Radio Caroline finished its latest broadcasting stint off the end of Southend Pier at midnight yesterday.

As part of its radio licence regulations, the ship is only allowed to broadcast for 28 days every six months and its time is now up.

The Ross Revenge sailed off after a moving tribute from radio fans who parked their cars near the casino at Westcliff and flashed their headlamps at the ship.

The fans revived an old tradition which harks back to the 60s when DJs would ask on-air whether they should play a certain record.

Radio enthusiasts parked on the cliffs at Frinton would flash once for yes or twice for no.

Tour guide Nigel Benn said the crew had enjoyed their eventful stay in Southend and hoped to come back soon as a temporary attraction - even if the radio station is off the air.

He said: "Our restricted service licence means we have to go. We started broadcasting on July 26 and our 28 days is now up.

"It has certainly been an eventful stay in Southend. First we generated electricity to the pier after a power cut wiped it out for two days.

"Then we were hit by lightning which took out our rear tower and burnt the transmitter.

"We've been working with a patchwork system ever since.

"Then we rescued a barge which was sinking off the end of the pier. But we survived.

"We're moving on to let a Russian sailing ship in for a few days but we are hoping that Southend Council will allow us to come back again until October."

He added: "Although we cannot go on air, the ship is a good attraction at the end of the pier and has already attracted hundreds of visitors.

"The response to the tours has been fantastic as a lot of people have an affection for the station.

"At one point we had 100 Belgians on board from a family radio station.

"They wanted to transmit their show from the authentic Radio Caroline ship.

"It was really good fun."

Converted for the new archive on 19 November 2001. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.