I know you said you've taken skywave into consideration Scottg, but are you sure?
What you describe sounds like classic pre-dusk fade-up.
As I'm sure you're aware, given the appropriate density of ionisation in just the right place at just the right time, the effect can be truly remarkable.
In the not so dim & distant past (or Back In The Day, if you prefer your English to be located mid-Atlantic), when the Mi Amigo and later The Ross were anchored about 200 or so miles from me, there were occasions when the signal would fade up an hour or two before dusk, to the extent that it sounded as if the ship had moored at the bottom of my garden and they'd run a cable from the studio into the back of my radio. Better than FM would be one way of putting it. You could hear a pin drop in the studio, maybe even the rustle of the DJ's beard (and that was the clean-shaven ones!)
Different eras, different frequencies, output powers and transmitter locations maybe, but it's the same old ionosphere, the same station, and it sounds like you're experiencing the same - or similar - effect, especially bearing in mind Rob's comment/reminder that constant processor 'tweaking' simply isn't occuring.
The good thing is, you're getting excellent Medium Wave reception of Radio Caroline - and it's June 2018.
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