Yesterday was a cold winter afternoon. I had been working all day and decided to go up to the shack before leaving for afternoon mass. I had maybe 40 minutes or so of play time before I had to jump in the shower.
Twenty meters was hopping. I started to listen and copied a few QSOs that were clear as a bell. These guys were going my speed. At this early stage of my CW apprenticeship, I just copy at about 7.5 WPM. I was happy to capture, hear and understand the conversations.
I didn’t have much time left, so I dialed up to 14.059 Mhz and found that frequency wide open – at least here in New Hampshire.
If you’re new to ham radio, realize any given frequency can be as busy as the New York City subway on a Monday morning at 8 am, but you may not hear a thing. It’s all a matter of what the ionosphere is dropping on top of your antenna at that given moment.
My confidence has been rising weekly doing CW. I only started in the beginning of November, 2013 and hit a brick wall right away because I was too impatient. I wanted to get on the air right away without being able to really hear each of the letters, prosigns and punctuation instantly in my head. That causes enormous frustration, believe me.
If you’re a pro CW operator, you’re probably laughing at my grasshopper status. I ask you to stop and think back to when you were just starting. I’m willing to wager you weren’t hearing the code at 25 WPM or better. But I digress.
I sent out my CQ and right away, here comes Steve Gee. Welcome to my shack, Steve!
Although I’m new to CW, I new INSTANTLY he was a DX contact. DX means international.
Steve’s call sign is M0GNG. That’s a zero, not the letter “O”.
Rock on! I’m getting into the northeast part of the UK. SWEET!
How did I know Steve lived in that part of the UK?
When I’m on the air, I have my computer fired up and have a page open to QRZ.com. There you can enter in any operator’s call sign. If you have an account at QRZ.com, you get to see the operator’s address. If you don’t have an account, you can see some information about the operator, and validate their call sign.
Steve said my signal was strong and gave me a report of 599. I gave him a 559 only because he was not super crisp. I was transmitting at about 75 watts.
He told me it was cold there and I replied back it was “VERY cold here in NH.”
We said 73 (goodbye) to each other and then it started.
The pileup. The European pileup.
I should have been prepared. Steve gave me a clue.
My signal report was 599. That means my 20 meter signal was BOOMING into Europe at that precise instant of time. My radio waves were blanketing European ham radio antennas like snow has covered my lot all winter long.
All of a sudden a flood of operators were pounding out my call sign. One can only think they were as happy to get a USA contact as I was to connect with Steve in the UK.
The one that stood out the best had another non-USA call sign: IK7LKK.
That’s Italy. WOW! My first Italian contact!
It was Vic Panniello calling me from Foggia, Italy. He’s just about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of the Adriatic Sea, so it was magical for me to snag him.
The protocol during a pileup is for the other stations to stand by as I complete the QSO with who I decide to select. That’s what happened, so it was cool to see that side of ham radio in acton.
I was so excited about the pileup and back-to-back European QSOs I called my CW mentor, Jim Cluett, W1PID.
“Jim, I just did TWO European QSOs back to back. I had a pileup of guys trying to get me!”
“Tim, that’s fantastic! Who were they?”
I gave Jim Steve and Vic’s call signs and he looked them up while we were on the phone and he said, “Did you see Vic in his shack?”
“Oh yes, I had the page up during the QSO.”
“Did Vic say Dear Tim during the QSO? Some European operators after making contact with you often will say ‘FB DR TIM’ – you know, fine business dear Tim. I would have expected Vic to say CIAO at the end of his QSO.”
“Yes, I believe I copied that, but was so excited I missed some of the QSO. I got the important stuff – his call sign and my RST!”
Because I was running tight on time and had to get ready for church, I had to end my call with Jim.
Who knows, I might have had three, four, five or ???? more European contacts in the logbook yesterday if I could have hunkered down and clawed my way through my first European pileup.
Well, that’s what tomorrow is all about, right?
The hunt is on! I hope you’re my next QSO. Remember, we can try to schedule one. Just click my Contact page and let’s set it up.