BOAT RADIO sets sail from the Port of Soller
Published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin
Sunday 8th May 2016
By Shirley Roberts
Mike McDowall is a name you might have heard of if you are a lover of Radio, particularly Radio 4 and World Service. His career has spanned twenty-five years, beginning with hospital radio in Bristol and going on to work at LBC, CNN, Associated Press and various arms of the BBC, including 5-Live, Radio 4 and the World Service. He says ‘I love radio – it’s the king of the media’ – and he has worked on some of the best known speech and current affairs programmes in the world.
Mike arrived with his wife and daughter to Soller last year. They relocated from London to live where the mountains touch the sea and there were wide open spaces for their little one to grow. In that year they have been very busy settling and learning what it takes to relocate and find their place in the eccentric Solleric life they have chosen. Martha is the new addition the family born right here and Molly their 4-year-old is well settled in school in the mountains. The difference 12 months has made to them and what they are ready for is remarkable.
The revolution in radio that is taking place is very exciting in the Mike McDowall world. Did you know that new cars off the production line next year will all be fitted with internet radios? The days of only listening to the frequencies that are available locally or online if you are near a computer are almost over. The days of internet TV have been with us awhile in Majorca but that is now set to happen big time with radio. The combination of the world wide audience of the internet radio and the influences of the boating fraternity gave Mike his new business plan.
An internet radio station, indeed the first radio station specializing in everything aimed at boat owners, world cruisers, ocean-sports enthusiasts, and armchair adventurers around the globe. It will be filled with compelling tales and inspiring stories from often ordinary people who’ve done extraordinary things. It will feature interviews with prominent characters from the world of sailing, exploration and endurance sports. There will be coverage of major sailing and power boating events, reviews of new products and advice for boat buyers. In addition, there’ll be recommended routes, anchorages and marinas, plenty of practical advice including ocean conservation.
The presenters joining the ride on 1st July represent all aspects of the world on or near the sea. From the doctor that flies in to help the sick at sea to those who are making their home in a small space as it tosses along the ocean from one port to the next. A fascinating mix of people such as Justin Chisholm, Alice Widdows, Dr John Ross, Sarah O’Kelly, Michael John, Matt Rutherford, Capt Bob May, Carolyn Shearland, Rosalinda Much and The Salty Times Duo make up the group. The radio station gives all these great people an opportunity to share boating stories and experiences that will entertain, inform and educate the next generation of those who just love to mess around in boats.
The debate about internet radio has been gathering momentum for years and it is now acknowledged that the most successful broadcasts per revenue and listenership are those meeting a high end niche market.
The relative simplicity of setting up a radio station online mean that there are teenagers with their own stations recording out of their bedrooms which could dilute the effectiveness of the opportunity.
Fortunately, Boat Radio ticks the specialist market with high end listeners and customers and the future is looking particularly promising. This has come about because it has the combination of The Mike McDowall professional broadcaster touch plus the focused content and advertising opportunities. The number of advertisers who have already spotted the potential of this Radio Station is just phenomenal and an indication that there is room for this particular new genre. The discussions at the Palma Boat Show only served to underline that this was an industry waiting for its own radio voice.
One of the fascinating facts about Boat Radio is that it will be a PODCAST hub This makes absolute sense in a worldwide, global market and is hugely relevant to potential advertisers. Different time zones are not a problem to the programmes that Boat Radio intend to broadcast. This is talk radio with very little music content and intended for an audience that is fully engaged with the product.
Now what of the Port of Soller, the home of Boat Radio, another winner in the launch. The perfect horse shoe bay of the Port of Soller is a haven for sailors. They flee into it when the weather turns and they are happy to sit out the storm in the best restaurants, finest bars and hotels of the second City of Mallorca. The Port of Soller is home to its genuine fishing fleet which lands the famous Soller prawns every day. Fish sold in the fish market on the edge of the sea at 5pm are on the table for dinner by 8pm in most of the Port’s fine restaurants.
Celebrity Chefs on holiday wax lyrical about the prawns and have their photographs taken on the quay with the fishermen.
Boat Radio is creating regular podcasts from the Port of Soller as part of its heartland. The worldwide internet audience will hear the interviews with local characters and follow their stories throughout the year. It’s not quite The Archers because it is not fictional, but the aim of the programme is for listeners to develop a radio relationship with the people they are introduced to.
The Port of Soller programme’s introductory music of ‘All the nice girls love a sailor’ is being sung in three-part harmony by the Georgie Insull Singers and recorded this week. The presenter will rush round the Port of Soller with microphone in hand – no cosy BBC studio for her. Listen out for the voice of the Port of Soller you just might have heard her on air before.
Boat Radio is a very exciting place to be as the launch months are put into place. Mike McDowall has found his new career and couldn’t be more delighted. He says of himself ‘I love boats. I’ve loved them since I was a boy, and not merely as a means of transport but as objects of sometimes ethereal beauty. If money were suddenly no object I would immediately stop typing, pick up the phone and order a Spirit 56 Classic, or perhaps something equally spectacular from Wally. Maybe I’d call CH Marine in Long Island and have them send over a 38’ Shelter Island Runabout. Designed by Billy Joel, no less, the Runabout has all the style of Gatsby but with a top speed of 42 knots. In truth, if money really were no object, I’d buy all three.
I love smaller boats too – kayaks, canoes, dinghies and skiffs – and even the not so beautiful vessels are interesting to watch – the Thames dredgers, the canal-side maintenance barges, the Cross-Channel ferries. With my good friend Andy, I have whiled away many an hour sitting at dockside bars in Piraeus and Eivissa, watching the passenger ships come and go, and maybe, if I had my life to live again, I would forgo university and run away to sea instead’
This is Mike McDowall, boat lover, broadcaster extraordinaire, ready to follow the dream like many before him have done from his base in Majorca. As Boat Radio sets sail the people of the Port of Soller couldn’t be more proud that this new venture has come out of their bay. They are with him every step of the way …