THE MANY LIVES OF LV18

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How long does it take to bring a ship to her moorings? Seventeen years in the case of lightship LV18!

A request for a permanent berth at Harwich docks for this grand old dame was turned down repeatedly in a protracted battle wth the local council; a fight only won once the original councillors ‘left’.

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Who knew that a lighthouse boat turned film star could cause such a furore?

By chance my husband and I happened upon this vessel whilst walking along the docks in Harwich one sunny Saturday. How could we refuse the kind invitation issued by 93-year-old Lord Bill of Sealand to climb on board and explore! (He later told us his amazing life story which I may recount in another post.)

Scanning the various signs I was reminded of the start of Superman – what is it? A lighthouse? A Pirate Radio Ship?  A museum? LV18 is a unique combination of all three.

Not knowing what to expect I eagerly trod the board to the deck … one unexpected discovery can be read in my earlier post Flowers Ahoy!

Stepping warily, mindful of the odd sway from the sudden swells, I headed to the top deck, past the helicopter pad, right up to the giant light on the top.

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The view across the Orwell estuary was beautiful, looking towards Felixstowe on the other side.

LV18 was launched in 1958 and sailed with nine crew and anchored along the coast as a lighthouse boat protecting mariners through the dangerous waters.

 

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This unique historic ship, decommissioned in 1994, is the only surviving light vessel with all its original accommodation still intact, including the crew quarters, galley, mess room … all visible to view but with an additional surprise!

In 1999 a man with a vision, Tony O’Neal, chartered the boat for restoration and LV18 started its second life. This time recapturing the era of the famous Pirate Radios moored in international waters off the East Coast of East Anglia in the 1960s. A couple of you in the comments have already picked up on the Radio Mi Amigo twitter to whom I credited the last photo in my previous blog — the name of Radio Caroline’s ship.

With streaming, youtube, DAB radio readily available with a click, it’s hard to believe there was a time when music, all variety of music, was not easily or widely available. Or even banned and illegal. Try to imagine only three radio stations in the UK which were tightly monitored and served the ‘establishment’ and only permitted up to an hours pop music a day.

In a country hungry for the latest pop songs, the general populace turned increasingly to radio stations outside the country. First Radio Luxembourg, then pirate radio ships. These became the starting ground for many famous DJs including John Peel & Tony Blackburn, all who would embark on small launches from Harwich to take them to the pirate radio boats moored three miles out to sea. At one stage these stations had around 15 million listeners altogether. A very worrying figure for the government of the time. The last pirate radio station was closed in 1967 as pirate broadcasting was declared illegal. BBC Radio 1 started soon afterwards, ironically staffed with a number of ex-pirate radio DJs.

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In the first decade of this century LV18 was moored off Harwich and the Radio Mi Amigo days were recreated as well as being a Community radio station for the area. In 2002 its ownership transferred to the Pharos Trust whose patron is Johnnie Walker, ex-pirate DJ from Radio Caroline who was subsequently on Radio 1.

Only in 2011 was LV18 granted a permanent mooring in Harwich and it became home to a permanent exhibition of Pirate Radio memorabilia.

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And what about the film star reference? Well, LV18 made a brief appearance in the DVD version of ‘The Boat That Rocked’. Of course, once back home I just had to watch the film. It gives a fantastic exposition of life onboard this wild, on the edge, lifestyle where music played until the very end!

My husband would not forgive me if I did not finish this post with the last song to be played on Radio London which was ‘A Day in the Life’ by the Beatles.

Finally, no day trip in Harwich is complete without a meal at The Pier Hotel & Restaurant where we enjoyed a delightful, early wedding anniversary meal. It was special to look out to the LV18 on which we’d just spent a wonderful couple of hours!

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FLOWERS AHOY!

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This time of year is a struggle for many gardens, and particularly in the UK as it endures an unusually long heatwave. For most of us, watering is not so tricky, but I wonder how this oasis of peace is faring on the ‘open’ seas?!

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Who’d ever imagined a garden on a boat? Not I! On a tour of this most unusual ship moored in Harwich I was wonderfully surprised to be greeted by this most unexpected addition on the deck of the ship.

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Thinking about my own passion for gardening, I realise it is a wonderful source of solace. The peace and tranquility brought by the tending to the plants, seeing their growth, caring for them is incredibly soothing. So it has been throughout time. Viewing the garden on the ship I felt an immediate sense of serenity, a hint of magic, the flowers sparkling, the details in every nook and cranny a delight to discover. The garden oozed with tranquility … it was hard to tear myself away and continue the tour.

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“Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of gardening. It’s the one area where we can all use our nascent creative talents to make a truly satisfying work of art. Every individual, with thought, patience and a large portion of help from nature, has it in them to create their own private paradise: truly a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.”  Geoff Hamilton

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“It goes back to the garden telling a story. You make up bits and play with them to see if they ring true. Sometimes this works out first time and all is well and good, but as often as not you have to fiddle and reshape until it is right.

In the garden or allotment we are king or queen. It is our piece of outdoors that lays a real stake to the planet.”  Monty Don

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Sunset over Harwich Pier, courtesy of Tony O’Neal at 

I will write much more about this fascinating ship in a later post this month but wanted to share snippets of this tenderly loved and cared for garden today.

PS. Thank you to everyone for your wonderful support and comment on my last post ‘Loyalty & Trust’. For anyone who didn’t see my addition to the post during late Tuesday afternoon I found to my utter surprise that my reviews had been restored! A fantastic result and I was appreciative of their email apology later in the week, albeit without any explanation.