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Radio New York International - History

In 1987 a group of people were actively planning to establish an offshore radio station off the eastern coast of the United States of America. This somewhat improbable project (in a country which, unlike the more restrictive state broadcasting systems in Europe, had thousands of legal commercial radio stations catering for every conceivable listening taste) had its roots in 1971 when two New York radio enthusiasts became involved in unauthorised landbased broadcasting operations.  

Al Weiner and Joe P Ferraro both constructed transmitters in their homes in Yonkers, New York and operated unauthorised radio stations under the call signs WXMN and WSEX, dedicated to love and peace. Their broadcasts did not last long, though as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) raided both stations in August 1971 and the two men were charged with violating the Communications Act of 1934. When the cases came to court Weiner and Ferraro were found guilty and each given sentences of 12 months probation. However, they never lost their enthusiasm and desire to operate radio stations.

Some time later Al Weiner moved to Maine where he acquired and operated two small legal stations in Presque Isle, under the call sign WOZI. His real desire though was to operate a legal station in his home town of Yonkers, New York, an area he felt was under served by existing radio broadcasters. For fifteen years he repeatedly applied to the FCC for a licence to establish a station in Yonkers, but each time he was turned down on the grounds that there was no frequency available to allocate to him.

During the course of making these repeated applications Al Weiner discovered a little known provision in the FCC Regulations which allowed an existing broadcaster to establish a small, low power (100watt) auxiliary station on a frequency of 1622kHz (185m) to relay programming back to the main studios. In 1983 Weiner applied to the FCC for a licence to establish such an auxiliary outlet in Yonkers for his station WOZI in Maine.  After a few months his application received approval and he was licenced to build station KPF941, which eventually went on the air in 1984.

When the FCC realised what Al Weiner had cunningly, but quite legally, achieved it threatened to revoke all licences previously granted to him, forcing him to sell both WOZI stations at an estimated loss of $100,000 on his original investment.

After so many years of trying to obtain a legal licence for Yonkers and ending up with nothing at all Al Weiner and Joe Ferraro decided that the only alternative left open to them was to establish an offshore radio station in international waters, which, they thought, would be outside the FCC's regulation and control.

Later in 1984, after the forced sale of WOZI, the two men started searching for a suitable ship on which to house their planned offshore radio station. Al Weiner contacted Radio Caroline anchored off the British coast and spent some time on board the Ross Revenge assisting with the shortwave transmitter experiments in November 1985. At the same time he received much useful advice and encouragement for his own planned offshore station from Ronan O'Rahilly and Radio Caroline staff on the Ross Revenge.

By the end of 1985 a suitable ship, the Litchfield, had been discovered for sale in Boston. The vessel had originally been used by a Japanese fishing fleet as a refrigerated cargo ship and had later been seized by US Coastguards after she was found to be involved in a drug trafficking operation. Weiner bought her at a US Marshals auction for about $100,000 using a company called International Ship Owners of Yonkers, New York which he had registered to disguise the true purpose to which the vessel would be put. He re-named her Sarah, after his wife.

The vessel, although considered suitable for her planned new role, needed much work to make her seaworthy and functional as a floating radio station. Her conversion started in the spring of 1986 and there followed months of work installing new generators, plumbing and heating systems, restoring living accommodation, building studios and general cleaning and painting. Two studios were planned for the station - a main on-air studio and a production facility, but only the main one was ever actually constructed.

Five transmitters were installed on the Sarah - two medium wave, one FM, one shortwave and one long wave.

The 103' aerial mast was erected in September 1986 - a solid steel tower welded to the Sarah's main deck. From this the medium wave 'T' aerial was strung to the ship's rear light tower, the FM transmitter was positioned at the top of the tower, the shortwave aerial was a simple dipole strung between the main tower and the conning tower while, for long wave, a 15' whip aerial was fixed to the deck.

Throughout the winter of 1986/87 internal work was carried out on the ship, mainly involving wiring of the studios and transmitters and reconditioning the power supply generator. Much of this was undertaken almost single-handedly by Al Weiner.

By the spring of 1987 final preparations were made to take the Sarah out to sea, but at that time the ship did not have a suitable anchor and chain which would hold her in position. Eventually a Navy surplus chain and battleship anchor were obtained and installed on the radio ship in the expectation that they would be suitable to cope with stormy weather conditions likely to be encountered off the eastern seaboard of the United States. The Sarah was also re-registered in Honduras and by early July 1987 she was stocked with supplies of food, water and 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

On 20th July 1987 the Sarah was towed out of Boston Harbour and in the early hours of 22nd July 1987 she arrived at her anchorage four and a half miles off Long Island, New York. Here the radio ship, with the supply vessel which had towed her from Boston, waited until daylight the following morning before the crew lowered the massive anchor.

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