visiting Dutch pirates. It was on one of my first trips across the North Sea that I went to meet Appie of Radio Sylvania. I had heard him often on my radio and, although he spoke little English and I spoke very little Dutch, I enjoyed my visit, accompanied by Radio Barones, who did a great job of translating and all these years later is still very good at this!

I had not met many of the Dutch pirates at this stage and I remember being struck by the enormity of the mast in the small back garden. It seemed huge, towering above the house with a coil antenna perched up on top. I also remember the studio upstairs in a back room - in fact, I have some photos taken in that very room in front of me now. There's no sign of computers - it was 1994, I think - although there is a cd player. I can see the Geloso audio amplifier, a mainstay of the Dutch pirate studio. And there is a record player on top of another amplifier and a well-maintained valve radio. There is also a little echo chamber box.

Like myself, Appie had a break from the hobby for some years, although I heard last year that he had made a return to the airwaves but was broadcasting only during the daytime. But tonight I was transported back in time when I heard his voice coming out of my speakers for the first time in what must be around 15 years. I recognised him straight away, and it was a pleasure to listen to him again. Some stations capture the imagination and Sylvania is always one I enjoyed listening to. So when I heard him tonight at around 1720 UTC I stayed tuned until he closed down at 1938.

The signal was fading around with the conditions, but there were some great peaks, like the one on this recording:

When Sylvania closed down I was expecting a few stations to come on air and give him a report. Sure enough that's what happened. But I couldn't believe my ears when Radio Dolfijn was the first one. He hadn't been active on the air for many years. It seems he has returned, though, and his signal was arriving loud and clear in England:

A big welcome back to these pirates of the past. I wonder who will be next?

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