Sailing By (not to be mistaken for the lovely 1980’s Christopher Cross song), is one of the orchestral numbers PLUC have been playing for a few years now and it’s my favourite. Many new members to PLUC had never heard this or weren’t aware of its place in the psyche of many sailors and avid Radio 4 listeners.
This short piece of light music, composed by Ronald Binge in 1963, is the music played every night on BBC Radio 4 at around 00:45hrs before the late Shipping Forecast. Its role has been to serve as a signal for sailors tuning in to be able to easily identify the radio station in time to hear the forecast.
It also functions as a buffer. Depending on when the final programme before close-down finishes, Sailing By (or part of it) is played as a ‘filler’ as the Shipping Forecast has to start at 00:48hrs precisely. The initial reason for its introduction was because of the indeterminate finish time for the preceding Midnight News, leading to filling music being played until the Shipping Forecast was due to start..Sailing By was added to allow for a clear break between the end of the music and the start of the forecast.
Listen to an extract of the Shipping Forecast from Wikipedia:
I recommend you stay up late and listen to the Shipping Forecast. Failing that, get out your old Christopher Cross album and enjoy.